Call for Action: Hawaii Medical Marijuana Patients Under Attack!

Medical cannabis patients need to immediately and decisively take action to a proposed 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 that SB 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 allow only 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.

Mahalo.

Andrea Tischler
Matthew Rifkin
Co-chairs
Big Island American’s for Safe Access

Call Senator Green: (808) 586-9385
Fax: (808) 586-9391
Email: Sengreen@capitol.hawaii.gov

Matt Rifkin, born and raised in New York City, and 20-year resident of Tokyo, Japan moved to the Big Island in 2003 to escape the concrete jungles and neon lights. Became interested in cannabis reform when seeing the vast difference between US and Canadian media coverage of the murder of four RCMPs in 2005. Became personally interested in solving the inter-island transportation issue after being threatened with arrest at Kona airport on Christmas Day 2007. Although living in Puna, Matt lives “on the grid” and while not vegan or vegetarian tries to eat non-GMO papaya and organic fruits as often as possible.

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  • Martin Perez

    Where to begin? Lets see, is this the same ASA who supported Prop 19 claiming that lots of folks aren’t really medical users but are really just paying hundreds of dollars a week for recreational marijuana and that people under 21 should not touch or be near marijuana? Sounds like they actually agree with Dr. Josh Green. Maybe for the sake of consistency ASA should adopt an “all use is medical” philosophy and try to stick with it. Further more pot shops are not the answer, it should be available anywhere you can buy aspirin and priced at the same level as aspirin. It is inherently harmless, inocuous and cheap to produce.
    I can’t afford to go to any of these “dispenseries.” Face it, these people are not compassionate organizers, they are greedy exploiters who invested in storefront buy low sell high operations hoping to benefit from black market pricing without getting busted. People willing to spend $300 to $500 dollars an ounce have always been and will always be able to get as much pot as they want. These clubs are just trying to sell pot, not change the pot laws.
    Why not invest in the health of the nation and do something to help everyone. Invest time and energy and money into rescheduling cannabis (to schedule 5) so that everyone everywhere can access and use this wonderful substance. Then this current crop of potrepreneurs can get real jobs doing something productive but at least they and all the rest of us will be able to afford and enjoy the product.
    OOOPS! Too simple, better that everyone but the chosen few get busted and the chosen few make millions off an artificial price system based on restricted supply. Thats why the buyers clubs actually support prohibition (as long as its not their club getting busted). Competition baby, its all about winning!!

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  • Andrea Tischler

    I am relieved that the tragic direction SB1458 was headed was deferred today. It will not be brought up again during this legislative session. It would have been awful if 97% of the patients to have to turn in their blue cardS because of restrictive qualifiying conditions as Senator Josh Green, M. D. was proposing.

    Even though this bill has been deferred qualifying conditions will certainly come back next year. It is ironic that the bill that started out to help patients with establishing compassion centers did a 360 degree turn and would have dismantled the state medical cannabis program if passed and signed by the governor.

    What this teaches us is that we cannot relax for a minute thinking that now we have a (get out of jail) blue card and all will be well. Remember, iff a law is passed it can be just as easily taken away. A classic example of that is what is happening in Montana.

    Unfortunately, they got us on the defensive now and it is going to take a lot of educating and lobbying to turn the situation around. So, get ACTIVE!!!!!!!

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