Medical marijuana patients protest against Hawaii's highest leader

Lila Rattner
Lila Rattner
Jeanne Ohta
Jeanne Ohta
Will Espero
Will Espero

By Paul Drewes - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Residents rallied at the State Capitol, not to pass a law, but instead force the governor to follow a measure passed this legislative session. A measure that will get many of those same residents off the streets.

In the seedy section of Honolulu, where criminals can be found, every month you'll also find Lila Rattner. She's not your typical 65 year old, instead she hits the streets to buy drugs.

"The State of Hawaii forces someone like me to go out on the street - looking for drug dealers! In order to get medical marijuana," said the Ewa Beach resident.

And Lila's not alone, thousands in Hawaii can legally have marijuana but there is not a legal way to get it to them.

"I get calls from people saying, 'I have my card where do I get my marijuana?' and what they don't want to hear is, 'There is a black market out there," said Jeanne Ohta, the Executive Director for the Drug Policy Forum.

Distribution for patients is just one of the issues many hoped to address with a medical marijuana task force, which was set up though a bill passed this legislative session.

But that won't happen because of financial problems for the state and a shift of focus for the Department of Public Safety.

"The governor has stated she is not going to convene the task force. And we feel that is a violation of the law," said State Senator Will Espero.

Hawaii was one of the first states to pass a medical marijuana measure back in 2000. But since that time, there have been no changes to the law. Three other states already have a distribution system in place, an idea patients wanted to discuss with the task force.

But even those who are able to get the drug, still run into difficulties and arrests for traveling inter-island with their medication. Others face problems with housing and jobs because of their medical marijuana use.

"People are losing their jobs simply from being a medical marijuana patient," said R.C. Anderson, a patient.

Even though the Governor is not convening the official task force, a number of groups and patients will be meeting in the coming months to help shape policy for future legislative sessions.