Category Archives: Harm reduction

Bills to improve patient privacy and safe access to medical marijuana become law

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Advocates call measures a “significant first step” to modernize Hawaii’s thirteen year-old medical marijuana law

(Honolulu, 6/25/2013) Patient advocates celebrated the signing of two bills to improve Hawaii’s 13 year-old medical marijuana program – the first updates to pass the legislature since the program began. Approved today were measures to move program oversight away from the Department of Public Safety Narcotics Enforcement Division (“NED”) and to the Department of Health (“DOH”), and to adjust the type and amount of medical marijuana a patient can legally possess.

HB 668 CD1 moves oversight of the program to the DOH, a move welcomed by advocates as both symbolic and substantive. HB 668 will go into effect January 1, 2015, giving time for the transition between departments to occur.

SB 642 CD1 increases the amount of medical marijuana a patient or caregiver can grow and possess. Lawmakers also added a provision requiring that only a patient’s primary care physician can certify them for eligibility, but later clarified that people covered in the Federal system (e.g. military dependents at Tripler) and those seeing specialist physicians will still have access to Hawaii’s medical marijuana program. This measure will also take effect in 2015 – one day later than HB 688.

Representative Della Au Belatti, who advocated strongly for the bills, said: “Today’s bills represent a significant step forward in improving Hawaii’s medical marijuana program and aligning it with best practices of medical cannabis programs in other states.  By refocusing the program on medical matters such as the role of the primary physician and the role of the Department of Health in providing regulation and program oversight, the State can better ensure the compassionate treatment of people suffering from debilitating health conditions.”

The policy shift is part of a serious discussion on the future of marijuana law in the Islands, mirroring reforms happening around the country. Bills to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol and to remove criminal penalties for adult use garnered unprecedented public support and legislative interest and received hearings, but were ultimately shelved until 2014 with no final votes taken.

Hawaii’s medical marijuana program enjoys very strong public support. Respected local polling firm QMark Research was commissioned to conduct a statewide, statistically significant poll of 600 Hawaii voters. The poll occurred between November 19 and December 4, 2012. Among its findings:

  • 81% of Hawaii voters support access to medical marijuana by sick and dying people under a doctor’s care.
  • 78% of Hawaii voters support a dispensary system for medical marijuana.

Pam Lichty, President of the Drug Policy Action Group, said: “While Hawaii still has important work ahead in updating our medical marijuana program, these bills are a significant first step. The emergence of legislative champions for medical marijuana like Senators Will Espero and Josh Green and Representative Della Au Belatti shows that lawmakers recognize the broad public support among voters. We look forward to working with the 2014 legislature to establish state-regulated dispensaries, and to make additional patient-centered improvements to the Hawaii program.”

Vanessa Chong, Executive Director of the ACLU of Hawaii, added: “In 2000, Hawaii led the nation as the first state to legislatively establish our medical marijuana program. Now, a total of 18 states plus Washington, D.C. have programs. Finally, 13 years down the road, Hawaii is moving toward patient-focused policies and away from a law enforcement approach. These bills do not address every concern, but are the first real steps toward a more sensible public policy — we are encouraged and will redouble our efforts next legislative session.”

Patients, doctors and caregivers are urged to join the confidential support network “The Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii” founded by the Drug Policy Action Group and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii and follow the latest news at www.mcchi.org

The most influential man in the battle for legalization is a wonky intellectual in dad jeans

by Tim Dickinson

Rolling Stone Magazine, JUNE 06, 2013

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The driving force for the legalization of marijuana in America – a frenetic, whip-smart son of a rabbi who can barely tell indica from sativa – has just entered enemy territory. Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, is here in California’s crucible of conservatism, Orange County, to talk about the failure of the War on Drugs and why the government should leave pot smokers alone. As a grizzled ex-DEA agent glares at him from the audience of a lecture hall on the campus of U.C. Irvine, it’s clear that this crowd has not gathered to celebrate cannabis culture. And that’s just the way Nadelmann likes it.

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/ethan-nadelmann-the-real-drug-czar-20130606

Hawaii Supreme Court rejects conviction of medical marijuana patient

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“The Hawaii Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of a Hawaii island medical marijuana user who was found with a small amount of cannabis at Kona Airport.

Geoffrey Woodall had a valid medical marijuana certificate but was still convicted under state laws for the two grams of marijuana discovered when he went through airport security screening.

In a 4-1 ruling Friday, the justices held that a conflict in state laws on the issue must be resolved in favor of Woodhall.

