Pubdate: Thu, 28 Jan 2016
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2016 Star Advertiser
Author: Kristen Consillio


A bill that would ban homegrown marijuana in Hawaii is riling pot 
advocates as the state prepares for the opening of medical cannabis 
dispensaries this year.

House Bill 1680, proposed by Rep. Marcus Oshiro (D-Wahiawa, Whitmore 
Village), would prohibit patients from growing their own pot in 2017, 
essentially forcing them to buy their marijuana from state-licensed 

"The discussion always has been to find a reliable, safe source of 
medical marijuana for Hawaii's patients," Oshiro said. "Those means 
would be through a well-regulated seed-to-sale tracking system to 
ensure that only the bona fide patients under doctors' care and with 
a valid certificate are able to obtain medical marijuana at the 
retail dispensaries.

"There's no need to allow for homegrown," he added. "Homegrown 
medical marijuana leads to overproduction and overexposure among 
young people. We already have a problem. Why feed the flame?"

Act 241, which passed last legislative session, allows for 
dispensaries to begin selling medical marijuana July 15. Oshiro voted 
against the measure last year.

Hawaii legalized medical cannabis in 2000 but did not provide a legal 
way for patients to obtain the drug. Patients and their caregivers 
were allowed to grow their own medicine.

A prohibition on cultivation is "a terrible idea," said Carl 
Bergquist, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii.

"This is what thousands of patients have gotten used to. That has 
been the only way for them to get their medicine," Bergquist said. 
"To prevent patients from growing it makes no sense. There's so many 
different strains and dosages and over the years people have 
experimented and concluded what's best for them. To now prevent that 
is needlessly punitive."

Don Duncan, California director of the Americans for Safe Access, a 
national patients advocacy group, added that "market forces may not 
cater to the niche of medicine you need."

"There may be a specific variety of medicine that simply isn't 
available in the commercial marketplace," he said. "(In addition), 
there are economic hardships if you have to buy your marijuana at a store."

Haleiwa resident Leah Koonce, a 50-year-old disabled U.S. Navy 
veteran, has grown her own pot to alleviate chronic back and knee 
pain since 2009.

"It would be very unaffordable for a lot of people," said Koonce, who 
has lived in Colorado where dispensaries are prevalent. "Dispensary 
prices are very unaffordable for a lot of low-income people. It's 
going to be very hard. The average person on disability only gets 
$750 a month."

Forcing patients to buy their medicines from a dispensary is unfair, 
said Sen. Josh Green (D-Kona, Kau).

"I can't fathom forcing someone who is elderly and suffering from 
cancer into this position," he said.

Under the law, a total of eight dispensary licenses may be issued: 
three on Oahu, two each on Hawaii island and Maui, and one on Kauai. 
Each dispensary licensee will be allowed to operate up to two 
production centers with up to 3,000 marijuana plants each and two 
dispensaries for a total of 16 dispensaries statewide. The 
application period for dispensary licenses closes on Jan. 29.

"There's also the economic side of whether a business paying taxes, 
being heavily regulated and needing to abide by strict rules and 
regulations should have to compete against people who are growing it 
unregulated to some degree, and untaxed, as almost direct competitors 
to their business model," Oshiro said.

Over the past 15 years, medical marijuana patients were allowed to 
grow up to seven plants and possess 4 ounces at a time.

"In all those years there has been no monitoring or enforcement of 
those limitations and those requirements," he said. State health 
officials project the number of certified patients to jump to 26,000 
from around 13,000 once dispensaries open this year.

This weekend, a Hawaii Cannabis Expo takes place at the Blaisdell 
Exhibition Hall. An advertisement for the event says, "Doctors will 
be available for consultation for potential patients to receive their 
medical marijuana card in full compliance with Hawaii state law."

Oshiro is concerned about doctors issuing medical marijuana cards to 
healthy residents who want it for recreational use.

To address that issue, he is pushing House Bill 1677, which would 
require oversight of doctors who certify medical cannabis patients.

A separate measure introduced by Oshiro, House Bill 2455, authorizes 
the state Health Department to regulate the price of pot at 
dispensaries to ensure that people with legitimate ailments 
"regardless of income level can obtain safe, clean, pure medical marijuana."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom