Hawaii House committee pushes medical marijuana task force

A state House Health Committee passed resolutions Friday that aim to develop a task force for the establishment of a regulated statewide medical marijuana dispensary system.

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A state House Health Committee passed resolutions Friday that aim to develop a task force for the establishment of a regulated statewide medical marijuana dispensary system.

House Resolution 29 and House Concurrent Resolution 48, introduced by Big Island Rep. Faye P. Hanohano, Oahu Rep. Della Au Belatti and Rep. Joe Souki, would have the state Department of Health create “a task force to develop recommendations for the establishment of a regulated statewide dispensary system for medical marijuana to provide safe and legal access for qualified patients to medical marijuana; and that the Medical Marijuana Dispensary System Task Force (Task Force) be placed within the Department of Health for administrative purposes and is requested to make recommendations and propose legislation on the design and structure of a regulated statewide dispensary system for medical marijuana.”

The state Department of Health submitted testimony in favor of the resolutions but requested that resources be made available.

“If the Department is responsible to convene the task force, there will likely be costs associated with preparing minutes, logistics/facilities, report writing, photocopying and paying a contracted facilitator. The cost is not known but could be $10,000-$15,000. This is not a budgeted cost for the Department,” according to the online document.

Belatti said there were amendments made to the resolutions Friday that clarified what would be done by the legislature, and that there was discussion on moving the task force to another organization.

“We’re looking to take the task force from the Department of Health and maybe have a group at the University of Hawaii,” she said.

Kauai Rep. Dee Morikawa said the committee heard captivating testimony in favor of the task force during Friday’s meeting.

“We had a mother come in with her daughter who has to use some form of oil to help her with her seizures,” she said. “It was very, very compelling.”

Morikawa said the task force would help figure out how to dispense marijuana legally to those who need it.

“It’s an illegal substance so you have to go forward very carefully. We need to figure out how we can legally dispense it to those who need it. And I hope we can get there in the next two years, if not sooner,” she said.

Possible members of the proposed task force include the director of health, or the director’s designee; the director of public safety, or the director’s designee; the attorney general, or the attorney general’s designee; a police chief chosen by the Law Enforcement Coalition; a representative from the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources; a physician participating in Hawaii’s Medical Marijuana Program; a patient participating in Hawaii’s Medical Marijuana Program; a caregiver participating in Hawaii’s Medical Marijuana Program; a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii; and a representative from Hawaii Medical Association.

The resolutions also aim to have an updated and revised report of the 2009 “Access, Distribution, and Security Components of State Medical Marijuana Programs.” The report would provide a broad look at the policies and procedures for access, distribution, security, and other relevant issues related to the growing and dispensing of medical cannabis.

Under the measures, The Legislative Reference Bureau and the task force would address the appropriate number and location of dispensaries statewide, look at the design of a state and county tax structure, and address location and restriction issues.

If the resolutions pass, the task force would hold at least one public hearing and submit a report of its findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation, next year.

Big Island Rep. Richard Creagan, along with Representatives Belatti, Morikawa, Mark Hashem, Bertrand Kobayashi, Lauren Matsumoto, all of Oahu, and Justin Woodson of Maui, all voted in favor of the measures.

Reps. Mele Carroll, Jo Jordan and Marcus Oshiro were excused.

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Next, the resolutions will head to the Judiciary Committee for review.

Email Megan Moseley at mmoseley@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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