State senators are taking up a proposal to develop a system of medical marijuana dispensaries, which would give patients legal access to the drug nearly 15 years after it became legal in Hawaii.
A Senate panel heard the proposal Friday.
Maria Eloisa Reyes attended the hearing with her son, who, because of a medical condition, has about 14 seizures per month despite taking several medications, she said. The seizures last as long as a half-hour. Reyes wants her son to try medical marijuana, and she has a degree in agriculture, but she doesn’t believe she can grow the plant herself because she doesn’t have legal access to the correct strain to help her son, she said.
"We tried a lot of things already, and we’re out of options," Reyes said. "He is not a candidate for brain surgery. … We would like to try medical marijuana."
Sen. Josh Green (D, Naalehu-Kailua-Kona), chairman of the Senate Health Committee, said, "You guys are very much the reason we are here today to pass this legislation."
The Honolulu Police Department opposed the bill but said if the Legislature is going to pass it, it should consider changing the bill so that it allows just one permit for each county that covers everything from cultivation to manufacturing.
"I cannot even begin to imagine what the cost would be to oversee all of it" if there were 26 dispensaries, said Jason Kawabata, acting major of the HPD’s Narcotics/Vice Division. "If it’s just one site, it would be much easier to inspect." He also suggested allowing unannounced inspections of dispensaries.
Sen. Will Espero, chairman of the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, questioned why law enforcement would be against the proposal, considering that many medical marijuana patients are left to buy the drug on the black market.
"There could be fights or turf battles, all because of this," said Espero (D, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point). "There is a criminal element now that’s likely involved in medical marijuana."
Island-hopping with medical marijuana could present serious problems, according to representatives from the state Attorney General Department. The bill would allow dispensary employees to deliver medical marijuana on interisland flights, essentially mandating that a state agency permit a violation of federal law.
"We cannot support interisland travel with marijuana. … We strenuously want this committee to understand that if that provision remains in the bill, it might necessitate a veto recommendation," said Jill Nakamine, deputy attorney general.
The bill also seeks to prevent counties from enacting zoning regulations that discriminate against dispensaries.
There are thousands of cancer patients in Hawaii who could benefit from medical marijuana, said John Radcliffe, president of Capital Consultants of Hawaii, adding that he’s a stage 4 liver and colon cancer patient.
"You ought to at last end the cruel hopes now being perpetrated on all Hawaii patients that we have a medical marijuana program when we really don’t," Radcliffe said.
Lawmakers planned to continue working out the details and postponed making a decision until Wednesday afternoon, Green said.