Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hawaii considers marijuana stamps

HONOLULU -- Talk about your green stamps.

The Hawaii House today advanced a bill that would issue cannabis distribution stamps to participants in the state’s medical marijuana program.

Hawaii has had a medical marijuana program since 2000, allowing doctors to write a pot prescription for everything from glaucoma to AIDS to cancer. The law allows patients with prescriptions to grow what is known in state law as an “adequate supply.”

That’s further defined as “an amount of marijuana jointly possessed between the qualifying patient and the primary caregiver that is not more than is reasonably necessary to assure the uninterrupted availability of marijuana for the purpose of alleviating the symptoms or effects of a qualifying patient's debilitating medical condition; provided that an "adequate supply" shall not exceed three mature marijuana plants, four immature marijuana plants, and one ounce of usable marijuana per each mature plant.”

The problem, unless the patient has the land and the ability to grow his or her own, has been that would-be users must break the law to get their legal supply.

“If a patient is unable to produce enough medicine, they must resort to transacting on the black market, with a variety of inherent risks,” said Big Island proponent Matthew Rifkin in testimony to a House committee.

The Legislative Reference Bureau, in its 2004 publication “In Search Of A Viable Distribution System For Hawaii's Medical Marijuana Program,” recommended the distribution-stamp program.

Under the program, a farmer puts up some land for secure growing facilities and a certified facilitator serves as the go-between from farmer to user. Users are issued stamps at a cost of no more than 50 cents per gram of marijuana.

The bill now moves to two other committees before coming back to the full House for another vote, then on to the Senate. Its chances of passing are pretty good, with only two of the 6 Republicans in the 51-member House voting no.

Law enforcement hopes it can stop the bill before it gets too far.

“The message could be interpreted as the state of Hawaii Legislature legalizing drug trafficking within the state,” said Paul K. Ferreira, acting police chief for the Big Island. “To expand the medical marijuana laws and amend our current statutes from their current restrictions would only assist those individuals now growing marijuana illegally and generating huge profits by allowing them to use the medical marijuana law to aid in avoiding detection.”