Why Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Will Be Bad For Kauai
by Alfred Sarmento, Kauai Christian Voters
Wednesday, April 8 began with a detailed briefing from Representative Marcus Oshiro, (Democrat HD 46, from Oahu’s Wahiawa), and Hawaii Family Forums’ Director of Community Relations, Allen Cardines Jr., (Pastor of Hope Chapel, Nanakuli), at Aloha Church in Lihue. They both spoke on the very real, very negative, consequences of medical marijuana dispensary bills, HB 321 and SB 879, now being fast-tracked at our state legislature. The day ended with testimony before the Kauai County Council asking the State Legislature to give Kauai and Hawaii’s other counties, “Home Rule”, control over marijuana dispensaries, a right afforded counties in 16 states on the mainland.
Resolution No. 2015 – 37, proposed by Council Chair Mel Rapozo, asks our state legislature to reconsider the rush to create marijuana dispensaries, while continuing to allow medical marijuana cultivation, and to “go slow”, so communities on Kauai can gauge the impacts of specific provisions of any bill ultimately approved. The resolution was offered with specific floor amendments, proposed by Councilman Ross Kagawa that would build a better bill for Kauai’s communities. There was serious debate and the resolution passed by a vote of 4 to 3 at the Kauai County Council. Kauai is the only county in Hawaii that has taken a stand against this onrush of legislation. Interestingly this fact has yet to be reported in news outlets, as we seem to be on an express train to allowing marijuana dispensaries here in Hawaii, without any adequate public input from the neighbor islands.
Hawaii's medical use of marijuana law was enacted on June 14, 2000, as Act 228. This act provided for medical marijuana as a relief for seriously ill individuals in Hawaii. While this law recognized the beneficial use of marijuana in treating or alleviating pain and other symptoms associated with certain debilitating illnesses, it was silent on how patients could obtain medical marijuana if they or their caregivers were unable to grow their own supply. Hawaii’s more liberal, secular minded legislators, claim this is why the marijuana dispensary bills are being considered and fast tracked this legislative session. However, much has changed since 2000 that brings the necessity of marijuana dispensaries while allowing the growing of marijuana for medical use into serious question.
We as Christians, must be concerned with the negative effects of bad public policy on our communities, neighborhoods and families. Make no mistake there will be diversion of medical marijuana from any dispensary (ies) built that will end up with our youth getting their hands on today’s super-concentrated THC products offered for sale. THC, (tetrahydrocannabinol), is the ingredient of the cannabis plant, (marijuana), that contains the heavy narcotic drug and psychoactive effects. Also, marijuana ostensibly grown by and for card holders will be stolen, as well as diverted, (sold), for cash. It already is.
Marcus Oshiro stated that there has been a concerted effort to avoid medical and law enforcement committees for the medical marijuana bills in both the State House and Senate. Moreover, lobbyists for marijuana legalization groups such as NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the Drug Policy Alliance have been prowling the halls of the Hawaii’s state legislature with money to spend on lawmakers looking to cash in. Research shows that they collectively have between 80 and 100 million dollars available to push legalization legislation nationwide. Make no mistake, these medical marijuana bills, in un-amended or poorly amended format, are nothing more than gigantic steps toward marijuana legalization here in Hawaii. Only some Christian groups and a minority of decent politicians are looking at the long-term implications and impacts that marijuana dispensaries, coupled with continued cultivation, will have on our keiki, teens, young adults and our communities. Gone is the time you could trust your local politician to put the needs and safety of your community first. We live in a brave new world where morals are a fungible commodity, something to be sold, then debated, if at all, by the secularists in power today.
Presenters were adamant that the basic model the Hawaii state legislature was following, un-amended, was closely related to the marijuana disasters in Arizona, Colorado and California. These states have seen many negative impacts from the misuse of medical marijuana dispensaries, and in the case of Arizona and Colorado, huge increases of child and teen abuse of the now decriminalized, actually, de facto legalized, marijuana. Many thoughtful citizens believe that once these dispensaries are in operation they will forever change our island communities in negative ways. Medical marijuana dispensaries and marijuana decriminalization legislation send children, teenagers and even young adults mixed messages. On the one hand marijuana is likened to to a “natural herb”, but it is far more truthfully an extremely dangerous, psychoactive drug with a great potential to destroy young minds, lives, families and careers.
Much of the presentation focused on just how bad a problem Arizona, Colorado and California’s marijuana dispensaries have become in those states and in nearby states.
