Whenever a newspaper article or letter to the editor misquotes me or misinterprets my stance on an issue, I ponder whether a response is necessary. Recently, given there have been articles and letters to the editor that misstate my position with regard to the state medical marijuana dispensary law, I want to clarify my position.
First, I support providing medical marijuana to those in need. I am in strong support. Several years ago, my daughter, who has Lyme disease, was suffering from extreme pain. She was being treated in the Bay Area near San Jose, Calif., where a number of medical marijuana dispensaries were located. Although she did not previously use or like marijuana, out of desperation we obtained a prescription for medical marijuana and secured some in a lotion and liquid form. Although her pain did not disappear, her nerve pain was significantly reduced. We were told that often marijuana is the only pain medication that is effective with autonomic nerve pain.
Second, even though I support this medical marijuana program, I promote more home rule — meaning, I believe the County Council should have some meaningful oversight about how the medical marijuana program is implemented, including where grow-facilities and dispensaries are located.
My position on this issue is consistent with my overall stance that counties should not be shouldered with the burden of programs without having a role in how they are administered. In other words, I oppose the complete concentration of decision-making power in Honolulu, rather than on the local county level, where there is more input possible from affected constituents.
Securing more local control is important now but will be even more important when the expected proposal to expand this program into a recreational marijuana program occurs. I expect state legislative movement in the direction of a combined medical and recreational marijuana program to begin in 2018 or soon thereafter. The counties must have a voice in that decision.
Third, I oppose the current medical marijuana law’s 2018 elimination of the existing caregiver program. Elimination of the option of obtaining medical marijuana would mean that, starting in 2019, most eligible patients no longer would be able to legally obtain marijuana from a caregiver but would be limited solely to dispensary purchases.
I oppose this concentration of power by the few who will hold dispensary licenses, and support amending the law to allow for the continuation of the caregiver program. Realistically, however, it is not likely the state Legislature will this coming term take up amending the current planned elimination of the caregiver program.
Fourth, I am mindful of the increased risks associated with the marijuana being produced today. Some strains contain strong hallucinogenic properties rather than the medicinal pain-relieving properties. Correspondingly, there are increased burdens placed on our medical, emergency and police services.
For this reason, as well, there should be more county-local involvement in the implementation of the program, not just from a financial perspective, but also from a safety perspective. For this reason, I am sympathetic with the concerns of members of the North Kohala community, where individuals have suffered from bad experiences with marijuana.
Fifth, I am well aware the big drug problem today is not with the use of marijuana, but is instead the use and abuse of opiates, methamphetamine and also involving prescription drugs. I have been hosting community meetings on this issue and am working with groups targeting this problem.
As with most controversial issues, questions concerning the new medical marijuana program are not simply a matter of is it good or bad, but rather require balancing of conflicting legitimate interests. I will certainly do my best on the county level to promote further discussion about how this program will be implemented so that it best serves those in need, while minimizing potentially harmful impacts.
District 9 (North and South Kohala)