Pubdate: Fri, 19 Mar 2010
Source: Honolulu Advertiser (HI)
Page: B1
Copyright: 2010 The Honolulu Advertiser
Author: Meilissa Tanji, Maui News
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)
Bookmark: (Hawaii)


Officers Tell Forum on Maui They Drive Misuse and Crime

WAILUKU -- Hawai'i could see an increase in crime and other economic
fallout if it legalizes medical marijuana dispensaries and softens
medical marijuana laws, two Los Angeles police officers told the
Hawaii Medical Marijuana Summit.

"It's so bad in L.A.," said Sgt. Eric Bixler of the Narcotics Division
of the Los Angeles Police Department. He said law enforcement
officials there deal daily with the effects of California's
Proposition 215, which allows patient caregivers to possess and
cultivate marijuana for personal medical use. People driving while
smoking, and teens buying marijuana at dispensaries to resell on the
street are just some of the problems caused by the law, the officers

Bixler and another Los Angeles officer were among the presenters at a
Hawaii Medical Marijuana Summit offered Wednesday for law enforcement
and other community members at Baldwin High School's multipurpose
room. They appeared on behalf of the California Narcotic Officers'
Association that trains law enforcement officials in narcotic
enforcement activities.

The Hawai'i Legislature is considering several proposals that would
loosen marijuana restrictions, including proposals that would allow
the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries.

Senator objects Sen. J. Kalani English, D-6th (East Maui, Moloka'i,
Lana'i), who was among the lawmakers to introduce bills to loosen
restrictions on marijuana, said his bills were different from
California's medical marijuana laws because he was aware of some of
the problems attributed to Proposition 215. He said he took the "best"
features of medical marijuana legislation across the country to craft
proposals that would have stricter controls on the drug and avoid
pitfalls seen in other jurisdictions.

English's bills, one of which would legalize and tax dispensaries as a
way of generating revenue for the state, and the other of which would
decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, have
passed from the Senate to the House for discussion.

There are already around 6,000 medical marijuana patients in Hawai'i,
English noted.

Taxing medical marijuana at a rate of $30 per ounce as English
proposes could net the state around $60 million in new revenues each
year, he said; and English proposes splitting the take between the
state and counties.

English objected to the summit, saying the meeting only represented
the views of medical marijuana opponents and was based only on the
views of the LAPD. He felt that event organizers should have invited
people with a variety opinions for a real dialogue about the issue.

Prop. 215 Was Focus

Most of the presentations Wednesday were set to
focus on Proposition 215, which was passed by California voters in
1996. The law allows patients and their caregivers with a valid
doctor's approval to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal
medical use. It also protects a system of collective and cooperative
cultivation and distribution of marijuana.

Because the meeting was closed to journalists, Bixler and Det. Glenn
Walsh of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department Narcotics Division spoke
to reporters outside the room.

Bixler said it's not uncommon to see someone "smoking out" while
driving down the street, and that he has seen teenagers walk out of
dispensaries with marijuana and sell the drug to their friends.

"We have more (marijuana) dispensaries than Starbucks," Walsh added,
saying Los Angeles alone has around 900 to 1,000 dispensaries.

The two officers said there are many misconceptions about Proposition
215, including that it allows medical marijuana "dispensaries."

Bixler said dispensaries or self-described "compassion centers" are
actually "storefront marijuana dealers."

Social Problems

Walsh dismissed advocates' claims that legalizing and
taxing marijuana could be a potential source of revenue for states,
saying other vice taxes, such as those levied on alcohol and
cigarettes, do not offset the greater cost of social problems to the

Both officers expressed concern that English's bill, if passed, would
allow Hawai'i's four counties to each establish their own laws
governing dispensaries. Walsh and Bixler said that a lack of
consistency from county to county made it difficult to enforce the

For example, a dealer could purchase the drug somewhere like Mendocino
County, which allows citizens to possess up to 2 pounds of dried
marijuana, and then take it to other counties to sell.

English didn't think that would be a problem in Hawai'i if his bill
became law.

Under his proposal, the amount of medical marijuana a patient could
possess would be the same across all counties. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake