Back in 2000, Hawaii became the first US state to legislatively approve a medical marijuana program; now. 9 years down the line, many commentators think that the law is unclear and outdated. Consequently, on Tuesday of this week, the Island’s Medical Cannabis Working Group held a public meeting to discuss the way forward. So many speakers were anticipated at the 90 minute meeting that they were asked to limit their ‘Talk Story’ to 3 minutes so that everybody could be heard.
There are a reported 5,000 patients in Hawaii who legally use mariuana for medical reasons, all of whom report difficulties in obtaining their medication. Paul Minar, who uses medicinal marijuana to relieve his chronic back pain, said, “The only place to buy your medicine is at 3 o’clock in the morning in some scary part of town.” Another patient, Brian Murphy, who uses marijuana to gain relief for his migraine seizures, added that the current set up of the system pushes users to the black market.
Murphy is not only asking for distribution centres, he also wants to see government support for small farmers who cultivate medical marijuana.
The Medical Cannabis Working Group is composed of organisations, medical professionals, patients and caregivers; their purpose is to examine problems with current medical cannabis laws. The Group will provide a report to the Legislature prior to the 2010 legislative session outlining their findings and recommendations, including information obtained from Tuesday’s meeting, for use in developing legislation to improve the medical cannabis programme.
Its legislative recommendation could be greatly influenced by the U.S. Justice Department, which recently ordered that people who use or distribute medical marijuana should not be federally prosecuted so long as they act within state laws.
Some complain Hawaii’s medical marijuana laws are vague. They say the laws do not address the purchase or sale of medical marijuana. Some patients said they are uncomfortable registering with the Public Safety Department’s Narcotics Enforcement Division.
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyer, Laurie Temple said he hopes this directive will end the confusion felt by state officials charged with administering the medical cannabis programme and clear the way for the program’s improvement.