More honest talk needed on pot bills

It appears that all medical marijuana bills introduced in this year’s Legislature have died except SB 1458, which would allow a pilot state-licensed “compassion center” to dispense pot to those with licenses to smoke it for medical purposes.

This measure, which has been referred to the House Finance Committee, deserves to bite the dust along with the others until we get the marijuana discussion on a more honest grounding.

Clearly, the effort to expand the availability of medical marijuana has become less about compassion and more about filling state coffers by taxing it and opening a back door to legalizing pot for recreational use.

Kristen Consillio had an eye-opening piece in the Star-Advertiser about how lucrative the medical marijuana trade has become for some, even on its current limited scale.

Hawaii certificates for legal medical marijuana use are now at over 8,000, with more than half of the permits issued on the Big Island. The bulk of the prescriptions are written by a relatively small group of physicians, some of whom charge up to $300 for the service. It’s lucrative enough that doctors are flying in from the West Coast to get in on the action.

There’s little control over what constitutes an illness that benefits from pot, and the Department of Public Safety, which oversees the program, says the bulk of prescriptions are being written for patients in their 20s and 30s, who are demographically the least likely to have the kinds of medical conditions associated with marijuana relief.

It adds up to strongly suggest that a large amount of supposedly medical marijuana ends up in recreational use.

I have no problem with those who legitimately need marijuana for medical conditions being able to use it. Nor do I have a problem with an honest discussion about whether we should legalize and tax marijuana for recreational use.

But I do have a problem with using one as a fig leaf to cover the other, skipping the due diligence on the big-picture implications for our state, in order to feed the greed of marijuana suppliers looking to expand their business and lawmakers hungry for tax revenues.

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5 Comments on “More honest talk needed on pot bills”

  1. Kolea Says:

    Dave,

    How many years are you willing to wait until you are convinced there has been “an honest discussion” over medical marijuana? My mother had prolonged nausea after surgery a few months ago and a visiting sister asked if I could secure some marijuana to help her regain her appetite and overcome the nausea. (I did not have the connections to accomplish this.)

    If you want to decry dishonesty in this discussion, maybe you should look at the law enforcement “prohibitionists” who are totally incapable of conducting a dispassionate discussion on the topic, their minds– and mouths– still full of “Reefer Madness” stereotypes.

    I will agree there are medical marijuana advocates who are using the issue as a “proxy war” for legalization. But so what? They are not the ones leading the fight. Look to Pam Lichty, Jeanne Ohta and the Drug Policy Forum who have tirelessly been advocating on the issue for decades, with little or no progress, mostly because of the phobic dishonesty of the law enforcement community whose obstinence escapes mention in your commentary.

    A contributing factor to the profits to be made from writing prescriptions is because the Office of Public Safety and the police, prosecutors have kept a legal cloud over the right of doctors to write such prescriptions, leaving only the more courageous doctors -and the naked profiteers– as the small pool of doctors willing to put up with the hassle. If the cops were to respect the current medical marijuana law, more doctors would be willing to write prescriptions and the profit margin would drop considerably.

  2. David Shapiro Says:

    Kolea, I think there’s been adequate discussion of medical marijuana to justify making accommodations for its use, but it’s being poorly controlled and a lot of it is ending up in general use — which will increase exponentially if we go to a California-style dispensary system without better controls. We haven’t had an adequate discussion of whether we should open a back door to marijuana sales for general use.

  3. Kolea Says:

    Thanks for the clarification. I would welcome a frank discussion of the difficulties inherent in controlling medical marijuana. But in my view, the “law enforcement” coalition types are not operating in good faith. They have been deliberately trying to sabotage ANY reasonable accommodation of medical marijuana.

    I would welcome at the table ANYONE committed to coming up with a reasonable compromise. Those who advocate total legalization are welcome, so long as they understand others will be there seeking to resolve the immediate medical marijuana problem and NOT to legalize the drug for recereational use through this “back door.” Similarly, the police, prosecutors and Office of Public Safety can be part of the discussion, so long as they do not try to use the process to deny medical marijuana to those with a legitimate doctor’s prescription. I have sat through those hearings and I assure you, the law enforcement side is unwilling to admit defeat on medical marijuana and its stuck in their zero tolerance mindset. They are AT LEAST as “dishonest” as the potheads hoping to pry open any back door path to legalization.

    Meanwhile, legitimate patients are being incredibly hampered in acquiring marijuana without having to enter the criminal world of drug-dealing. And doctors remain intimidated from prescribing medical marijuana because of the hassles they confront.

  4. Cloudia Says:

    MUCH bigger issues to tackle on this canoe of state!

    Compassion, reasonable rules and MOVE on.

    Economics demand that we consider all revenue these days. Perhaps permitting it on the gambling cruise ships? LOL

  5. Michael Says:

    I hear marijuana is a transplant.
    Locals use Kava.


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