Group forms marijuana task force


POSTED: Sunday, September 20, 2009

Advocates, physicians, patients and drug policy organizations are forming their own marijuana study group to do the work of a government task force that was supposed to appointed by the governor.

The “;working group”; plans to meet over the next few months “;to attempt to put together some suggestions and recommendations for the Legislature and maybe for our federal government, as well,”; said Sen. Will Espero.

Espero (D, Ewa-Honouliuli-Ewa Beach) and medical marijuana advocates held a news conference at the state Capitol Friday to announce their intentions.

Senate Bill 1058, approved last session, mandated Gov. Linda Lingle's administration to convene a 13-member task force to study law enforcement issues and obstacles encountered by patients in obtaining medicinal marijuana under state law. But the Lingle administration is refusing to form the task force. Her administration has said the state must prioritize its limited resources.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the federal government could prosecute medical marijuana users for violating federal drug laws, despite state laws such as Hawaii's that allow its use. Earlier this year, the Obama administration said it would not interfere with states' medical marijuana laws.

Though Lingle vetoed the AB 1058, the veto was overridden by both the House and Senate, making it law.

State Public Safety Director Clayton Frank said the administration would be unable to comply with the task force mandate.

“;Given the unprecedented economic and fiscal challenges, the Department of Public Safety is prioritizing its limited resources and focusing efforts on core functions,”; Frank said in a written statement.

Pam Lichty, president of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, said she was disappointed in the governor's decision, noting that the bill did not include any money from the Legislature.

She said the working group, with representatives from the Hawaii Drug Policy Forum, the American Civil Liberties Union and others, will move forward with invitations extended to state agencies to participate.