Pubdate: Sun, 12 Apr 2015
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2015 Star Advertiser
Author: Richard Borreca
Page: E1


Medical marijuana may just be the controversy with a solution in

Fifteen years ago, Hawaii's Legislature became the first in the nation
to allow the use of marijuana if ordered by a doctor's

Yes, although marijuana possession was still illegal on a state and
federal level, if a doctor prescribed it and you could somehow get it,
then you could use it to treat nausea from cancer treatment, or other
problems. But you couldn't buy it; you had to grow it.

Obviously this plan was more of a conundrum than a solution, but it
took 15 years to move.

Now there are strong indications that the Legislature will send Gov.
David Ige a bill that spells out how Hawaii will set up medical
marijuana dispensaries.

The state's estimated 13,000 medical marijuana patients could have a
convenient and legal place to buy pot within two years, according to
legislative leaders.

After more than a decade of not reaching a compromise, last year the
Legislature appointed a committee to tell it what to do.

Miraculously, this year's Legislature actually took much of the
committee's advice and has been pushing forward a proposal, House Bill

"Crafting the right language is getting harder because there are
medical, legal and constitutional issues," Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran,
Judiciary Committee chairman, said in an interview.

The House and Senate are coming at the issue of marijuana use from
different angles. The Senate has repeatedly pushed out marijuana
decriminalization bills, but they have been rejected in the House.

Meanwhile, the House has its own marijuana supporters who wanted the
new law to allow at least 26 marijuana dispensaries.

IT IS A tricky political piece of work because while the Senate may
appear to be more liberal on the issue, the House has more
conservative factions demanding more compromise.

"I think both houses have done a lot of work and now it is a matter of
what options are going to be included in the negotiations," said Rep.
Della Au Belatti, Health Committee chairwoman.

Although Hawaii is one of 22 states with a medical marijuana program,
Hawaii and Alaska are the only states among the 22 without a system
for dispensing marijuana.

The number of dispensaries is important because there would have to be
at least one on each island. For instance, Maui County is made up of
three islands so Lanai and Molokai would also need dispensaries
because patients couldn't fly between islands with marijuana.

If patients are carrying medical marijuana with them through TSA
inspection lines, it would needlessly trigger a criminal incident.

"The federal government is still not going to allow the transportation
of marijuana between islands," said Keith Agaran.

Finally, if the Legislature passes something and Ige supports it, even
before medical patients start puffing away, there are many more
details in the rule-making process.

"One of the primary factors is that we want to create a well-regulated
system, and to some degree, if it is too fast and not well regulated,
it doesn't serve our patients," said Belatti.

Even with all that caution, it does appear that the state this year
will finally get around to making some sense of its marijuana laws.
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