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.

Pass, unamended

Karl RhoadsRecent actions by Karl Rhoads and the House Judiciary Committee (JUD) demonstrate that when it comes to HB1829, there indeed is something to hide.  After hearing the bill nearly a week ago, they not only have advanced the bill without any amendments or consideration of public testimony in opposition — but they are now withholding that testimony from view by the public.  Withholding testimony from public view is a low blow – even for a corrupt government official.

Initial impressions were that this bill was attempting to hide a lot; actions by Rhoads, JUD and House leaders only confirm that suspicion.  Something sinister is afoot at the Legislature. [1]

As of Friday morning (February 19th), no public testimony has been made available online for viewing, even though the committee found the time to author and post a report on HB1829.  This is in stark contrast to assertions that the committee report makes:

The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, Drug Policy Action Group, The Libertarian Party of Hawaii, Hawaii Dispensary Alliance, and a concerned individual supported this measure.  The Department of the Attorney General, Department of the Prosecuting Attorney of the City and County of Honolulu, Honolulu Police Department, and numerous concerned individuals opposed this measure.  A concerned individual offered comments.

Even by the committee report, only five pieces of testimony were received in support of the measure.  Even if “numerous” were only three individuals, it tips the balance of the testimony against passage of the measure.  By simply saying “numerous”, it is clear that the committee is not only trying to hide, but to understate how much testimony is in opposition.  How many is numerous?  Rhoads does not want you to know.

When evaluating the testimony, it is important to weigh the testimony accordingly. [2]  The first three testifiers mentioned favor the legalization of all drugs (including crystal meth) because drug users have feelings too! [3]  They do not care about public safety.  They do not care about the coked-up driver that might hit you, or the meth-addled dealer selling the stuff to your children.  The Hawaii Dispensary Alliance certainly supports it because the bill removes the offense (and associated penalty) for the unlawful diversion of medical marijuana. [4]  The removal of this offense expands their market far beyond medical users – these dispensaries and production centers will be growing marijuana for recreational use.

What should be a red flag is that the Attorney General (AG), the Honolulu County Prosecutor and the Honolulu Police Department (where are the neighbor island prosecutors and police departments on this measure?) all oppose this measure.

It is highly unusual (even amongst the special interests and corruption of House leaders) for a bill to pass unamended against the weight of public testimony – particularly when the Attorney General the opposition carries so much merit and expertise.  This opposition almost always stems from something that is both legally and fatally flawed about the bill. [5]  In the event of opposition by the AG, there are normally amendments that attempt to address the feedback from the AG.  None of those exist in this context.

The failure to identify the specific statues that HB1829 modifies, the failure to make testimony public, and the failure to address the merit and the weight of the public testimony demonstrate that there is indeed something to hide behind this legislation.  Maybe one of the bill’s sponsors (Joe Souki, Scott Saiki, Sylvia Luke and Karl Rhoads) has themselves (or one of their family members) sold marijuana to a minor.  Maybe someone close to them intends to distribute medical marijuana for recreational purposes. Or maybe one of the sponsor’s stands to make money hand-over-fist from the lack of any safeguards built into medical marijuana dispensaries.  From the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (February 13, 2016)

But Rep. Marcus Oshiro, who has been a supporter of medical marijuana but a critic of the new dispensaries law, said there are already questions about favoritism or undue influence in the process to decide who will get licenses, and that this doesn’t help.

“It leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths, and I wouldn’t want to touch this with a 10-foot pole,” said Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Whitmore-Poamoho). “Perception counts for a lot in politics, and from most people’s perspective it doesn’t look good to amend the laws that could benefit you or your friends.” [6]

This bill, and this hearing, fails to pass the smell test.  On the scale of “smells”, I am not talking about the smell of the black bin I roll out once a week for the City to pick up.  I am talking about the stench of the Sand Island (sewage treatment) plant when the winds shift.  This bill should be sent back to the House Judiciary Committee until the stench is gone.


[1] – Isn’t there always?

[2] – The House Judiciary Committee has used this merit argument to capriciously pass bills with a single piece of testimony in support against a mound of fifty or more pieces in opposition.

[3] – Or in the case of the Libertarian Party, “The government has no business regulating what I do to myself.  If I say that my activities are not harming anyone else, you MUST take my word at it.”

[4] – This was added to the original medical marijuana dispensary bill (HB 321, 2015) to ensure that medical marijuana stayed as medical marijuana – and was not sold on the street as recreational marijuana.

[5] – Special interests (dispensaries and marijuana users in particular) would like to think that the Attorney General hates drug users, but the AG rarely wastes time to submit testimony to that effect.  It erodes their credibility.

[6] Honolulu Star-Advertiser, February 13, 2016, “Lawmaker’s pakalolo ties might provoke suspicion