Pot Bills Snuffed And Public Access Saved

Up In Smoke

The latest attempt to set up a medical marijuana dispensary in Hawaii—more than ten years after the state legalized pot for medicinal use—was snuffed out in committee this week on Oahu.

When we spoke to him last month, East Maui Sen. Kalani English—who introduced the bill—claimed it had a “really good chance of passing.” He pointed out that it would generate needed revenue and give patients safe access to medicine. “I took this up because I saw people who were suffering, sometimes in the last months of their life,” he said.

Leave it to lawmakers to turn a win-win into a lose-lose. One of the sticking points, according to an AP dispatch, was whether the dispensary should sell to all eligible patients or only those with “serious ailments” like cancer and AIDS—the implication being that medical marijuana is merely a smokescreen for outright legalization.

Maybe it is. Maybe it’s time to have that conversation and finally end the nonsensical, costly, failed policy of prohibition. Maybe next year.

Access Granted

After years of wrangling with cable giants, state bureaucrats and other forces bent on blowing local community access out of the water, Maui’s Akaku may finally be in the clear. In a press release subtly titled “The Good Guys Win,” the station announced the signing of HB112, a bill that exempts Hawaii’s public access providers from a murky procurement process that could have allowed outside operators to stifle one of the last unfiltered, non-corporate outlets on television.

“I don’t want the good work that a lot of people have done to be jumped on and taken by somebody else for purposes which may suit them but don’t suit what we had the public access channel idea about in the first place,” said Gov. Abercrombie during the April 27 signing ceremony.

Akaku CEO Jay April, meanwhile, gave credit to Maui’s legislators for helping push the bill through. “We owe them a debt of gratitude for sticking up for us,” he said.

Conflict Resolution?

Councilmember Mike White (pictured)manages the Kaanapali Beach Hotel and was, until recently, a member of the Maui Visitors Bureau board. He’s never made a secret of those ties, but when one of his first actions on the Council was to request more funding for MVB he raised some eyebrows—and sparked formal ethics complaints.

The complaints—filed by Kai Nishiki, White’s opponent for the Makawao-Haiku-Paia seat, among others—were dismissed by the Board of Ethics this month. In a statement, White said the ruling affirmed the right of public officials “to draw upon their personal and professional experience” when making decisions. That echoes comments he made to us when we asked him about the issue in January. What some call a conflict of interest, White calls an asset.

Of course, the board’s decision isn’t just about White’s MVB proposal (which was eventually shot down). It’s about his entire tenure on the Council, and the fact that he’s been given permission to represent two groups: the visitor industry and his constituents. Whether you think that’s a good thing probably depends on which group you’re in.