Medical Marijuana Laws Under Fire
January 26, 2007
Ed Kubo said the law helped a major supplier of illegal pakalolo avoid prosecution.
KITV4 News reporter Daryl Huff reported that Saturday was the opening salvo in the legislative debate over medical marijuana in Hawaii.
Supporters hope to liberalize the law, while law enforcement wants to tighten it up.
Richard Valasco's role as a certified marijuana caregiver ended when police found more than 600 marijuana plants at his home.
"This guy was profiting this guy was drug dealing. He was hiding behind this certificate," said Kubo.
Law enforcement said the existence of legal medical marijuana patches make it harder to identify and crack down on illegal growers.
"We have to ensure that that caregiver is not in compliance with the law," said Hawaii County Police Chief Lawrence Mahuna.
Velasco got his medical marijuana caregiver certificate despite a history of drug crime, so the state wants the power to do criminal background checks for caregivers who are allowed to grow up to seven plants for patients.
Velasco now faces 10-to-life in federal prison and is still technically eligible for a certificate.
Medical marijuana advocates said patients and doctors are already intimidated.
"We think making it more and more law-enforcement-oriented is going to frighten away more and more people," said medical marijuana advocate Pamela Lichty.
Advocates want the law liberalized by allowing caregivers to grow for up to three patients and having it run by the State Health Department instead of the Drug Abuse Enforcement Division.