Hawaii’s Medical Marijuana Program Policy Changes may be on the horizon—in the form of a Dispensary System.


The State of Hawaii Auditor’s Sunrise review of House Bill 1587 (a 2014 medical marijuana dispensary bill which didn’t pass) was released last week.

The review confirms that there will be many benefits from establishing a medical marijuana dispensary system–and not just economic benefits.  It recognizes that the current system forces patients to either grow their own or seek it out in the black markets.

The Auditor explained “Because the sale of marijuana is illegal under state law, there is no place within the state to legally obtain marijuana, which forces qualifying medical marijuana patients to either grow their own (MMJ) or seek out black market products,” the report reads. “For this overriding reason, we conclude that regulation of dispensaries is needed to protect the public from potential harm.”

The report goes on to say that without a system of regulated dispensaries, “patients’ health is jeopardized because a product’s strength, strain and lack of contaminants cannot be verified”. The report urges local lawmakers to set up a system of regulated dispensaries to serve patients.

The findings will be immediately useful during the 2015 legislative session when at least one dispensary bill WILL be introduced. The contents of the bills will be based largely upon the recommendations made by the (HCR-48) Hawaii Medical Marijuana Dispensary Task Force.

One of the Dispensary Task Force members, State Senator Josh Green, M.D. (D-Kona), who chairs the Senate Health Committee, offered a hopeful sentiment to West Hawaii Today  when he expressed confidence that a [dispensary] bill will pass and be signed by Governor David Ige. He also offered that “The program needs to be very tightly regulated . . . And, it should be about the patients who need it the most having access.”

dispensary SF sparc-wall

The Dispensary TASK FORCE will meet at the State Capitol (from 9 to 11 a.m.) to present some of the recommendations on December 16, 2014.

The minutes from past meetings  are posted HERE.

Could Naloxone be the Antidote for Thousands of Drug Overdoses?

Are thousands of deaths from OPIATE drug OVERDOSES                     preventable — just by giving people the antidote to take home?

Yes! There is a Life-saver. Life ring with line

Over ten thousand cases of overdose reversal were reported between 1996 and 2010 using the drug Naloxone—because the drug users were allowed to have it on-hand, as a “take-home ” drug.

The drug NALOXONE is the antidote for opiate drug overdoses. The list of opioid drugs includes legal, prescription medications such as oxycodone, tramadol, hydrocodone, and codeine as well as the illegal drug heroin.

Naloxone is usually only available in emergency rooms as an IV drug. Many people who are overdosing never make it to the ER because the people with them are too afraid to call 911.

It is NOT widely available, but it could be! It is not a controlled substance but requires a prescription. It is available in two forms. The nasal spray (shown below) is easier to use than the injectable but costs much more. A nasal injection containing the overdose-reversing drug naloxone is seen at the police headquarters in Quincy

Either form could be distributed to people who are at risk of overdosing on opioid drugs.

How many people are at risk of overdosing?

People in the United States consume more than 84 percent of the entire worldwide supply of oxycodone and almost 100 percent of hydrocodone.

In Hawaii, the number of deaths (per year) from accidental overdosing on prescription and illicit drugs has surpassed the number from all other causes, including motor vehicle accidents.

So, there are many people who could benefit from this.

A recent article in Reuters reports that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the naloxone “take-home” technique could prevent up to 20,000 deaths per year—in the United States alone.

WHO also estimates that about 69,000 people die each year from overdoses related to heroin or other opioids—Worldwide.

Read the whole article here

PROGRAMS on the Mainland: Nalaxone programs have been established in about 200 communities in the United States and are reporting the more than ten thousand lives save as a result of the take-home nalaxone.

PROGRAMS IN HAWAII: The CHOW Project (Community Health Outreach Workers) is one of the sponsors of the 2014 Hawaii Harm Reduction Conference. Take-home naloxone was a topic of discussion at the conference. The Chow Project is working on getting this type of program in place. A Physician Standing Order is necessary for this to happen.

So, although they cannot provide the naloxone until this happens, they do have an Overdose Prevention & Naloxone Manual.