My generation is quite familiar with the recreational use of cannabis. An interesting graphic clearly showed that from 1960 to 1983 the average THC content of marijuana was 2% or less. By 2011 the average THC content of marijuana was 11.4%. In Colorado, from 2010 to 2014, there has been an increase in the average THC concentration of marijuana grown there, from about 12 percent to over 25 percent today. The increase of cultivated marijuana’s potency is reliably expected to continue. The pakalolo being hybridized and grown today is far more potent than that available in our youth. And today, thanks to the manufacturing of legal, concentrated, THC laden products, in Arizona, Colorado, there are now products containing THC of as great as 80 to 90% purity. In Arizona and Colorado, legal, edible baked goods like cookies and brownies, as well as candy and treats are being sprayed with a THC “spray”, (a clear concentrated form of THC liquid). This gives the purchaser huge doses of the THC drug in forms that appeal to children and teens. Gummy bears, gummy worms, chocolate bars, lozenges, cotton candy and other types of traditional candy, often indistinguishable from their “normal” counterparts, are being sold for “medicinal use” in marijuana dispensaries. Even a cursory inspection of mainland medical marijuana dispensaries and states where marijuana has been decriminalized show that big business is involved, soaking up the big cash generated. Big mainland pakalolo companies are not very likely to care about Kauai’s communities! Already these products are finding their way illegally into many other states in the US, where they are sold to abusers. Extremely dangerous to manufacture, butane gas based “BHO oil”, “shatter” and “waxes” are manufactured for consumption in Arizona and Colorado, then are sold in medical marijuana dispensaries. These are extremely dangerous concentrates, containing 75% to 90% pure THC. The strains of cannabis cultivated today in decriminalized states can be 20 to 30 percent or more THC and they hybridize out the CBD component as well.
CBD? What is that you ask? Well, recent medical research has been on the CBD component of marijuana. CBD, (“Cannabidiol”), appears to be the most medically useful component of the cannabis plant. Any search on CBD will come up with many recent news stories relating to basic medical research showing its anecdotal usefulness for children and some adults with certain forms of epilepsy. Cannabis strains such as “Charlotte’s Web” are showing promise in some medical marijuana research. These strains have been crossbred and hybridized to minimize THC while maximizing CBD. These products are actually now being sold right here on Kauai in places like Hanapepe’s Westside Pharmacy, where CBD oil is for sale, (@ $45.00 per tincture of CBD oil), as well as on Amazon.com and other online retailers. They are legally selling CBD oil because it is manufactured from marijuana strains classified as hemp not marijuana, (THC content less than .3 %). Marijuana, with high concentrations of THC, are still federally classified as a Schedule I Narcotic, and are federally illegal, along with other very dangerous drugs with high abuse rates and practically no medicinal value such as LSD and heroin. Keep in mind that pharmacists and doctors throughout Kauai warn that even CBD oil can have great side effects, can interfere with anti-seizure medications, and are dangerous, especially for children. They note that true double-blind studies on the usefulness and safety of CBD have not been done. What studies that have been done are more anecdotal than scientifically useful, and often show patients dropping out due to the many side effects of CBD oil.
Why then this rush for dispensaries when evidence shows modern marijuana is getting more dangerous, not less so? Here on Kauai, December 2014 totals show that there have been 1,940 marijuana cards issued by the State Department of Health. Of those, only six, (6!), people self-identified as being unable to get the marijuana that they require. Furthermore, statewide, the vast majority of the 13,937 registered marijuana cardholders, approximately 66%, have used the severe pain category as the basis of their medical marijuana need. Many believe, as I have personally seen in California, that the “severe pain” category is often abused by those seeking a legal source for their “high”. In other words, those with marijuana dispensary cards obtained to alleviate severe pain, are often engaging in nothing more than drug seeking behavior. Here’s where many will dispute my point. Many claim pain is a legitimate medical condition. Oh, I know pain is a legitimate medical condition, however, getting high on pakalolo is far more likely to mask any pain than be a medically useful treatment or remedy. What few studies that have been done show that only a very few neurological conditions can benefit from low-dose THC treatments. Less than 5% of all Hawaii card holders’ list cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma or epileptic seizures as their reason for using medical marijuana.
Why the worry? Marijuana is just this generation’s alcohol isn’t it? Well, I worry for some very compelling reasons. First, as a Christian, I must use my voice to protect those who can’t protect themselves, and this includes the children and teens who will be at increased risk of exposure to marijuana and will be abusing it, thinking it’s OK. Medically, it is NOT OK! Marijuana, ice and misdirected prescription drugs are already a huge problem here on Kauai. My wife Darline and I serve at our churches food bank each month. We are seeing an upsurge in young homeless adults in Kekaha who come in and are so zonked out on drugs that we have to have volunteers help them choose food for themselves. They are unable to cope with seemingly simple tasks while high. Marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, nicotine and prescription drugs cause enough harm already! Let’s not make it worse!
Marijuana dispensaries coupled with more regulations will not end the black, (illegal), market for marijuana, but will only hide it. Current pakalolo prices at mainland dispensaries are quite high, as much as $500 or more for an ounce, with concentrates costing $1400 or more an ounce! The marijuana black market will continue to serve those who need prices lower than the dispensaries can provide.
Today, we cannot keep alcohol, tobacco, e-cigarettes, or prescription drugs out of the hands of minors. So what makes us think we can keep medical marijuana away from them?
The welfare of our keiki is a great concern with modern strains of marijuana and concentrates. The adolescent brain is especially susceptible to the dangers of marijuana use, medical or otherwise. This means when kids use marijuana, they have a greater chance of becoming addicted, because their brains are just forming and being primed for adulthood. Also, THC is a fat soluble compound, so it tends to collect in brain cells that are mostly made up of lipids.
