Pubdate: Fri, 24 Jun 2005
Source: Honolulu Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2005 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
Author: Timothy Hurley, Advertiser Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Cited: Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii ( )
Cited: The Hemp & Cannabis Foundation ( )
Cited: Gonzales v. Raich ( )


In a move that could add patients to the state's medical marijuana 
program, a Portland, Ore.-based marijuana advocacy group is planning 
to open a clinic in Honolulu designed to help people become certified 
for the program.

The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation says it is close to obtaining a 
lease on office space near the Queen's Medical Center and is aiming 
to open Aug. 1.

Paul Stanford, executive director and founder of the Oregon 
nonprofit, said the clinic -- to be manned by a licensed physician 
and nurse practitioners -- will help those who could use marijuana to 
cope with conditions such as cancer and AIDS but who are having 
trouble finding a doctor willing to sign off on the controversial program.

Others see the effort as nothing more than a money-making scheme that 
won't help sufferers get the medicine.

Tom Mountain, founder of the Honolulu Medical Marijuana Patients 
Co-op, said that while it's true that not enough doctors are giving 
out the blue cards needed to enroll in the program, a more pressing 
problem is the supply of medical marijuana.

Mountain said growing marijuana plants can be dangerous, expensive 
and nearly impossible for many O'ahu residents, and an influx of new 
patients, without the supply, will inevitably lead to more illegal 
street sales.

Under Hawai'i's five-year-old medical marijuana law, patients are 
allowed to have three mature marijuana plants, four immature plants 
and an ounce of usable marijuana for each mature plant. There is no 
provision for those unable to grow marijuana, but Mountain's co-op 
has helped some by getting patients to donate extra portions to others.

Advocates say marijuana can be the only way for many chronically ill 
people, such as AIDS and cancer patients, to relieve their symptoms.

Stanford said the decision to open the Honolulu clinic was spurred by 
a realization that Hawai'i's medical marijuana program is underused. 
While there are 2,600 certified patients statewide -- half of them on 
the Big Island -- only 300 or so live on O'ahu.

He said the foundation's goal is to help 2,000 patients in the first 
year and between 4,000 and 5,000 in the second year.

The foundation, whose doctors treat 8,300 patients between the 
Portland and Seattle clinics, has 40 Hawai'i residents on a waiting 
list after advertising in a weekly publication in Honolulu for four 
or five weeks, he said.

The standard fee will be $250, he said, but there's also a sliding 
scale, with a $150 fee for those who can't afford the full amount.

"Our philosophy is that if you can't afford it, we will try to make 
arrangements. We currently see between five and 10 patients a week 
for free," he said.

Dr. Tom Orvald, a physician and former Hawai'i resident who works in 
the foundation's Seattle office, will fly to Honolulu one week a 
month. To be seen at the clinic, patients must have current medical 
records that show a diagnosis of one of the qualifying conditions.

Stanford said the staff will educate patients about the specifics of 
the state's medical marijuana law and about alternatives to smoking 
marijuana, including vaporization and eating foods cooked with marijuana.

Stanford said he was hoping to open the Honolulu clinic this week but 
the project was put on hold after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 6 
that the federal government may prosecute people who smoke marijuana 
with a doctor's prescription.

After the ruling, U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo and other officials declared 
Hawai'i's medical marijuana program dead. Kubo later backed down from 
a comment that he would prosecute doctors for certifying marijuana 
for their patients.

A telephone message seeking comment was left for Kubo, but he could 
not be reached yesterday.

Stanford said he was confident the program would continue unchanged 
in Hawai'i, just like it is in 10 other states, including Oregon and 

Keith Kamita, administrator of the state's medical marijuana program, 
said his office would be watching over the new operation carefully, 
especially if it generates the numbers of patients it hopes to.

"You just can't make debilitating conditions up. I would be highly 
suspicious," he said.

But Pam Lichty, president of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai'i, said 
she met with Stanford and concluded his clinic could help the scores 
of patients who can't get the required certification from their doctors.

Mountain and others said the biggest problem remains the supply.

"We don't have any medicine. Where are we going to get it?" he said.

Mountain contends there's not enough space in urban O'ahu for most 
patients to grow marijuana plants. Even if there is room on one's 
property, it can be dangerous because of the possibility of theft. 
Growing it indoors requires expensive lighting and usually results in 
outrageous electric bills, he said.

Mountain has been lobbying for collective gardens where the marijuana 
can be grown safely to medical standards, while supervised by the 
state Department of Health. But until that becomes reality, he said, 
more blue cards aren't going to help.

Agreed, said Pat Paiva of Makaha, who uses marijuana to help control 
her epilepsy. Paiva said she tried growing marijuana plants at her 
former Prospect Street home in Honolulu. Bugs ate the first crop. 
Thieves ripped off the second.

"I gave up," she said.

Paiva, a hairdresser who manages a salon, insists her life would be 
so much more difficult to live without the stability marijuana gives 
her. But it can be difficult to obtain, she said, and more blue cards 
aren't going to help. She said it sounds like the foundation is just 
going to be taking advantage of people.

"If you can't run it like a pharmacy, stay home. We don't need you," she said.