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Saturday, April 27, 2013
Two Marijuana Bills Pass Conference Committee
By News Release @ 10:00 PM :: 2851 Views

Conference Committee Update on HB 668 and SB 642

From Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawai'i April 27, 2013 (emphasis added)

The Conference Committee on HB 668 and SB 642 went all the way to the last minute (literally.  All bills needed to have been voted on by 6 pm and the votes were taken at 5:59 pm).  Also the actual bills and committee reports were not available until this morning. The conference meetings were very rushed and confusing so, in the interests of accuracy, we wanted to wait until it was clear what the Conference Drafts (CD1s) really said.

But after all that work - both bills passed out of Conference Committee.

HB 668, CD 1

HB 668, the bill to transfer the Medical Cannabis Program to the Department of Health, passed as a straight transfer bill. The Conference Committee eliminated the "Transition Advisory Group" (we supported the elimination) and cleaned up the language around the responsibilities and timeline for the Department of Public Safety and Department of Health in the transfer.  It also created a "Medical Marijuana Registry Fund" instead of the "slush fund" that the NED was using from the program registration fees.  For the past 13 years, the money collected from registering with the program were co-mingled and mishandled by the Department of Public Safety.  Now all money collected will go into an appropriate fund that is only used for administering the program. 

The transfer/bill MUST take effect by January 1, 2015 but the two departments are already working on the transition. This is a HUGE win for the medical cannabis community!

SB 642, CD 1

SB 642, the bill to improve aspects of the program, also passed but unfortunately did not include all the changes we asked for and added in some provisions we don’t support.

The changes in the Conference Committee final draft that we DO support are:

  • All existing registrations/licenses are “grandfathered” in, meaning no one will have to re-register until their current card expires;

  • Increases the amount of usable medicine from the current allotment of 3 ounces  to 4 ounces.  We had previously asked for 5 ounces but could not get the Committee to pass the bill with 5 ounces;

  • Removes the “immature” and “mature” definitions from the law so patients/caregivers are allowed 7 plants, regardless of state of growth;

Unfortunately, Senator Green as the chair of the Senate Conference Committee would not pass HB 668 or the positive aspects of SB 642 unless the two bills were linked together and his amendments to the latter were included. The discussion at the Conference committee was very heated. These changes are:

  • Allows only primary care physicians to recommend cannabis and certify qualifying patients and caregivers.  This was added in by Senator Green presumably to “crack down” on visiting physicians from the Mainland recommending cannabis to patients in Hawai‘i but unfortunately this will have broader negative consequences to patients and physicians. We will be working to fix this;

  • All language protecting patients' confidentiality has been removed. This means that the location of the residence where cannabis is grown for medical use will remain on the registry cards. This is something that Senator Green insisted on;

  • Raises the registration fee for the Medical Cannabis Program to $35. While the fee has remained at $25 for 13 years, the previous legislature had amended the program to up the registration fee to $35 but never officially wrote it into the law. 

These changes will not take effect until January 2, 2015. This gives us an opportunity to address these negative changes in the 2014 legislature and remove them from the law. 

No other improvements were included in the bill. 

The negative changes to SB 642 fall squarely on Senator Green. These were his amendments and his requirements before allowing the Conference Committee to pass even the transfer bill. 

We have to really thank House Health Chair Della Au Belatti who worked tirelessly to get these bills through. She is truly a champion for the Medical Cannabis Program patients, caregivers, and physicians and worked VERY hard to make sure these bills were passed. She stood her ground with Senator Green to make sure that HB 668 was passed and that SB 642 wasn’t completely gutted and actually had some provisions that improve the Medical Cannabis Program....

This the first time in 13 years since the program was passed that any changes have been made and it is because of your tireless work that Hawaii’s program is moving in the right direction. We still have a lot of work to do in 2014 and on to make more improvements to the program for patients, caregivers, and physicians and follow in the steps of more up to date programs in other states. 

Both bills with the Conference Committee amendments still need to be voted on by the full Senate and the House.

Floor votes in both the Senate and the House on these final drafts will take place on either Tuesday, April 30 or Thursday, May 2 (the last day of Session).

---30---

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