More MS news articles for April 2000

Hawaii poised  to become medical  marijuana state

The Senate has approved the measure and Cayetano has said he would sign it

By Richard Borreca
Star-Bulletin

Hawaii is on the way to becoming the eighth state to legalize marijuana for medical use.

The bill passed the state Senate yesterday 15-to-10 and now goes to Gov. Ben Cayetano, who has said he would sign it.

Patients would have to grow the drug themselves after getting a certificate from a doctor. Armed with the certificate a patient or care giver would get a permit from the state Department of Public Safety.

"This bill will protect from arrest both the patient who might find a use for marijuana and the doctor who might recommend its use," Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, said during debate on the measure yesterday.

But critics, such as Sen. Norman Sakamoto, questioned why the Legislature would approve a bill that allowed patients to get something the federal government says is illegal. "We are promoting 'The Health State,' give me a break," he said.

According to an Associated Press survey, Hawaii would become the eighth state to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana.

Alaska, Washington, California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Maine and the District of Columbia have approved laws allowing doctors to recommend marijuana use by patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma and other conditions.

Under the Hawaii plan, which is similar to the one adopted in Oregon, authorized patients would have to grow their own marijuana.

Conditions that would allow prescription include: cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, chronic conditions such as epileptic seizures or muscle spasms characteristic of multiple sclerosis or Crohn's disease.

Pamela Lichty, president of the board of the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, said it appeared only 300 people or fewer in Hawaii would qualify.

She had argued for the measure, calling it a "state's rights issue."

A patient or patient's caregiver could possess no more than three mature marijuana plants or 1 ounce of usable marijuana from a mature plant. The bill doesn't say how patients could obtain seeds.

Cayetano has sponsored the legislation for two years and has said he would approve a bill to permit the seriously ill to use marijuana.

"Hawaii joins a handful of forward-thinking states that recognize the value and effectiveness of medical marijuana," Cayetano said.

His press secretary said Cayetano was "inclined to sign it."

"We look forward to recognition on a federal level to provide relief to those suffering," Cayetano said.

The bill had been opposed by Hawaii's law enforcement community and many medical associations.

A recent public opinion poll showed that 77 percent of Hawaii residents approved using marijuana to ease the suffering of terminally ill patients.