Several cannabis bills floated, legal recreation use among considerations

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HILO — Hawaii residents eventually may be able to use marijuana recreationally, and patients could be allowed to purchase it from legally formed collectives.

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HILO — Hawaii residents eventually may be able to use marijuana recreationally, and patients could be allowed to purchase it from legally formed collectives.

Those are among more than a dozen bills being vetted in the state Legislature related to marijuana and marijuana dispensaries.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, is among several lawmakers this year proposing measures to legalize the drug for residents over age 21. One of Ruderman’s bills would allow counties to choose whether to adopt ordinances to legalize marijuana for cultivation, possession, selling and transporting it for either personal, medicinal or commercial use.

The idea is to allow counties “to do what they want,” Ruderman said Monday. He said other states have passed similar laws and “the sky hasn’t fallen in any of them.”

The measure has “a shot” at passing, he added.

“Some of my colleagues say we’ll be surprised, so I hope they’re right,” Ruderman said. “The nation is changing quickly on (this) subject.”

Ruderman and House counterpart Joy San Buenaventura, D-Puna, also are proposing legislation to establish state-regulated collectives — a system which would allow patients with excess marijuana to sell it to other collective members for a “nominal fee.”

The system is meant to work as a “neighbors helping neighbors” concept, San Buenaventura said Monday, and would particularly benefit Puna residents.

“The reality is, dispensaries are taking too damn long (to open),” San Buenaventura said. “So by having a collective, it allows those with excess marijuana — more than they can use — to provide to other patients who cannot grow their own. It allows them to give it to those who need it.”

Other marijuana-related bills include:

— Exempting military veterans from paying medical marijuana registration fees (sponsored by Ruderman).

— Reassessing the state’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug (sponsored by San Buenaventura).

— Establishing a minimum blood concentration content of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for driving under the influence (sponsored by state Sen. Josh Green, D–Kona, Ka’u). Green also is sponsoring a measure that would decriminalize the possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana and create a civil penalty for possessing marijuana on school property or openly in a school zone.

— A ban on marijuana products created to appeal to children, and a ban of additives designed to make marijuana products more addictive or appealing to minors.

— A limit to the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels in manufactured marijuana products and requiring warning labels on packaging.

— A cap on retail prices for medical marijuana and manufactured marijuana products starting in July 2018.

— An expansion of the list of qualifying debilitating conditions for medical use to include lupus, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, autism, anxiety, depression, insomnia and stress.

— A continuation of the caregiver program (currently set to end in 2018), allowing dispensaries to sell edible cannabis products and allow felons to work in the marijuana industry five years after completing their prison sentence. The proposal also clarifies what constitutes an “adequate supply” of medical marijuana for patients and caregivers.

— Replacing in state law the term “medical marijuana” with “medical cannabis.”

— Requiring 10 percent of tax revenue from dispensaries to be placed into a mental health and substance abuse fund.

— Requiring video and recording footage of dispensary and production centers to be retained for at least 45 days.

— Establishing a marijuana dispensary “special fund” and require 15 percent of general excise tax revenues from dispensaries be transferred into the fund each year for enforcement purposes.

As of Monday, all bills had cleared a first reading.

Hawaii legalized marijuana for medical use in 2000, but up until recently has never provided a way for patients to legally buy it.

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Last year, the state Department of Health awarded licenses to eight companies to open Hawaii’s first dispensaries. Lau Ola, a company headed by banana farmer Richard Ha, and Hawaiian Ethos, headed by venture capitalist Bill Richardson, will open Hawaii Island’s first dispensaries.

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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