Businesses may deny users of medical pot, experts say
Kokua Line received several questions asking how tourism- business operators and employees should react when customers or prospective customers appear to be using medical marijuana.
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Kokua Line received several questions asking how tourism- business operators and employees should react when customers or prospective customers appear to be using medical marijuana. We presented the questions to the state Department of Health, which administers Hawaii’s medical-marijuana programs. Spokeswoman Janice Okubo provided the following responses:
Question: We now have legal medical marijuana. So as someone who works in the tourist industry, I have some questions: If someone lights up a joint in public where I work, what legal things can I do? Ask the person to leave? Tell the person the company does not allow public smoking of the drug in the public area, even legal smoking areas?
Answer: “Public use of marijuana, even for medical purposes, is not allowed in Hawaii. Public use of marijuana should be reported to law enforcement.”
Q: If I suspect or see someone smoking a joint before going onto a tour activity, parachute jump, hang gliding, shark tour or other such activity, can I stop the person from doing it or deny their tour activity and give them a refund?
A: “Private businesses in Hawaii have the right to adopt their own smoking regulations and restrictions for participants in their activities. Restricting participation in private activities due to safety or other considerations is a business decision which private operators control.”
Q: May I ask to see their medical-marijuana card for verification?
A: “If you suspect someone is illegally obtaining and using marijuana, you should contact law enforcement and report it. Law enforcement officials will verify if a person is a registered medical-marijuana patient.”
Q: For our tourist activities, we all have some sort of liability form to sign. Do we need to amend these to include medical-marijuana use and our limitations for tourist activities?
A: “You should consult with your private legal counsel to determine if your liability forms need to be amended depending upon your specific business circumstances.”
Okubo also noted that, currently, only medical-marijuana cards issued in Hawaii are valid here. Being registered in another state does not entitle someone to obtain or use medical marijuana in Hawaii.
We also checked with Ryan Sanada, director of legal and government affairs for the Hawaii Employers Council. His response: “What you’re talking about are laws regarding public accommodations, meaning whether a business that is open to the public can deny providing goods or services to an individual for a specified reason. … I believe a business can deny service to an individual who is smoking medical marijuana, even if such marijuana use is to treat a disability. Specifically, the ADA’s regulations state that the ADA ‘does not prohibit discrimination against an individual based on that individual’s current illegal use of drugs’ in cases of public accommodations. In addition, Hawaii state law on public accommodations provides that the term ‘disability’ does not include alcohol or drug use that impairs a person’s activities or threatens the property or safety of others. Therefore, a business can deny services to an individual who is smoking medical marijuana on property and even ask that person to leave the premises.”
When I went to pay my bill at the Kahala Mall Subway shop Thursday, I was informed that the gentleman in front of me (he was getting a chopped salad) had paid for it! Thank you for such a pleasant surprise. I will definitely do the same at the next opportunity. Just before Christmas I lost my cellphone while walking from Mary, Star of the Sea School to the UPS store. A wonderful lady named Rome called my husband’s cellphone to say that she had found it and would leave it at AT&T in Kahala Mall. We do live in the land of aloha. — Dee
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.