Interested in flying with your medical marijuana? What about consuming cannabis edibles in public?
Can pot help with opioid addiction? And now that more patients are registered and can buy pot at dispensaries, does the public need more drugged driving education?
All of those topics were addressed Wednesday by members of a legislative working group formed to recommend medical marijuana legislation. Two senators and two representatives are among the members, and this may be the group’s last meeting before the 2018 legislative session begins next month.
The group approved recommendations for legislation on issues such as allowing patients to travel between islands with marijuana, improving public education about the drug, consuming edibles in public and expanding the list of conditions — including “opioid use disorder” — for which medical cannabis use can be approved.
Another recommendation was approved to study the possibility of allowing dispensaries to sell products manufactured by other companies. Currently, dispensaries are responsible for the product’s growth, manufacture and sale.
A recommendation to create protections for patients who may be drug tested at work also passed Wednesday.
A bill in 2015 aimed to prevent employers from disciplining or firing patients for medical marijuana use. A version of the measure passed, but it was stripped of the workplace protections.
A new bill to protect employees from being fired after testing positive for cannabis “is going to have a tough time in the Legislature,” said group member and state Sen. Will Espero during the meeting. “Leave it at that.”
Medical marijuana has been legal in the Aloha State since 2000, but Hawaii’s first dispensary only opened in August. So far two are operating on Oahu and two on Maui.
All About Edibles
Espero told Civil Beat on Wednesday that he plans to introduce a bill allowing the use of edible marijuana products, possibly by January 2020.
“The Department of Health has stated that it is an anti-smoking agency,” he said. “If the department is against smoking, there has to be another way of ingesting it, right? And that’s where edibles come in.”
Edibles are already sold on the mainland, he noted.
Other states have had rushed to regulate extremely strong edibles after legally approving the use of marijuana, but Espero said his bill would include rules and regulations for creating the product, such as the dosage.
Allowing the consumption of cannabis products in public places would allow patients to accommodate changes in their schedules, said Carl Bergquist, executive director of Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, during the meeting. But that could interfere with compromises made when bills to establish dispensaries were drafted, said Rep. Della Au Belatti.
“If you’re a patient and you’re going to go out and do your normal business, you’re going to take your medicine at home,” Belatti said, later adding: “This borders on advocates wanting to decriminalize. If we want to decriminalize, let’s have that discussion.”
UH Research And Flying With Pot
Espero also plans to introduce a bill that would allow the University of Hawaii to partner with the Department of Health and collect data on patient conditions, and usage, dosage and outcomes of cannabis use.
“I would like to see one day the University of Hawaii become a premier institution in research and development on medical cannabis,” he said.
The group’s recommendation to expand the list of ailments for which medical cannabis can be approved has come up before and probably will again, Espero said.
In 2016, lawmakers unsuccessfully proposed allowing physicians to choose what conditions qualify a patient for medical cannabis use. The conditions that make a patient eligible to use the drug are currently set by state law.
Doctors would have been given more discretion to prescribe low potency cannabis, under one 2016 bill. Another bill from the same year aimed to increase the maximum number of patients a caregiver may oversee at one time to three.
Caregivers, who cannot consume the cannabis they grow, cultivate plants for a single patient. Just seven percent of cardholders are caregivers.
Espero thinks “reciprocity” — allowing patients traveling between states to pack their marijuana with them, may be allowed in the near future. It’s an important issue for tourists with medical cannabis cards in other states, he said.
Currently, flying with cannabis even between islands is against state law.
Though the legislative working group ceases to meet after June 2018, Espero said he’d like to see a permanent board or commission dedicated to improving Hawaii’s medical cannabis program.
During the Wednesday meeting, Rep. Belatti said the anti-flying provision was a compromise struck to allow dispensaries be placed on each island.
Bryson Ponce, assistant chief of the Kauai Police Department, said it could be difficult to verify a traveler is a patient after-hours, when the health department is closed.
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