Senate Plan Toughens Medical Marijuana Rules

Thousands Of Registered Users Might Lose Privileges

 UPDATED 9:05 PM HST Apr 26, 2011
HONOLULU -

State Sen. Josh Green, an emergency room physician from Kona, said he has seen too much abuse of the medical marijuana law, especially by young people who claimed severe, chronic pain in order to get a doctor to certify them as a marijuana patient.

Green, who is the lead member on the senate side of the House-Senate conference committee on the issue, is proposing that chronic pain and nausea no longer be conditions that make a person eligible for a medical marijuana permit.

Green said he supports the use of medical marijuana for people with cancer, muscular-skeletal illnesses such as MS, and for HIV-AIDS. But he is alarmed by a large number of people under 30, and even under 21, who have qualified.

Green's proposal would allow a single "compassion center" marijuana dispensary as a test site for two years. His proposal is a dramatic rollback from the position of the Senate earlier in the session, allowing up to ten highly-regulated compassion centers on all islands.

The state House has been much more conservative on the issue, proposing only a single dispensary as a pilot program, while also stiffening regulation of prescriptions.

Medical marijuana advocates were unhappy with Green's proposal and said it would force thousands of current medical marijuana patients, who have received their cards for pain or nausea, to return their cards and stop using marijuana legally.

Pamela Lichty, of the Drug Policy Forum, said doctors are the "gate keepers" of the program, and she said doctors are careful about who they qualify for the permits. She said Green's proposal seems to be giving in to unverified fears of law enforcement about widespread abuse.

The conference committee will meet again Thursday to try and reach a compromise acceptable to both houses.

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