Patients still can't legally buy pot, 14 years after medical marijuana law took effect

Patients still can't legally buy pot, 14 years after medical marijuana law took effect
Published: Sep. 7, 2014 at 8:20 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 7, 2014 at 10:22 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new report released Sunday details some of the difficulties that 13,000 medical marijuana patients go through trying to obtain the drug because there are no dispensaries or legal ways to buy pot in Hawaii, 14 years after passage of legislation to help suffering patients.

When state lawmakers made medical marijuana legal in 2000, they didn't change Hawaii's laws that prohibit the sale or purchase of pot. So medical marijuana patients have to grow their own marijuana or run afoul of state laws. But even the sale of seeds for marijuana cultivation remains illegal in Hawaii.

Jari Sugano's 5-year-old daughter MJ suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare catastrophic form of epilepsy that caused her to have thousands of seizures a day.

Sugano showed us the medical marijuana she and her husband grow in their Mililani Mauka home under purple lights 18 hours a day. They use home-made cannabis oil with other medication to help control their daughter's seizures.

She said they have spent nearly the last year learning by trial and error, with research on the Internet, about how to cultivate pot and turn it into an oil.

"Basically you start from ground zero. You have to figure out how to get the plants, how to grow the plants, how to manufacture this oil that can benefit her and that takes months to do," Sugano said.

The Suganos inject syringes filled with marijuana oil into their daughter twice a day.

"It would have been easier just to go to some place like a dispensary or a clinic or pharmacy where you can just walk in there and say 'I need so much of this product that's lab tested,'" Sugano said.

A report released Sunday by the state's Medical Marijuana Dispensary Task Force detailed how the state's current laws do not allow medical marijuana patients to buy pot legally, unlike some states on the mainland.

The report, completed by the Legislative Reference Bureau, highlights the glaring uncertainties in Hawaii's medical marijuana program involving the access to and transportation of medical marijuana.

State Rep. Della Au Belatti chairs the state House health committee.

"We want to build a system that has a strong regulatory oversight so that we can ensure the safety of everyone in the community," Belatti said.

The task force will hold public hearings in the next few weeks and make recommendations to the legislature on new laws to establish a statewide dispensary system for medical marijuana.

"There are concerns about quality of the medicine, there's concerns about how do we dispense it safely. Where are the security measures that have to be around it because we don't want what's called leakage into the community," Belatti said.

She said the task force, and ultimately lawmakers, also must decide important questions about taxes and revenues.

"Will we apply the state's general excise tax at all levels of the cultivation, manufacture and then retail of the medical cannabis? Then we have to ask ourselves are there any fees, registration fees that other states have imposed that we might want to consider?" Belatti added.

She said Hawaii is able to see what methods and procedures worked in other states such as Colorado, Washington and California before crafting its own policies and laws surrounding medical pot.

A briefing on the new medical marijuana report – open to the public -- will be held at the State Capitol this Tuesday from 9 to 11 a.m. in room 325.

Two public hearings have been scheduled by the task force to obtain public testimony on marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii. The first one will be held Wednesday Sept. 10 at Aupuni Center in Hilo on Hawaii Island. The second hearing will be on Oahu Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 5 p.m. at the State Capitol Auditorium.