Fifteen years after Hawaii legalized medical marijuana, there may finally be enough political traction to give patients a place to buy weed.
House Speaker Joseph Souki is sponsoring House Bill 321 to establish a system of medical marijuana dispensaries. Twenty of his 50 colleagues have signed onto it, including House Majority Leader Scott Saiki and Health Committee Chairwoman Della Au Belatti.
House Speaker Joe Souki waves to legislators Wednesday on Opening Day.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
During his Opening Day speech on Wednesday, Souki emphasized the need to establish dispensaries. He also brought up the issue last year, but his proposal was unsuccessful.
“Let’s do what we should have done 15 years ago,” Souki said Wednesday.
Currently, medical marijuana users in Hawaii have to grow their own weed, which patient advocates note may be difficult for people suffering from painful ailments.
Senate Health Committee Chairman Josh Green told Civil Beat on Friday evening that he is putting the final touches on his proposal to establish dispensaries in all counties. He also wants to expand the law to allow physicians to prescribe medical marijuana for any health conditions.
He said he’s confident that his measure has support in the Senate.
“I expect that we’ll pass a bill this year,” Green said. “I’m highly confident.”
But it may not be easy. Last year, the issue sparked marathon hearings with strong opposition from law enforcement.
Other marijuana-related bills that have been proposed include a Senate bill to legalize the drug; a House proposal to decriminalize the possession of one ounce or less; and a bill to ban housing discrimination against medical marijuana patients.
Sen. Will Espero, who chairs the public safety committee, is also sponsoring a bill to remove marijuana as a Schedule I drug.