Lawmakers meet with medical marijuana dispensary task force

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii — are we one step closer to it becoming reality?

Medical use of marijuana in Hawaii became legal in 2000, but many of the state’s nearly 13,000 qualifying patients lack the ability to grow their own supply of medical marijuana.

But a bill in the State Legislature could change that. It’s just a matter of making sure the rules are “tight.”

The conference room at the State Capitol Saturday spilled over with people eager to hear the latest news on House Bill 321, as the House Committee on Health grilled members of the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Task Force.

“I couldn’t get a sense whether they were pro or opposed to the bill,” said task force member Jari Sugano. “It’s hard to tell right now.”

If House Bill 321 passes, Hawaii will establish a system of medical marijuana dispensaries and production centers.

People have been waiting a long time to get their medicine — that’s according to medical marijuana advocates. But even those on the task force don’t entirely agree on the bill.

Sugano is pushing for legal regulation of dispensaries. She’s a working mother raising two special-needs children who could both benefit from easier access to medical marijuana.

But Hawaii County police chief and fellow task force member Harry Kubojiri has reservations, at least in the bill’s present form.

Kubojiri believes medical dispensaries will be good for what it’s intended for, namely qualified patients, but he fears the bill as written is open to abuse and we could see problems here that have already surfaced in other states.

“The number of children admitted into emergency rooms for overdose, the number admitted into treatment centers, as well as number of homeless people,” he said. “People come to this area where medical marijuana laws are lax, they’re noticing their population of homeless people, ironically, has grown.”

“In the end, we need to figure out how to work together,” said Sugano, “coexist, put a system to address quality and safety of products, yet also regulate it, so we address public safety and youth access.”

The hearing on House Bill 321 will continue on Tuesday, February 10. Committee chairwoman Della Au Belatti said they are taking testimony under consideration and will iron out all the issues people had with the bill, but remains optimistic that the bill will pass out of committee.

Click here to read the entirety of the bill.

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