Hawaii Marijuana Advocates Form New Coalitions
By Wendy Osher
Marijuana advocates in Hawai’i have announced the launch of two statewide coalitions to support the reform of local marijuana laws.
The announcement comes as SB 472 SD2, a bill to decriminalize marijuana, was unanimously approved by the Hawai’i Senate yesterday.
Organizers of “Fresh Approach Hawai’i” and the “Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawai’i” say the groups reflect growing voter interest in new approaches to marijuana enforcement for the state.
Fresh Approach Hawai’i is comprised of a group of local organizations, businesses and individuals that are taking an active approach on local marijuana law reform. Their activity includes outreach efforts to community and policy makers, advocating for legislative measures to legalize and decriminalize marijuana, and advocating for bills to improve Hawaii’s medical marijuana program.
The Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawai’i was formed to work confidentially with patients, caregivers and doctors to safely access Hawai’i’s 13 year-old medical marijuana program. The group also hosts statewide meetings for the medical cannabis community, and advocates at the Legislature for improvements to the program.
The coalitions are currently working on the three live bills to reform Hawaii’s marijuana laws in the 2013 Legislature.
In addition to SB472, the state House passed two marijuana-related bills that will now be considered by the Senate.
These bills all passed floor votes on 3/5/13 and will cross over to be heard anew in the House (for SB 472) and the Senate including:
- HB 667 HD2 is aimed at improving Hawaii’s medical marijuana program. The measure seeks to amend current laws to include provisions related to confidentiality of growing sites and patient’s condition; certifying physician requirements; caregiver to patient ratio; plant transfer; qualifying visitors; and registration requirements.
- HB 668 HD2 seeks to move administration of the medical marijuana program from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health. Lawmakers who support the measure say establishing the medical use program as a public health program is more in line with the mission and expertise of the Department of Health.
Bills to legalize marijuana for adult use in Hawai’i died earlier this session, but are still live for consideration in the 2014 Legislature.
“Hawaii voters want a fresh approach to marijuana laws,” said Pam Lichty, President of the Drug Policy Action Group. “Our recent polling reveals that 81% of Hawaii voters support our medical marijuana program, and that 58% think that possession by adults of small amounts should not carry criminal penalty,” she said.
“The trend around the nation is to ditch counterproductive marijuana laws that divert law enforcement resources from addressing violent crime. With today’s action, it’s clearer than ever that Hawai’i is right in step with that direction. The formation of these two coalitions creates a more formal channel for people to directly engage with these issues, and to advocate for meaningful marijuana policy reforms,” said Lichty.
Vanessa Chong, Executive Director of the ACLU of Hawai’i also expressed support for the newly formed coalitions saying they, “offer interested individuals a way to get the facts about reform and take action including pressing government leaders for change.”
“Hawai’i lawmakers have an opportunity to re-direct spending of taxpayer dollars away from costly and discriminatory policies and toward reasonable and more effective measures while preserving public safety,” said Chong in a media statement.