Last Chance

The upcoming hearing for HB2707 will be your last opportunity to testify on the medical marijuana omnibus package being offered by the Legislature.  While there are expected to be conference committee hearings to negotiate on the bill, those hearings do not accept public testimony.

The Senate has removed a lot of the heinous ideas being proposed by the House, including:

  • reducing the penalty for medical marijuana fraud from a class B felony to a petty misdemeanor,
  • reducing the penalty for giving medical marijuana to a minor from a class C felony to a petty misdemeanor,
  • removing the criminal offense for unauthorized entry into a retail medical marijuana dispensing location,
  • removing the criminal offense for unauthorized entry into a medical marijuana production center, and
  • removing the penalties for the unauthorized diversion (theft) from a medical dispensary or production center.

If the House had their way, they would have also allowed dispensaries and production centers to employ criminals who have been previously arrested and convicted of non-related marijuana violations.

The latest version of HB2707:

  • gives advanced practice nurses (who have prescriptive authority) the ability to authorize a patient to use medical marijuana,
  • clarifies that both the federal and state tax codes are fully applicable to dispensaries and production centers and that they are not eligible for exemptions or other special business privileges (such as agricultural subsidies or enterprise zone exemptions),
  • clarifies that only doctors and advanced practice nurses who have an active and on-going bona fide doctor/patient relationship are permitted the prescription and use of medical marijuana,
  • permits the creation of a laboratory in the University of Hawaii System for the testing and certification of medical marijuana products, and
  • creates a working group to make recommendations to the Legislature for the implementation of dispensaries and production centers.

“Bona fide doctor/patient relationships” appears to be an attempt to regulate doctors that hand out bogus medical marijuana prescriptions to clients with no basis for using the drug other than recreational use.  While a step in the right direction, this language is still very easy to abuse – evidenced in a ten-fold increase in medical marijuana authorizations made by the Department of Health.

Additionally, the authorization of a laboratory is necessary due to the inability to utilize mainland laboratories because of federal transportation restrictions.  Certification and testing of medical marijuana is necessary to ensure proper dosing and could also theoretically be used to ensure that products with unusually high amounts of THC (the psychotropic chemical component of the plant) are not used to go beyond medically-necessary doses.

The working group, however, is an absolute sham.  It is composed of the same Who’s Who list of marijuana advocates (e.g. the Drug Policy Center of Hawaii) who want nothing more than the full-scale legalization of all drugs.  Of the fifteen members that are assigned to the working group, law enforcement is represented by only two people.

Once again, the public safety of the majority takes a back seat to the needs of a small pet constituency.

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Tone Deaf

A recent hearing before the House Transportation Committee has provided another opportunity for House leaders to demonstrate their arrogance and ignorance of statistics and scientific fact.  The offending leader this time is Cindy Evans (the House Majority Floor Leader), who introduced a resolution (HCR97):

to conduct a study to establish a reliable scientific threshold and testing protocol for determining whether a person cannot safely operate a motor vehicle due to being under the influence of marijuana

share1The answer already exists, and is shockingly similar to alcohol: none.

Coming from a liberal Democrat, this resolution is oddly surprising.  Their public relations campaign of smoke and mirrors wants the public to believe that alcohol is worse than marijuana.  One would think they would brush up on the science of alcohol before making such an absurd comparison.  Even moreso, that they would be up-to-speed on what we know about how alcohol impairs the ability to drive.

The National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration (NHSTA) has made it clear that despite any legally binding threshold, any amount of alcohol is enough to impair driving.  You’ve seen the ad and you know the slogan “Buzzed driving is drunk driving“.  A story from Tuscon News Now (carried by Hawaii News Now) notes:

Drinking and driving can affect everyone but those most at risk are men 21 to 34 years old.

This group often falls into three categories.

  • People who drink and drive yet don’t consider themselves to be hazards on the roadways or a drunk driver.
  • Well-meaning “Average Joes” who don’t mean any harm but continue to drink and drive.
  • People who either feel invincible or just unrealistically optimistic about the control they have over their lives.

