Pubdate: Tue, 23 Jul 2002
Source: West Hawaii Today (HI)
Contact:  2002 West Hawaii Today
Author: Tiffany Edwards
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


HILO - County officials are taking steps to clarify the state's medical
marijuana law for residents and for police.

County rules and regulations spell out how the Police Department is to
enforce the law and how it investigates suspected violations.

Before Mayor Harry Kim went on vacation Friday he signed the rules and
regulations that govern marijuana eradication operations and reconnaissance
missions, as well as investigations involving medical and religious use of

"Hopefully by the signing of these rules, we will clarify what procedures
the police are to follow," County Managing Director Dixie Kaetsu said

Kim's signature on these rules and regulations, which have been in draft
form for more than a year, came three months after the Police Department
approved them. 

Kaetsu acknowledged the recent seizure of marijuana from residents holding
Department of Public Safety medical marijuana certificates "made him look at
it more and realize we needed to get these in place." 

"This whole medical marijuana thing is new to police," Kaetsu said. "There
is this conflict between the federal law, where marijuana is illegal and
there is no recognition of medical marijuana use, and the state law, which
authorizes the use, in limited quantities, for medical purposes."

A physician may apply on behalf of a patient to the state Department of
Public Safety for a medical marijuana certificate, Kona Police Lt. Robert
Hickcox said. In that process, a patient is apprised of how much marijuana
may be possessed legally, he said. 

The county's rules and regulations for medical and religious marijuana
states qualifying patients must have been diagnosed by a doctor to have "a
debilitating condition," which includes: cachexia or wasting syndrome;
severe pain; severe nausea; seizures, including epilepsy; severe and
persistent muscle spasms, such as those that occur with multiple sclerosis
or Chron's disease; or any other medical condition approved by the state
Department of Health at the request of a physician or potential qualifying
medical marijuana patient. 

Also defined in the county's rules and regulations is the "adequate supply"
that a patient may possess. 

Keith Kamita, who leads the Department of Public Safety's narcotic
enforcement unit, said Monday the law states a medical marijuana patient is
permitted to have four immature plants and three mature plants, along with
one ounce of usable marijuana per mature plant. 

The law defines a marijuana plant, whether male or female, as mature when it
has flowered, or has buds that are readily observed by "unaided visual

In households with more than one registered patient growing marijuana, the
Public Safety Department recommends plants be "visibly marked as to what
patient has what plants," Kamita said. 

"The thing that's sticky about this, what I would say is a flaw in the law,
is if you have three people on a property, police are having a difficulty
determining who had which immature and mature plants," he said. "It's a good
idea to separate the plants and to mark them."

Kamita said 286 of the 626 registered medical marijuana patients in the
state live on the Big Island. Of the state's registered primary caregivers,
or people who can legally grow marijuana for medical marijuana patients not
able to grow on their own, 23 live on this island, he said. 

Hickcox, who leads the Kona Vice section, recommends Big Island residents
who are approved to grow marijuana ensure they are following the state
guidelines and stagger when they plant seeds to ensure only three of the
seven permitted plants are maturing at a given time.

"It's really hard to give specifics because there are a whole bunch of
varieties of marijuana strains. It's up to the patient or caregiver to
monitor the plants. If they can see a violation, I would think they would be
responsible and, wanting to stay within the guidelines, they would pull (the
plants) and just keep the specified amount," Hickcox said. 

Meanwhile, officers investigating possession or cultivation of marijuana
cases should find out whether a person is legally entitled to have or grow
the marijuana, according to the county rules and regulations. 

"Before making a warrantless arrest or warrantless search or seizure based
on probable cause, an officer shall ascertain if the person has a registry
identification certificate, unless evidence exists of conduct that would
disqualify the person from the medical use of marijuana defense," the rules
and regulations read.

Officers are to contact the Department of Public Safety for such
information, according to the document.

The rules and regulations state if the validity of a medical marijuana
certificate cannot be determined and the number of plants fall within the
medical marijuana law, only as much as two grams can be seized as evidence. 

Once a court determines a person is a permitted patient or caregiver, the
rules and regulations state the marijuana, paraphernalia and any other
property seized should be returned.

There is a caveat, however - "The Hawaii Police Department shall not be
responsible for the care and maintenance of seized live marijuana plants,"
the rules and regulations state. 

Those with questions may call the narcotics enforcement unit of the Public
Safety Department at (808) 837 - 8470, or Hickcox at the Kealakehe station
at 326 - 4646.
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