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Wednesday, March 8, 2000

Hawaii State Seal

Medical marijuana
makes the cut

House, Senate both OK
measures for crossover

The hotly contested bill is
among hundreds to pass before
tomorrow's deadline

Bullet UH President Mortimer favors a
constitutional amendment for more autonomy

Bullet Dems kill campaign-reform amendment

By Pat Omandam
and Richard Borreca


For years, advocates have argued that marijuana use should be legalized for medicinal purposes. Each time, such measures have gone up in smoke.

Yesterday, the Senate and House struck the match to further debate on the issue by swapping bills permitting medicinal use of marijuana -- for the first time.

Legislature 2000 Preliminary approvals came with a one-vote margin in the state Senate and a two-thirds majority vote in the House.

The two bills were among hundreds passed by the House and Senate as both chambers exchanged bills before tomorrow's legislative crossover deadline.

The Senate bill on marijuana would allow persons with a life-threatening or debilitating illness such cancer, AIDS or glaucoma to possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The Senate's two Republicans split on the issue, with Sen. Whitney Anderson (R, Kailua, Waimanalo) saying he opposed legalizing marijuana for anyone.

But Republican Sen. Sam Slom (R, Kalama Valley, Aina Haina) said persons suffering from serious and painful medical problems should be free to use whatever means are available to stop their suffering.

The Senate bill would allow people with a life-threatening or debilitating illness such as cancer, AIDS or glaucoma to possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

Democrat Norman Sakamoto (D, Moanalua, Salt Lake) said any legalization would lead to "potential criminal activity." "We are not in business to tempt people to bend the law," he said.

Voting against the bill were Sens. Sakamoto, Anderson, David Ige (D, Pearlridge, Pacific Palisades), Marshall Ige (D, Kaneohe, Enchanted Lake), Randy Iwase (D, Mililani, Waipio Gentry), Cal Kawamoto (D, Waipahu, Pearl City), Rod Tam (D, Downtown, Nuuanu), David Matsuura (D, South Hilo, Puna), Lorraine Inouye (D, North Hilo, Kohala), Jan Yagi Buen (D, North/West Maui, Molokai, Lanai), Bob Nakata (D, Kaneohe-Kahuku) and Jonathan Chun (D, South Kauai, Niihau).

In the House, 18 lawmakers opposed the bill to allow patients to acquire, possess, cultivate, distribute and use marijuana with a written doctor's note for treatment.

The two big glamour issues of the Senate session -- civil service reform and gun control -- passed with little debate.

Other bills passed:

Bullet Prisons: The House passed prison bills that allow the governor to contract with the private sector to build and operate a minimum/medium security facility on the Big Island.

Bullet Workplace: Both the House and Senate approved raising the state minimum wage. A House bill would raise the minimum wage 50 cents to $5.75 and raise the allowable tip credit to 22 cents on Jan. 1, 2003.

The Senate approved raising the $5.25 minimum wage by 25 cents.

House lawmakers passed a bill that pushes worker productivity by mandating employers provide a rest or meal break of at least 30 consecutive minutes, or two breaks of at least 15 minutes for employees who work more than six consecutive hours, unless breaks are provided for in union contracts or company policy.

Bullet Consumer affairs: You would have to pay more for a car battery according to a bill the Senate approved. The cost would include a recycling surcharge, which you would not have to pay if you brought an old battery. The Senate also added a dollar surcharge on the sale of all imported motor vehicle tires.

Bullet Tax breaks: Aloha and Hawaiian Airlines got a break estimated at $20.5 million for unpaid taxes levied against equipment leased from mainland businesses. The Senate also approved a 4 percent tax credit for hotel renovations -- that bill actually passed last year, but because of technical flaws it had to be authorized again.

The House passed an omnibus new economy bill that encourages and accelerates development of the high technology industry, fosters creation of a state Internet portal, provides a tax exemption for hotel/resort development and dedicates money to redevelop state harbors to accommodate the growing passenger cruise line industry.

Bullet Hate crimes: Because Hawaii is one of only four states without a specific hate-crime law, the Senate approved a bill calling for extended sentences for crimes committed against someone because of his or her race or gender.

Bullet Pornography: The Senate also passed a bill that requires the school board to develop policies to limit access by children to Internet pornography in public schools and libraries.

Bullet Education: The House passed a bill that would allow Hawaii voters to decide if the student member of the Board of Education should have voting powers in all matters except personnel. The House passed three of Schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu's proposed reform initiatives that improve education funding and provide for increased educational accountability and authority.

Bullet Environment: Shark finning resurfaced this session after nearly passing last year. The House, after sharp debate, passed a measure that prevents shark finning by requiring that sharks be landed whole in the state.

Bullet Hawaiian affairs: The House wants to continue the Hawaiian Home Lands individual claims process by setting up a commission to develop ways to pay claimants who received awards by a claims review panel. Of the 2,752 claims filed for mismanagement of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands program, 470 were awarded damages while 1,376 still have not been heard.

Legislative overview

Bills still moving at the state Legislature would:

Bullet Increase the minimum wage to $5.75 an hour

Bullet Privatize prisons

Bullet Grant tax breaks for hotel renovation

Bullet Combat road rage

Bullet Require use of seat belts by back-seat passengers

Bullet Create surcharges for battery recycling and imported tires

Bullet Grant a tax exemption for airline leasing

Bullet Require gun re-registration

Bullet Reform civil service

Bullet Give extended terms for those who commit hate crimes

Bullet Ask voters to grant more autonomy to the University of Hawaii

Bullet Legalize medical use of marijuana

Bullet Ban computer pornography in school libraries

Bullet Forbid housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Bullet Require criminal background checks for child-care centers

Bullet Regulate the landing of sharks whole and not just for their fins

Bullet Fund a program to encourage TV and film production, dubbed the "Baywatch bailout" bill

Bullet Limit combat sports

Legislature Directory
Hawaii Revised Statutes
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