Medical Cannabis Working Group Report Slams State For Failing To Provide For Hawaii's Sick And Dying

Affiliate: ACLU of Hawaii
February 4, 2010 12:00 am

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Significant improvements to ten-year-old medical cannabis program necessary to ensure compassionate treatment of patients

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@aclu.org

HONOLULU – The Medical Cannabis Working Group (“MCWG”) submitted its executive summary on Hawaii’s medical cannabis program to the Legislature today. MCWG members also presented their recommendations for legislative action to help sick and dying patients in Hawaii obtain safe and legal access to their medicine. The full report is forthcoming and will be available at www.dpfhi.org and www.acluhawaii.org.

MCWG is comprised of patients, caregivers, physicians and advocacy organizations who organized to conduct a study and make recommendations to the Legislature to improve Hawaii’s medical cannabis program. The study and report were originally assigned to the Medical Marijuana Task Force pursuant to 2009’s Act 29; Governor Lingle ignored the Legislature’s directive and refused to convene the Task Force, but MCWG members believed that immediate action was necessary to ensure patients’ health and safety.

MCWG surveyed hundreds of individuals, including patients, caregivers and doctors, to determine the greatest problems with Hawaii’s medical marijuana program and based its report and recommendations on those results. The group found that the greatest and most urgent problem facing patients is that most are forced to buy their medicine from the black market or grow it themselves – something Hawaii doesn’t require patients to do to obtain their other medicines. As one solution, MCWG recommends that the state set up a distribution system so that patients have safe and legal access to medical cannabis.

Pam Lichty, MCWG Co-Chair and Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii President, stated, “We look forward to increasing awareness among legislators about the many problems faced by Hawaii’s approximately 5000 medical cannabis patients. As evidenced by the approximately sixteen bills addressing various concerns with the medical marijuana program, there are urgent concerns that need to be addressed.”

Laurie Temple, MCWG Co-Chair and ACLU of Hawaii attorney, added, “A review of Hawaii’s ten-year-old medical cannabis program is long overdue. We hope that the Legislature will learn from our report as well as other states’ experiences and act immediately to rectify the problems. Our report offers several sensible steps that the state can take to improve Hawaii’s treatment of seriously ill patients.”

Teri Heede, MCWG member and medical cannabis patient, concurred: “As a patient, I need safe and legal access to medicine. We don’t make cancer patients make their own chemotherapy treatments or buy them from a stranger in a back alley. This cruel and irrational war on sick and dying people like me must end.”

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