POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, May 11, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 3:25 a.m. HST, May 11, 2011
A Hawaii doctor's question about prescribing medical marijuana has led to a victory for patients who can't leave their homes.
David Barton, owner of Hawaiian Pacific Pain and Palliative Care, makes house calls to a handful of homebound patients, such as a quadraplegic who uses medical marijuana to control severe muscle spasms.
Several months ago a bill moving through the state Legislature would have required doctors to register the homes of their patients as the doctors' place of business in order for them to visit and talk to patients about prescribing medical cannabis.
The requirement was later dropped from the bill. However, before that, Barton asked Keith Kamita, then head of the Narcotics Enforcement Division, which oversees medical marijuana, whether he would have to register his patients' homes under the bill.
Kamita responded in an email that house calls for marijuana prescriptions are already banned, a response that led Barton to stop seeing patients at home.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii heard about it and believed the statement countered state medical cannabis laws.
During its investigation, the ACLU also found that physicians prescribing medical marijuana have to sign a form saying the patient was examined at a registered location, also contrary to administrative rules.
The ACLU unsuccessfully tried to get clarification from Kamita and turned to the state attorney general.
On April 21 the attorney general's office sent a letter to the ACLU reversing the Narcotics Enforcement Division's position.
The letter said house calls involving medical marijuana and certificates issued at private homes rather than at businesses are allowed. It also said the Department of Public Safety will change its verbal and published guidelines regarding medical marijuana certifications.
"We're very pleased that the AG's office has recognized these errors and is working towards fixing them," Dan Gluck, an ACLU of Hawaii attorney, said.
He said the Department of Public Safety applies a criminal control perspective to medical marijuana rather than seeing it as a health issue.
The ACLU would prefer that the Health Department oversee medical marijuana certifications.