- Associated Press - Sunday, December 21, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - Fourteen years after Hawaii legalized medical marijuana, there is still no legal way for patients to obtain pot without growing it themselves.

The 2000 law also is silent on how the state’s 13,000 patients can get the seeds for plants they are allowed to grow.

Even as four states have legalized recreational use of marijuana through voter initiatives, Hawaii legislators remain focused on creating a statewide medical marijuana dispensary system, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (https://bit.ly/1CpNf3R ).

“I do expect that bills will be introduced on decriminalization and legalization, as always,” said Democratic state Sen. Will Espero, chairman of the Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee. “But Hawaii’s not ready for legalization. The public is not clamoring for it. My colleagues are not knocking on my door saying, ‘We have to have it. It is now on the radar and it is gaining momentum.’ People are still waiting to see how things are handled in Colorado and Washington and other states.”

He and others said the emphasis on marijuana-related bills this session will be on creating a system that would allow patients to legally acquire marijuana through dispensaries on each island.

The Medical Marijuana Dispensary Task Force was recently told that if such a bill were passed, the state health department likely would need two to three years to consider the issues involved in and create rules to administer a program.

Karl Malivuk, a 66-year-old medical marijuana patient from Moiliili who sits on the task force, said he’s discouraged, calling the law on the books useless.

Malivuk, who suffers extreme nausea from treatment for chronic liver disease, buys his marijuana through Hawaii’s underground market.

“I have no say-so over what is available,” he said. “Compared to the ‘60s and ‘70s, it’s so heavily narcotic. So I have a choice of being nauseated or totally stoned.”

The number of medical marijuana patients is expected to grow next year when the health department takes over administering the program from the state Department of Public Safety, which has a law enforcement focus.

And there are a number of complicated issues that will have to be addressed in establishing dispensaries, said Susan Chandler, director of the University of Hawaii’s Public Policy Center who also facilitates the dispensary task force meetings.

“You have licensing issues. Who’s going to be able to grow it? What’s the fee structure? There are quality control issues and security issues,” she said. “It’s a very complicated piece of legislation. While other states have done it, we don’t have a quick administrative rules process and procedures.”

Until Hawaii creates a dispensary system, Chandler said, “We have a medical marijuana system but you have to begin in the illegal market. How do you get your first seed? You can’t buy it legally. That’s the strangest part.”

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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