Teen abuse of marijuana has the following associated risks:
- Smoking marijuana doubles the risk of teens for psychosis over the next 10 years.
- Daily teen smokers of marijuana are twice as vulnerable to depression.
- Early marijuana use is linked to a 50% increase in risk of depression after age 17.
- Heavy teen abusers of marijuana are 6 times more likely to develop schizophrenia.
- Teen Pakalolo users see a permanent 8 point IQ loss.
- Teen pot users are 5 times more likely to drop out of school.
- 1 in 6 heavy teen users will become addicts.
- Teen marijuana use will be responsible for 2/3 of teens admitted to rehab centers.
- Teen risk of Schizophrenia is 2 to 6 times higher than that of adults.
- Marijuana use while driving doubles the risk of a car crash.
- How ironic our society is discouraging tobacco use while encouraging smoking marijuana! Lung cancer anyone? Marijuana smoke contains far more tars and organic chemicals than tobacco smoke.
If the risks to our teenagers and keiki are not enough to convince you we’d better be very careful in creating marijuana dispensaries on Kauai while still allowing cultivation of dangerous strains of cannabis, consider the following. Wherever on Kauai a dispensary, (or dispensaries) are ultimately located, those locations will become magnets for criminal activity. Kauai Police Chief, Darryl Perry, testified that because of federal banking laws, these dispensaries will be an all cash business. They will become focal points for robbery. Clients will be watched and later, attacked, not only for the cash they may be carrying but for their marijuana as well. The Kauai police department officers will require additional training on spotting marijuana drugged drivers at an estimated cost of $300,000. Make no mistake Kauai, it will hit the taxpayers here on Kauai right in the pocket book, eventually.
Who’s talking to the youth of their wasted opportunities, and the economic costs to society? Taking a concentrated hit of THC today is as easy as taking a tic-tac.. Anyone smoking medical or illegal pakalolo will be unable to gain much full-time employment. No hope for a career, just a permanent underclass status, drugged to their eyeballs while on welfare. Increased potency and the ease of using concentrates will force major employers to require additional testing for marijuana on the job. No one wants drugged drivers or high construction equipment operators on our highways or working where they could cause untold damage. Insurance carriers are sure to require testing.
Kauai County Council resolution No. 2015 – 37 and the amendments were approved 4-3 with by Mel Rapozo, Ross Kagawa, KipuKai Kualii, and Arryl Kaneshiro voting yes. Theresa Koki, Kauai Life's Choices Kauai Coordinator fighting drug abuse, testified and stated that Mayor Bernard Carvalho was in support of the resolution.
The resolution was opposed by Gary Hooser, JoAnn Yukimura, and Mason Chock. Gary Hooser stated that his opposition to the resolution and amendments was based on his belief that it was far more important to give people a legal avenue to get their medical marijuana and that any concerns about diversion were misplaced as well as inappropriate. He stated that our concerns were nothing more than a continuation of “America’s failed war on drugs”. Gary continued that there were several amendments passed in the state legislature that already addressed some of our concerns. (Any amendment passed is not guaranteed to survive the conference committee working out the differences between the two versions passed by either house. In the end, only those on the conference committee will decide what is going to be the ultimate law for Hawaii.) JoAnn Yukimura showed a continuing opposition to anything proposed by Mel Rapozo, just on her “principles”, seemingly, for spite. Meanwhile, Mason Chock made a lame attempt to have it both ways, claiming he had concerns, but he then sided with Gary and JoAnn to vote no.
On the state side, Representatives Derek Kawakami, Jimmy Tokioka as well as our Kauai State Senator Ron Kouchi, have stated support for the Kauai resolution and its requested amendments. Only our Westside Representative, Dee Morikawa is refusing a more reasoned, go slow, approach. In an email response to a constituent’s questions, Rep. Morikawa said that “by tightening up the medical marijuana law in place today with more regulations”, and with “mandated state tags” on the stems of plants cultivated under the medical marijuana law, we could be assured of the proper tracking of plants.
The evidence here begs a crucial question. Why do we actually need any medical marijuana dispensaries here on Kauai, when only six people are having problems finding their medical pakalolo? A majority of Kauai’s County Council, our Mayor and a majority of Kauai’s state legislative delegation doesn’t think so. Kauai can match up volunteer “caregivers” to cultivate for these six people who are having trouble getting their medical marijuana. This would be much safer, and cheaper than the unneeded dispensary route. When my wife was fighting cancer, she was approached several times by well-meaning individuals offering to get her marijuana if she wanted. She refused. It is hard to believe that anyone on Kauai has a hard time growing their own marijuana. It is ubiquitous here on Kauai.
It would be far better for our communities if the legislative conference committee came out with a bill that incorporated many of the recommendations that Marcus Oshiro, Hawaii Family Forum, Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa are proposing.
An amended version of HB321 passed the State Senate April 14 with 23 yes votes and only two no votes. The noes were Kauai's Ron Kouchi and Oahu's Sam Slom. No amendments are available as yet.