Pubdate: Sun, 26 Feb 2017
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2017 Star Advertiser
Author: Michelle Tippens
Page: E3

It's time to move on marijuana bills

Since 2000, the state of Hawaii has had a medical-use-of-marijuana
program to provide patients with chronic illness a safe and effective
treatment option. As we progress through 2017 and in anticipation of
opening dispensaries, it is now the appropriate time to remove the
inconsistent treatment of cannabis as an illegal substance from Hawaii
law. It would seem the state Legislature agrees, as there are over 10
bills seeking to decriminalize marijuana; over 10 bills expanding the
current dispensary program (even though dispensaries haven't opened
yet); over five bills trying to open the state in some way to
industrial hemp; and several bills claiming portions of the tax
revenue from still unopened dispensaries - all alongside two or three
bills with a more "boogeyman" and much less science-based approach.
For example, House Bill 922 points out that 90 percent of the state's
medical marijuana certifications are issued by just 10 doctors, then
asserts this is due to some abuse ! of the system instead of the fact
that most doctors feel their license will be in danger if they issue
marijuana certifications, or the fact that many people choose to seek
marijuana certifications from doctors who specialize in cannabis
rather than their regular doctor.

Of the many decriminalization, personal use and recreational use
bills, Senate Bill 1219 and its companion HB 1539 (introduced by the
request of the Libertarian Party of Hawaii) are the only two bills
that remove marijuana from the criminal code.

SB 1219 and SB 548 seem to strive for the same things, although the
latter leaves the criminal code intact. SB 548 opens with an
explanation that includes statements like: "the legalization of
marijuana for personal or recreational use is a natural, logical, and
reasonable outgrowth of the current science of marijuana," and the
"legislature further finds that marijuana cultivation and sales hold
potential for economic development, increased tax revenues, and
reduction in crime." Hawaii's Legislature has shown acceptance that
marijuana issues should not be treated as public safety issues, but
rather as a health issue. Yet the criminal laws are left in place,
looming over any person who decides to take part, ready to kick in at
the whim of a police officer or prosecutor if any part of the new
regulations is not followed to the letter.

An example: SB 548 allows the sale of less than one ounce (28 grams)
of marijuana to a person over 21 but it is common practice to give
slightly more than an ounce (28.01-29 grams) because of stems, etc.
Each transaction over 28 grams would still be a felony offense under
SB 548; this is not the case under SB 1219/HB 1539. SB 548 also
discusses civil penalties for specific behaviors related to cannabis
use, but again fails to erase the criminal punishments, meaning people
would be subject to both.

SB 1219 has restrictions as well, specifically against sale to minors,
against funding criminal enterprises and against cultivation on public
lands. The punishments for violating these restrictions are also
civil, but unlike SB 548, would not leave the criminal codes in place
to kick in arbitrarily.

The Libertarian Party has a many-decades-long history of creating and
supporting intelligent marijuana policy, and it wrote both SB 1219/HB
1539 to ensure the people of Hawaii have the greatest freedom in this
issue while still protecting public safety. Combining the best parts
of SB 1219 with SB 548 may help us create a satisfactory compromise
while protecting people from unnecessary and expensive criminal

Michelle Tippens is founder and executive director of the Hawaii 
Veteran's Cannabis Alliance (HVCA)
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