Monday, March 15, 2010
Guest editorial: Compassion requires we expedite medical marijuana
by Richard S. Miller
The Honolulu Advertiser editorial “Marijuana shops? Wowie, what a bad idea” (Mar. 10, 2010) is itself a very bad idea. Indeed, it is irresponsible.
There is overwhelming scientific proof, in refereed journals, that marijuana has important medical uses, and that it is far less dangerous than other legal substances, such as tobacco, alcohol, and many prescription drugs. The information is easily accessible to all, even the Advertiser. Just go to the wonderful and fair web site, ProCon.org.
Hawaii has for many years had a medical marijuana law which has legalized marijuana use for people who get certified by a licensed physician as having a “debilitating medical condition,” as defined in the law. Unfortunately, past efforts to improve the law to make it more workable and to fulfill its compassionate purpose have failed, largely for unsupportable reasons put forth by the Narcotics Enforcement Division (NED) of the Department of Public Safety. A good example of NED’s gross incompetence is that it wrongly released the list of thousands of patients who were properly certified for medical marijuana use to a newspaper, in serious violation of their privacy rights.
A major problem with the law has been that if a certified patient or the patient’s designated caregiver cannot grow and process the medical marijuana themselves – and doing so is not easy – they have to acquire the medical marijuana illegally, on the black market. Most patients seeking medical marijuana, especially elderly persons, are not law breakers. They therefore elect to go without medical marijuana, no matter how effective, rather than break the law by purchasing it illegally on the street. This of course defeats the Legislature’s compassionate purpose in passing the law.
To provide a possible important remedy to persons suffering from debilitating conditions defined in the law and then to deny it to law-abiding patients who would rather suffer than break the law, is cruel, unfair, and irresponsible.
And, so is writing an editorial opposing dispensaries without suggesting other legal ways of getting the drug to certified patients who need it but can’t get it legally under current law. Such other ways include completely decriminalizing marijuana use, except with regard to minors, a position adopted by many top flight law enforcement officers who belong to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) or legalizing but taxing and regulating marijuana use. Another pregnant possibility is to create state-owned and run dispensaries, similar to the state-run liquor stores in Ohio, to acquire and sell medical marijuana to certified persons, with all the proceeds going to the State of Hawaii.
The editorial board of the Advertiser should be ashamed of themselves!
Richard S. Miller
Professor of Law, Emeritus and former dean
P.S. These views are my personal views and not necessarily those of UH or UH School of Law.
Citation to the Ohio statute that provides for State Liquor store
PAGE'S OHIO REVISED CODE ANNOTATED
TITLE 43. LIQUOR
CHAPTER 4301. LIQUOR CONTROL LAW
POWERS AND DUTIES OF DIVISION
ORC Ann. 4301.16 (2010)
Thank you Professor Miller, for making reasoned and important points in support of such a commonsense solution to an urgent problem. Why would we allow disabled people to use marijuana medically, then turn them into criminals to purchase it? I don't smoke it myself, but have friends who urgently need to use marijuana to relieve chronic pain (2 cases), and chemotherapy induced nausea (the other case).