Hawaii legislature considers loosening marijuana laws - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii legislature considers loosening marijuana laws

Keith Kamita Keith Kamita
Mark Bennett Mark Bennett
George Fox George Fox
Brian Shaughnessy Brian Shaughnessy

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three marijuana bills are making their way through the Hawaii State Capitol. One bill would take away criminal penalties for anyone caught with less than an ounce of pot. Instead they would pay a civil fine of $300 for the first offense and $500 after that.

Another bill would allow medical marijuana patients to have more plants and ounces.

A third bill would allow medical marijuana dispensaries with the government approving permits for shop to open. That bill cleared another committee today, despite opposition from police and prosecutors.

At the very least the state and counties could make few million dollars a year selling marijuana but opponents say it comes at too high of a price.

The marijuana discussion was passed around a capitol committee room. The debate is over establishing something called "compassion centers," to sell pot to any patient with a doctor's permit.

"One of the problems with this is it would be almost impossible for the compassion center to verify that these are actually legitimate permits," testified Keith Kamita, State Department of Public Safety Narcotics Enforcement Division Chief.

Another concern is that the government would essentially become a drug dealer taking a cut from the marijuana sales. The state would tax $30 per ounce and the counties would get $5,000 in annual registration fees.

Even in the worst of economic times the state attorney general, speaking on behalf of all county police chiefs and prosecutors says that's a terrible idea.

"It allows essentially anyone other than a convicted felon to set up massive centers for the sales of marijuana," testified Mark Bennett, State Attorney General. "It just makes absolutely no sense for the State of Hawaii to become potentially the legal marijuana sale capitol of the world."

Plenty of supporters also spoke up.

"What you do is increase the supply you decrease the value. If you get rid of the black market, you got rid of the black market," testified Myron Berney, supporter. "Moses never said anything bad about it. Jesus never said anything bad about it. Buddha or Mohammed never said anything bad about it."

"It's been smoked for thousands of years all over the world, no one has ever died from ingesting marijuana," testified George Fox, supporter.

"I think it's now important that we now provide the mechanism for people like myself, patients suffering, to have this available to them," testified Brian Shaughnessy, private attorney.

"My point is in Hawaii we have an opportunity to do it right we can design a distribution center from scratch," testified Pamela Lichty, Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii President.

Most lawmakers agreed approving the bill and sending it to the judiciary committee bringing the pipe dream closer to reality.

"We believe this is a mistake and will bring a great many ills to Hawaii," said Attorney General Bennett after the hearing.

Lawmakers also attached amendments to the bill today that said a marijuana center should be placed within one mile of a police station, but not within two miles of a school although lawmakers also said there are a lot more details to work out.

To see a copy of the bill click here: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2010/Bills/SB2213_SD2_.HTM

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