The Wednesday hearing before the House Transportation Committee is not the first time lawmakers have had trouble with the science of impaired driving.  Councilman Ron Menor was arrested for driving under the influence, and offense that cost him his senate seat.  Former deputy prosecutor and former Vice Speaker (of the House) Jon Riki Karamatsu was arrested for driving under the influence not once, but twice.  The NHSTA warning should really read:

Drinking and driving can affect everyone but those most at risk are men 21 to 34 years old lawmakers.

They don’t consider themselves to be hazards on the roadways, they are “well meaning Average Joes” or they “feel invincible or just unrealistically optimistic about the control they have over their lives”.

When the science about impaired driving is so amazingly clear, one is left to ask: What’s the deal with HCR97?

It’s an election year.

The original law permitting the use of medical marijuana and the most recent law establishing medical marijuana dispensaries did not set a legal threshold for impaired driving.  There is a legal threshold for alcohol, but no such threshold for marijuana (medical or otherwise).  The sponsors of HCR97

EVANS, BELATTI, CACHOLA, CHOY, CREAGAN, DECOITE, KOBAYASHI, LOWEN, LUKE, MORIKAWA, NISHIMOTO, ONISHI, SOUKI, TSUJI, YAMASHITA, San Buenaventura

have one thing in common – they all voted up on the medical marijuana bill.  It was not based on science, and did nothing to protect the public against marijuana-addled drivers.

Liberal democrats are not concerned with the science – it already exists.  They already have enough science to establish a legal threshold of “zero” for marijuana-impaired driving and are concerned with their re-election. They are hoping to negotiate the science behind marijuana and hoping for a threshold above zero for marijuana-impaired driving.  It would look really bad if marijuana users would have to forfeit their driving privileges to support their habit.

The “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality has liberal Democrats always playing catch up – whether it is medical marijuana, medical marijuana dispensaries or even same sex marriage.  Deeper analysis shows that liberal Democrats are not in touch with the public and prefer to pander to minority constituencies while jeopardizing public safety.  They are always two steps behind, and always having to cover themselves for their shoddy workmanship.

Rather than doing it right the first time, they are fixing it later.  For once, they made good on their promise.

Pigs Fly

Late last week, the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor did something unheard of in recent memory – it removed ethically and morally corrupt language inserted by another legislator.  In decision-making on HB2156, the committee chair Gil Keith-Agaran removed language that was both introduced and reinserted by Sylvia Luke (see Honor Amongst Thieves and How to Make a Good Bill Bad) that would have allowed vote-buying amongst lawmakers.

While I tip my hat to Keith-Agaran for doing the right thing, recognition goes to the several individuals who took the time to submit testimony in opposition. Of eleven pieces of testimony, ten were in opposition to the bill specifically due to offensive language inserted by Syliva Luke. Good government groups, like Common Cause Hawaii and the League of Women Voters, were also in attendance and lent considerable weight to the opposition.

The offensive language would have permitted contributions from one campaign to another.  This most frequently takes place between better funded and established campaigns and younger, cash-poor campaigns.  This would result in:

The latter is particularly important since first-time candidates have a very difficult time raising money necessary to wage competitive campaigns against incumbents.  While public financing for election campaigns is available for this specific purpose, it is expected to dry up within a year or two.

As submitted in testimony from the League of Women Voters:

Donations of surplus campaign funds to other candidate committees is easily construed as a form of vote buying. Even when no votes are needed in a current election cycle, they probably will be in future elections or in future legislative sessions if the incumbent competes for office and especially if the incumbent is successfully elected.

It is important to note that the battle is not over.  This language still exists in the House version of the bill HB2156 HD2 and could resurface during conference committee. If Sylvia Luke needs this language badly enough to consolidate her power base for the coming election, insiders expect her to leverage her power to ensure it finds its way into law.

The real message, however, is that submitting testimony does matter – and it can make a difference.

A BIG difference.