And, to reduce the number of deaths from overdose another harm reduction strategy was recently put into place. It is called the “Good Samaritan act”. It will help to encourage people who witness overdoses to call 911 by giving them some immunity from prosecution.

We can be hopeful that someday many more harm reduction strategies will be in place to help the people living in Hawaii.

West sunset orange

Resource: What Works Best in the War on Drugs

Alex Wodak, President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, has written a superb examination of what policies work and do not in combating the harm done by drugs worldwide. w78qxxfb-1410262357

If you haven’t yet, give it a read!

The truth is that progressive, harm reduction policies just work better. Countries such as The Netherlands that have been pursuing these policies have had better outcomes than countries that have focused on punitive, law enforcement centered approaches. Progressive drug laws help society by lowering the costs and harms associated with drugs.

Pamela Lichty and the ACLU Strike a Blow for Freedom of Speech!

Our president, Pamela Lichty has reached a settlement with the Department of Accounting and General Services. As part of the settlement agreement, the State is agreeing to wholesale revisions to its rules regarding demonstrations on State property. Effective immediately:

• Individuals or groups (of any size) wishing to demonstrate at the State Capitol (or other property controlled by the Department of Accounting and General Services (“DAGS”)) no longer need a permit.
• Demonstrators can have a small table to distribute literature, no permit needed.
• Demonstrators can get a permit, if desired, to reserve a space, but will no longer have to indemnify the state and will not have to obtain insurance if they cannot afford it.

This should make it easier and cheaper for people and organizations to demonstrate at the state capitol, and we are very proud to have been a part of it!

Here is the press release:

Download the PDF file .


Global Commission on Drugs Report is Out

The Global Commission on Drug Policy has just released its 2014 report entitled Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work.

The report is grounded in science, and is the product of a working group that includes such august names as Kofi Annan (former UN Secretary General), Ernesto Zedillo (former President of Mexico) and César Gaviria spectrum_en(Former President of Colombia, and former Secretary General of the Organization of American States).

It is also incredibly readable, and visually interesting. If you are interested at all in drug policy, it is certainly worth taking a look at.

The report looks at how governments must take control of black markets through harm-reduction and regulation of all drugs, thereby disempowering organized crime that has been enriched by the current law-enforcement centered strategy, and ensuring that enforcement does not impede the vastly more important dictates of public health. This report should be required reading by everyone working in drug policy.

Legislative Reference Bureau Releases Updated Report on Medical Marijuana in Hawaii

As part of the HCR 48 Task Force on a dispensary system, the Legislative Reference Bureau has been asked to update their report on the lessons that Hawaii can take from other state medical marijuana programs. If you are interested in reading the report, it is available here:

Download the PDF file .

Dispensary Task Force Public Hearings Announced!

The Drug Policy Forum is represented on the Dispensary Task Force that is working to make recommendations about a regulated system of dispensaries for the medical marijuana program.

The task force wants to hear from patients and stakeholders about what they need the dispensary system to be. This is a really good way for us to get involved in the process.
If you want to give your comments at the hearing, the Public Policy Center asks that you submit written testimony at least 24 hours prior to the event. They ask that you include:

  1. Testifier’s name with position/title and organization; (patients and caregivers should simply say “patient” or “caregiver”)
  2. The Dispensary Task Force to which the comments are directed; and
  3. The date and time of the hearing.

You can submit it either on paper or by email:

  1. Paper: 2 copies (including an original) to Room 331 in the State Capitol;
  2. Email: For testimony less than 10MB in size, e-mail testimony to HCR48testimony@gmail.com.
    Electronic testimony will be accepted until the start of the hearing.

Click here to visit the Public Policy Center website.

Big Island (Hilo)

5:00pm – Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014
Aupuni Center
101 Pauahi Street, Suite 1 (map)
Hilo, HI 96720

Click Here to Email Written Testimony

Oahu (Honolulu)

5:00pm – Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014
Hawaii State Capitol Auditorium
415 South Beretania Street (map)
Honolulu, HI 96813

Click Here to Email Written Testimony

Let’s all please try and keep comments as concise, polite, and specific as possible. The task force is not asking if we need dispensaries, but instead, how the system of dispensaries should be run.

