Medical cannabis patients need to immediately and decisively take action to aproposed bill which could gut the state medical cannabis program and possibly disqualify more than 97% of the patients currently with blue cards.
No one, including advocates in the medical cannabis community, thought thatSB 1458 which would have established state compassion centers (dispensaries) could become an absolute nightmare. Yet legislators, unresponsive to the expressed interests of patients, are currently modifying the original bill so dramatically that if passed and signed by the governor it will be the death knell to Hawai’i’s medical cannabis program.
During the past two months patients and advocacy organizations and groups from all over the state have submitted thoughtful testimony and testified before the legislative committees for a number of medical cannabis bills that would have eased the burden of growing and providing for patient needs. Only one bill is still under consideration.
SB 1458 when first passed in the Senate in February would have provided for six compassion centers on the Big Island. Certainly, it was not a perfect bill but with some amendments it could have helped patients with safe access and a reliable source to cannabis medicine.
When the bill moved to the House it was modified from a state-wide program to a five year pilot program on Maui with only one dispensary. Other islands would have to wait. That provision combined with the Senate version which included an extremely high 20K licensing fee, a 30% tax on sales and a $100 licensing fee for out of state visitors raised a red flag for most patients who have been waiting patiently for the legislature to pass an acceptable and comprehensive dispensary bill for many years. (Senator Josh Green is proposing a 30K licensing fee, a 15% tax on gross sales, and still $100 to patients from out of state to get a temporary permit).
Other patient concerns were, also, being ignored such as the refusal to allow intra-state transportation of medicine and concerns patients had with keeping registration with Public Safety.
Then on April 26th the bill became a total nightmare when Senator Josh Green, M.D. (D-Kona and Kohala) began taking the lead in a conference between Senators and Representatives to finalize the bill’s proposed amendments to allowonly patients with cancer, M.S. and neuromuscular disorders to qualify for medical cannabis. If this proposal passes and is signed by the governor, those who no longer qualify would have two months before they had to turn in their blue card.
Justifying his position, Green stated that he was concerned about the abuse in the medical cannabis program. He cited with information provided by the Department of Public Safety that 50% of the Big Island patients were under the age of 30 and 500 were under the age of 21.
Andrea Tischler, co-chair of Big Island Chapter of Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group working to improve Big Island patient’s medical rights, spoke to Green on Wednesday. In that conversation Green added that “no one under the 21 should be taking anything more than Tylenol” and doctors who recommend cannabis are mostly a bunch of ‘scum bags.’ For a doctor to refer to others in the same profession in such a manner is truly an eye-opener.
To the medical cannabis community and the compassionate doctors who are open to recommending a safe, effective and proven medicine, the proposed amendments to the SB 1458 and the comments and attitudes of Senator Green cannot be accepted or tolerated for a minute.
This calls for immediate action by all Big Island cannabis patients, advocacy organizations and groups to defeat the vary bill which could have helped us. Law-abiding Big Island medical Cannabis patients will not sit by idly and allow the suggested amendments to SD 1458 to pass the Legislature.
The next conference meeting is Thursday, April 28 at 1:30 pm. Time is extremely short. We urgently ask you to phone, fax and email Senator Josh Green now and tell him that you support the original version of SB 1458 and nothing more. The current proposals are completely unacceptable and we will not allow our legislators to turn a blind eye to the needs of the voting citizens who are medical cannabis patients of the State of Hawai’i.