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Amending State’s Medical Cannabis Program


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Amending State’s Medical Cannabis Program

by Paul Armentano

Democrat Gov. Neil Abercrombie yesterday signed two separate measures into law to amend the state’s 13-year-old medical marijuana program.

House Bill 668 transfers the administration of the state’s medicinal cannabis program from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Public Health. It also establishes a special fund for the program within the state treasury.

Senate Bill 642 increases the quantity of medical cannabis that may be possessed by qualified patients from three ounces to four ounces. The measure also increases the total number of mature plants that may be legally grown by qualified patients at any one time from three to seven.

A separate provision added to SB 642 in conference committee places potential limits on which physicians may be eligible to recommend cannabis, though this provision is expected to be further debated in the 2014 legislative session.

Stated Vanessa Chong, Executive Director of the ACLU of Hawaii, which was a primary advocate for the bills: “In 2000, Hawaii led the nation as the first state to legislatively establish our medical marijuana program. Now, a total of 18 states plus Washington, D.C. have programs. Finally, 13 years down the road, Hawaii is moving toward patient-focused policies and away from a law enforcement approach. These bills do not address every concern, but are the first real steps toward a more sensible public policy — we are encouraged and will redouble our efforts next legislative session.”

Advocates are expected to push in 2014 for the establishment of state-sponsored cannabis production and dispensing facilities, which are now operational in several other states, including Arizona, Colorado, New Jersey, Maine, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont. According to a 2012 QMark Research poll, 78 percent of Hawaii voters support a dispensary system for medical marijuana.

The changes in law will become effective in January 2015.

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