With HB321 scheduled for a hearing on Saturday, February 7th, legislators are poised to repeat the same mistakes as other jurisdictions as they prepare to create a production and distribution network of marijuana under the guise of “compassionate care for medical patients”. However, the bill is riddled with so many flaws, the fast-tracked legislation looks more like a “first draft” than the “finished product” that they want the public to believe it is.
The distribution system proposed by twenty-three legislators creates a system whereby a medical marijuana patient can obtain their “prescription” from any one of a number of dispensaries. A Kakaako resident could go to their friendly neighborhood dispensary for their prescription, then drive out to Aiea to fill their prescription again. There are no safeguards built into this system to prevent a medical user from stockpiling enough marijuana for their friends, their neighbors, and even the kids down the street at the local high school.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
Limits on the amount of marijuana a medical user can have are to ensure that a medical marijuana industry does not overproduce. Whether it is legal or not, marijuana in excess of the needs of users finds an outlet on the street. While laws currently in force limit medical users to having 4-ounces on hand, there is no law enforcement or government agency that is actively enforcing this and ensuring that there is no excess supply.
The lack of any tracking or enforcement systems in the proposed production and distribution system creates a marijuana free-for-all for users both medical and recreational. HB321 places a single full-time employee in charge auditing and oversight of all thirty expected production centers and the minimum of twenty-six dispensaries to be located in the state. Access for recreational users will certainly improve with the lack of oversight.
The State of Colorado has made many mistakes in their rush to implement their recreational marijuana program and dispensaries. These mistakes are detailed in a sunset review. Consider that only 5% of all facilities in Colorado are registered with the state, despite laws to the contrary. Legally and illegally produced marijuana are indistinguishable – they look the same, and they smell just as bad. Once it is bought, there is no way for law enforcement to tell the difference either.
The net result is de facto legalization of marijuana. Legislators assume that people follow the law just because it exists. They assume that medical users follow the law to the “T”. That these same users do not share their prescription – that they do not share some with a friend at a dinner party. Or that they do not share it with the kids down the street at the high school because “marijuana is harmless” or “it is not as bad as alcohol”.
Advocates rely on the fact that the federal government says that it will not prosecute states for marijuana issues. What they do not talk about is the list of conditions that must be fulfilled so that the Attorney General would look the other way. Without “cradle-to-grave” tracking systems for all material derived in the production and distribution process, and without significant protections to our keiki, the state is opening itself up to unwanted scrutiny by the Department of Justice.
Other items to note about HB321:
- Dispensaries historically have not protected our families and our children – HB321 repeats the same mistakes.
- While it prohibits dispensaries from being located within 500-feet of a public school, this restriction explicitly does not apply to private schools, parochial schools, charter schools, public playgrounds or preschools.
- Places no restrictions on advertising or signage by production centers and dispensaries.
- Creates exceptions to allow convicted felons to work and/or operate dispensaries or production centers.
- Permits marijuana cultivation on state agricultural lands.
With all of the flaws in this bill, House leaders insist on fast-tracking the bill through committee hearings. However, the precise reason why committee hearings are held is to ensure that the product is free from errors. Rather than learning from the mistakes of others, legislators are setting themselves up for another failure like the Hawaii Health Connector. While liberal Democrats will reap the rewards of a boundless supply of recreational marijuana, it will once again be Hawaii’s families that will suffer.
This is insane.
Blogger’s note: Analysis and summary of bills scheduled for hearing this Saturday is available under the legislation tracker. Draft testimony is forthcoming. This post is only the tip of the iceberg. Your patience is appreciated as this is a lot of work for a single person to do on short order.