At the Patients Without Time (PWT) office in Paia last week, patients suffering from Cancer, Glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, chronic nausea, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis and Crohn’s disease were streaming in like rain on a winter day in Seattle. For the last two years, the medical marijuana advocacy and advisory organization’s small staff has taken on the big job of helping qualified medical patients with their medical marijuana needs.
Along with helping people get a Blue Card—the state’s license to legally use marijuana as medicine—PWT staff explains the different ways to ingest medical marijuana and advises patients on how to grow their own plants for medicinal use. At last count, PWT serves 680 patients.
“Over 90 percent of Maui County medical marijuana patients cannot meet their own medical marijuana needs on their own,” said Murphy. “Most medical marijuana cardholders are too sick, or they do not have the knowledge or a secure place to grow their medical-grade marijuana. Patients with Hawai’i State Medical Marijuana issued Blue Cards need to be able to have an adequate supply of their medicine.”
On the day I visited, PWT director Brian Murphy was busy trying to rectify that. Visiting with lawyers, accountants and various other medical marijuana advocates, he was learning how to launch a political crusade.
On Jan. 13, 2006, Murphy and supporters—acting under the new group name Democracy in Action—submitted two proposed ordinances supporting efforts to reform state drug laws: “The Maui County Crime Reduction/Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Ordinance” and “The Maui County Compassionate Choice/Family Farmer Regulation and Revenue Ordinance.”
The first would make it lawful for any adult at least 21 years old to use and possess one ounce of marijuana for private adult use. Private adult use would be lawful only in a private adult location and all safety regulations created for alcohol shall apply to marijuana. The later would create an allotment system allowing agriculturally zoned family farmers to grow and supply the medical needs of the community. The allotment system would be a farming program resembling the Tobacco Allotment system that was started during the 1920s to help struggling family farmers stay on their land.
To prevent just anyone from suddenly deciding he’s a “family farmer,” anyone wishing to qualify for a medical marijuana allotment must create a five-year organic farm plan based on at least two organic crops. Licensed family farmers would be able to grow and cultivate up to six mature plants, 18 seedlings and 24 ounces of usable marijuana.
This law would also tax and regulate the sale of marijuana for adult use, while directing the Maui Police Department to make investigating, citing and arresting individuals for private adult cannabis offenses its “lowest” law enforcement priority.
Last June, PWT submitted a proposed ordinance to the Maui County Council. After receiving no response, the group went before Circuit Court Judge Joel E. August.
Judge August didn’t order the Council to act, but he did remind Murphy of Article II in the Maui County Charter:
“The voters of the county shall have the power to propose ordinances to the Council,” reads the charter. “If the Council fails to adopt the ordinance so proposed without any changes in substance, the voters may adopt the same at the polls.”
Taking the two proposed laws before the voters this November is easier said than done. First, the group needs to collect 8,000 signatures—roughly 20 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in the last mayoral election. They have until May to collect the signatures. Murphy said his group will canvass public meetings, rallies, special events and concerts, as well as people traveling down Kahului’s Dairy Road.
“We’re also hoping to register 20,000 Maui residents to vote as Democrats,” Murphy said.
But even if they succeed, it’s far from certain that patients will have an easier time obtaining medical marijuana. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had the right to prohibit medical marijuana and prosecute patients for illegal drug possession and use even if states like Hawai’i permitted it. MTW