In Wednesday night’s Civil Beat-KITV mayoral debate Mayor Peter Carlisle stated that he would not support the introduction of cannabis clubs in Hawaii.

The question came from a viewer of the debate who asked whether or when the candidates would consider supporting medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii.

Former Gov. Ben Cayetano said that he has supported legalizing medical marijuana in the past but that there would need to be regulations to prevent drug abuse. Former city managing director Kirk Caldwell said that he was “troubled” by cannabis clubs and he was not sure how regulations would work.

All three candidates agreed that marijuana dispensaries carry the risk of drug abuse. But Carlisle went further to comment on the state of cannabis clubs in California.

“Cannabis clubs and even in the places where they have them now in California are being abandoned wholesale because of their abuse,” Carlisle said. “As a former prosecuting attorney I’ve made it very clear that we have enough addictive substances around; we don’t need to add that with phonied up prescriptions for cannabis.”

Is Carlisle right?

In fact, California cannabis dispensaries have been the target of a federal crackdown for the past several months.

According to the New York Times, federal officials have forced over 500 dispensaries to shut down by sending warning letters threatening criminal charges.

Also Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the federal government has targeted the largest marijuana store in the nation, Harborside Health Center, for closure.

The federal crackdown began in October, when the New York Times reported that the federal government was planning to take action against what they deemed were largely fronts for illegal drug operations. In December 2011, the Huffington Post reported that an estimated 20 percent of the state’s dispensaries had closed in the span of a month.

Yet whether the cannabis clubs are closing due to the actual presence of drug abuse or due to federal anti-drug efforts is a contested point. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Harborside Health Center’s attorneys contend that the center is in total compliance with the law.

The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California told the Chronicle that the center was targeted because of its large size, which she said increased the likelihood of drug abuse. But the center’s supporters say the center has been viewed as a model for law-abiding marijuana dispensaries. Medical marijuana supporters said they plan to protest what they see as the federal government’s unfair targeting of compliant cannabis clubs at President Barack Obama’s East Bay fundraisers later this month.

In Hawaii, latest polls show that Hawaii voters are opposed to legalizing cannabis. Attempts to legalize marijuana or allow marijuana dispensaries have been stonewalled, mainly by law enforcement advocates.

BOTTOM LINE: If by “abandoned wholesale” Carlisle meant that cannabis clubs in California are shutting down in large numbers, Civil Beat finds Carlisle’s statement to be TRUE.

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