Legislature Fails Terminal Medical Marijuana Patients

November 18, 2008

RC Anderson, Ph.D., Hawaii Reporter

The recent arrests of the seven medical marijuana advocates on Maui are a direct result of our legislature’s failure to act.

For years we have been asking the Hawaii State Legislature to change the medical marijuana laws in Hawaii so that it is a viable program, and for years the patients and terminally ill of Hawaii have been ignored by the very people that we have elected into office to represent the needs of the citizens.

There are currently over 4,000 medical marijuana patients in the State of Hawaii that are legally licensed by the Department of Public Safety – Narcotics Enforcement Division to use cannabis for medicinal purposes, yet the Hawaii Legislature has not come up with any safe legal means for these patients to obtain their medicine.

Medical Marijuana has been legal in Hawaii for eight years now, and in that eight years our State Representatives and State Senators have failed to provide much needed changes to the laws that have been asked of them year after year by the patients, their caregivers, and those in the medical profession. Our legislature has failed us.

This year both the House and the Senate agreed that a temporary task force comprised of state officials, physicians and patients should be set up to finally talk about the possibility of changes, not to make any changes mind you, just to talk about the possibilities.

Governor Linda Lingle, who in her 2002 campaign signed a written promise to uphold the Hawaii Medical Marijuana Laws, decided that we could not legally even talk about the possibility of changes that could be made and vetoed the bill. In her official veto statement she said “This bill is objectionable because it is an exercise aimed at finding ways to circumvent federal law.”

Governor Lingle was not elected to the office she holds to enforce federal law, she was elected to office to enforce Hawaii State Law. She has clearly broken her 2002 campaign pledge to uphold the Hawaii Medical Marijuana Laws. The Senate voted overwhelmingly (21-1) to override the Governor’s veto, however the House let us down once again.

These seven brave individuals felt an overwhelming need to try to fulfill the urgent need in Hawaii of the legally registered patients who cannot legally obtain their much needed medicine, or grow it themselves. Many patients live in apartment complexes, government assisted housing, or other areas where growing is impossible, not to mention the fact that to grow high quality medical grade cannabis requires expertise that many terminally ill patients do not have.

Many also live in areas where it is unsafe for them to grow their own medication. They were not selling the marijuana to make a profit, as is being reported, groups like this barely break even on the costs to grow the medication for the patients with the donations they receive for it. Patients Without Time strictly limited the medication to legally registered patients. They were not drug dealers out on the streets selling to anyone that came along, they supplied medication to disabled and seriously ill patients that desperately needed it.

Our legislature has failed to provide a system to fill the gaps that keep it from being a viable program, and until they do, people with compassion for others are being forced to act on their own to see that the patients are able to receive their medication. I am not saying that this is right, or that it is legal, but until the legislature acts as they have been pleaded with to do, many feel that they do not have a choice.

Throughout this election season we kept hearing everywhere that it’s time for change. The medical marijuana patients in Hawaii have been waiting for eight years for change that still has not come. Our legislature has been ignoring our pleas for far too long. Its time for our legislature to act and make the changes that the patients, their caregivers, and physicians have been asking them to make for years. Give us a viable program that actually works and protects the patients of Hawaii. Stop forcing the patients to rely on illegal means of obtaining their legal medication. RC Anderson, Ph.D. is the Director of the Honolulu Americans for Safe Access. See more at http://www.HonoluluASA.org

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