The majority said he must be acquitted.”

http://www.staradvertiser.com/newspremium/20130601_Hawaii_justices_reject_conviction_of_cannabis_user.html?id=209773721&id=209773721&c=n (Paywall)

http://mauifeed.com/state-of-hawaii/hawaii-supreme-court-overturns-medical-cannabis-ruling-and-reveals-flaws-in-pot-laws/

http://bigislandnow.com/2013/06/03/supreme-court-rules-in-favor-of-medical-marijuana-patient/

http://hawaiisupremecourtopinions.justia.com/2013/06/01/state-v-woodhall/

Letter to the editor: Patients need legal pot dispensaries

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Honolulu Star Advertiser 5/28/13

Patients need legal pot dispensaries

Like the Star-Advertiser (“Medical cannabis belongs under health auspices,” Our View, May 23), we applaud the Legislature’s improvements to the state’s 13-year-old program. The measures passed this session are a promising start to a much-needed update.

You have the details backward, however, in your description of Senate Bill 642: The new law would increase the amount a patient may possess to 4 ounces, and replace the confusing “three mature, four immature plants” language with a simple seven plants total.

To further clarify, medical marijuana is not “prescribed (and) dispensed” at present. Physicians write a recommendation, not a prescription (which is not recognized under federal law), and marijuana is not legally “dispensed” by anyone.

A tightly regulated state-authorized system of distribution remains the highest priority for patients in Hawaii, especially for those, like many kupuna, who are unable to grow their own and are still forced to the black market to obtain their medicine.

Pamela Lichty
President, Drug Policy Action Group

MidWeek Magazine profiles Dr. David Barton: “Medical Cannabis Safe, Effective”

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http://www.midweek.com/medical-cannabis-safe-effective/

“Thankfully, the Hawaii State Legislature took a bold stand more than a decade ago, in the face of great political pressure, which still exists, and allowed for legal use by chronically ill and disabled people.

Chronic pain is the No. 1 medical condition in the United States, with an estimated 75 million to 100 million Americans living with it. At least 20 million to 25 million Americans live with severe pain. In Hawaii, it is conservatively estimated that more than 100,000 live with moderate to severe pain from all causes, including arthritic degeneration, trauma, metabolic conditions such as diabetes, and cancer or its treatment.”

Opinion poll on Hawaii marijuana laws shows voters open to medical dispensaries, decriminalization

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Read the reports: http://freshapproachhawaii.org/2013/01/19/opinion-poll-on-hawaii-marijuana-laws/

Respected local polling firm QMark Research was commissioned by the Drug Policy Action Group (the lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii)  to conduct a statewide, statistically significant poll of 600 Hawaii voters. The poll occurred between November 19 and December 4, 2012. Among its findings:

  •  78% support a dispensary system for medical marijuana.
  • 69% think that jail time for marijuana offenses is inappropriate.
  • 57% favor legalized, taxed and regulated marijuana, 20% higher than the last poll conducted in 2005.

Independent U.H. economist David Nixon was commissioned to update a 2005 study on the state of marijuana law enforcement in Hawaii. He was asked to examine the costs of current law enforcement policies, and to predict the economic impacts if Hawaii were to decriminalize or legalize, tax and regulate marijuana. Among his findings:

  • Hawaii has seen a surge in marijuana arrests since 2004. Possession arrests have increased almost 50%, and distribution arrests have almost doubled.
  • Hawaii’s marijuana laws overly impact males under the age of 25 and people of native Hawaiian descent. These groups were arrested in numbers disproportionate to their share of the population.
  • By decriminalizing marijuana, Hawaii could redirect over $9 M annually in law enforcement costs.
  • By legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana, Hawaii could conservatively add an additional estimated $11 M in yearly revenues.

New infographic – Hawaii’s medical marijuana program by the numbers

Many statistics get thrown around when people talk about Hawaii’s medical marijuana program. Looking for a fast guide to the facts – with citations? Here it is!

http://dpfhi.wordpress.com/hawaiis-medical-marijuana-program-by-the-numbers-infographic/

U.S. House Members File Bipartisan “Respect States’ Marijuana Laws Act”

“This bill is a win for federalism and a win for public safety,” said Neill Franklin, a former Maryland narcotics detective and now executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “In a time of bitter partisanship, it is quite telling that both Republicans and Democrats are calling for respect for the reform of marijuana laws. Polls show this is a winning issue for politicians, and change is inevitable. We applaud those legislators who, rather than trying to impede this progress, stand with the vast majority of Americans who believe these laws should be respected.”

http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2013/apr/12/house_members_file_bipartisan_re

New report documents nationwide racial, economic disparities in incarceration

Newly released report: “The reasoning is clear: the combination of excessive incarceration and harsh punishment is a blunt instrument for social control that perpetuates the country’s painful, historical legacy of injustice and inequality, and deprives masses of black and brown people unfairly of freedom and opportunity. It is the site of today’s civil rights struggle.”

http://www.aclu.org/criminal-law-reform/ending-mass-incarceration-charting-new-justice-reinvestment