Registration is Now Open for Harm Reduction 2014

Harm Reduction 2014: The Tipping Point  November 7, 2014

Registration for this excellent conference put together by our friends at CHOW project is now open!

Click here to register or learn more.

8:00 – 4:30 Friday, November 7th 2014

Honolulu Community College

Harm Reduction

Harm Reduction is a philosophy and set of strategies for working with people engaged in potentially harmful behaviors. The main objective is to reduce the potential dangers and health risks associated with such behaviors, even for those who are not willing or able to completely stop.  Harm reduction uses a non-judgmental, holistic and individualized approach to support incremental change & increase the health and well-being of individuals and communities.

The Tipping Point

The tipping point is the time when many small changes become significant enough to create larger, more important changes. Many in Hawaii and across the country feel we are at the tipping point in our response to drug use, drug users and recovery. A collaboration of service providers, community organizations, and concerned citizens will convene for a one-day interactive conference to discuss ways of developing more holistic and culturally appropriate evidence-based interventions in the context of harm reduction practice.

Conference Topics Include:

  • Housing first, homelessness & drug use
  • Harm reduction and recovery
  • Trauma informed care
  • Youth and drug use
  • Marijuana and medicinal cannabis
  • Drugs and sex work
  • Prescription drugs and overdose
  • Self-care for harm reduction workers
  • Kupuna and drug use
  • Overview of harm reduction

Conference Partners Include:

AIDS Education Project * AIDS Community Care Team * Community Alliance on Prisons * Drug Policy Forum of Hawai’i * Gay Straight Alliance Hawai’i * Gregory House Programs * Hale Kipa *Harm Reduction Hawai’i * Hawai’i Appleseed * Hawai’i Department of Health’s Injury Prevention and Control Section * Hawai’i Department of Health’s STD/AIDS Prevention Branch * Hawai’i Island HIV/AIDS Foundation * Hawai’i Pacific University’s School of Social Work * Hawai’i Public Health Association * Hawai’i Youth Coalition * Hawai’i Youth Services Network * Hep Free Hawai’i * Hepatitis Support Network of Hawai’i * Hina Mauka * Kawai Foundation * Life Foundation* Mālama Pono * Maui AIDS Foundation * Mental Health America of Hawai’i * Planned Parenthood of Hawai’i * University of Hawai’i at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry * University of Hawai’i at Mānoa School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene *Waikiki Health Care-A-Van Program




Police Organization Reports on Heroin Epidemic and Marijuana Legalization

This document from the Police Executive Research Forum is very informative. It is far from a wholesale acceptance of the fact that outright criminalization has failed but it does show some of the concerns that law enforcement has about these issues. It is certainly interesting to read the law enforcement take on the enormous and horrifying heroin epidemic that seems to be taking the United States by storm, and the remarkable shift in attitudes toward marijuana that has taken place here. As we move forward with a more rational and compassionate set of drug laws, we must remember to include law enforcement in the process. This is a good look at what they fear, and what they think about the current laws and state of affairs.

Download the PDF file .


The New York Times’ Groundbreaking Series of Editorials about Marijuana

nyt_logo2If you have not yet heard about or seen the New York Times series of editorials about marijuana, it is time to do so.

The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii supports progressive marijuana law reform, primarily through our coalition Fresh Approach Hawaii and the Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii.

Visit them to learn more about legalization efforts and the expansion of the medical marijuana program here in Hawaii.

The first of the series of these editorials by the New York Times editorial board is entitled: States’ Rights, and focuses on how the federal head-in-the-sand mentality toward marijuana is serving only to make the national law seem outdated and misguided, while states pursue liberalization of marijuana laws in the shadow of a potential federal crackdown.

The New York Times is the paper of record, and so even if they are saying the same things that we have been yelling for decades, it shows that we aren’t the lunatic fringe anymore. Instead, the prohibitionists are now the ones out of step with America.