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Move on medical marijuana


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POSTED: Saturday, September 26, 2009

A private study group is embarked on a review of the issue of medical marijuana that legislators had assigned to a task force that the Lingle administration refuses to create. In its absence, the private group should devise a method of distributing marijuana for medical purposes and hope the next governor appreciates the need.

Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a bill aimed at creating a marijuana task force and a second task force to research and recommend legislation regarding salvia divinorum, a hallucinogenic Mexican herb that is regulated in 13 states. The Legislature overrode the veto, but the Lingle administration is refusing to construct the task forces.

The George W. Bush administration refused to recognize the laws in Hawaii and 12 other states that allow marijuana for medical use. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the federal government may prosecute medical users of marijuana for violating federal drug laws.

However, Attorney General Eric Holder said in March that the Obama administration would not interfere with states' medical marijuana laws. Clayton A. Frank, Hawaii's public safety director, asserted in legislative testimony and Lingle repeated in her veto message that the use of marijuana for medical purposes is “;still illegal under federal law.”;

Frank said the administration refuses to name members of the task force authorized in the bill because his department “;is prioritizing its limited resources and focusing efforts on core functions.”;

Pam Lichty, president of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, noted that creation of the task force requires no state expenditures.

Despite exhaustive evidence to the contrary, the opposition to marijuana — medical or not — is premised partly on the notion that its abuse will lead to use of unarguably more dangerous drugs, such as methamphetamine. By refusing to cooperate in devising a system of legal distribution of marijuana for medical purposes, opponents are enhancing that dangerous step by forcing medical marijuana patients to obtain their pot from illegal drug dealers.

State Sen. Will Espero said the group doing the work intended for the medical marijuana task force will try to “;put together some suggestions and recommendations for the Legislature, and maybe for our federal government as well.”;

The first step should be to review the effectiveness of legal distribution of medical marijuana in California and some cities in Colorado. Any distribution system to be authorized by the Legislature — and probably await installation of a new state administration — should include transfer of the medical marijuana program from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health and Human Services.