Marijuana dispensaries bring dangerous risks

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part commentary. The first part was published in Sunday’s TGI.

Some people state that marijuana is just this generation’s alcohol. There are very compelling reasons to question this wisdom. Teen abuse of marijuana has shown many great medical risks associated with any use. Teen users see a permanent 8 point IQ loss. Marijuana use while driving doubles the risk of a car crash.

I could cite many statistics that clearly show that child and teen abuse of marijuana at low levels of THC pose serious health risks. In the future, high THC concentrates will have a much more negative effect. How ironic our society is discouraging tobacco use while encouraging smoking marijuana!

Marijuana, ice and prescription drug abuse is already a huge problem here on Kauai. 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?

Some contend that marijuana dispensaries coupled with more regulations will end the black market for marijuana. Not true, it 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 $1,400 or more an ounce! The marijuana black market will continue to serve those who need lower prices than the dispensaries can provide.

Kauai hunters should be aware that ATF regulations require federal firearm licensees to deny the sale of guns and ammunition to medical marijuana card holders. The ATF requires any marijuana user to note on firearm purchase documents that you are addicted to a controlled substance.

We need to remind teens that they will suffer when looking for future employment. Increased potency and the ease of using concentrates will force major employers to require additional testing for marijuana on the job. Taking a modern, concentrated hit of THC today is as fast and easy as eating a Tic Tac. No one wants drugged drivers or “high” construction equipment operators on our highways or working in many occupations where they could cause serious damage. Today, hair testing for THC abuse can show usage as far back as 10 years ago. A teenager can use marijuana today and become unemployable in many occupations for perhaps as much as 10 years.

Any location on Kauai where a dispensary is located, or its marijuana is cultivated, will become a magnet for criminal activity. Because of federal banking laws, these dispensaries will be an all-cash business. These laws deny any medical marijuana dispensary operator access to check and card processing services. They will become focal points for robbery.

It is reasonable to assume that clients will be watched and later attacked, not only for the cash they may be carrying but for their marijuana as well. Kauai Police Department officers will require drug recognition training at an estimated cost of $300,000. Make no mistake, Kauai, it will hit the taxpayers here right in the pocketbook, eventually.

On April 8, Kauai County Council Chair Mel Rapozo proposed Resolution No. 2015 – 37, asking our state Legislature to reconsider its rush to create statewide marijuana dispensaries, while continuing to allow medical marijuana cultivation. Also it asked for a “go slow” approach, so communities on Kauai can gauge the impacts before any bill is ultimately approved.

Councilman Ross Kagawa offered specific amendments which would build a better bill for Kauai’s communities. There was a serious debate and testimony. Finally the resolution was passed by a vote of 4 to 3. Kauai is the only county in Hawaii that has taken a stand against this onrushing bill.

Kauai’s opposition has not been reported in most news outlets. We seem to be on an express train to allowing marijuana dispensaries here in Hawaii, without any adequate public input from the Neighbor Islands.

For the record, Kauai County Council resolution No. 2015 – 37 and the amendments were approved by Rapozo, Kagawa, KipuKai Kualii and Arryl Kaneshiro. Police Chief Darryl Perry supported the resolution. Theresa Koki, Kauai Life’s Choices Kauai coordinator, testified that Mayor Bernard Carvalho was in support of the resolution as well. I commend them all for their courageous stance against this rising tide of insanity getting ready to hit our shores on Kauai.

On Kauai’s state side, Rep. Derek Kawakami, Rep. Jimmy Tokioka and Sen. Ron Kouchi have stated support for the Kauai resolution and its requested amendments. Only Rep. Dee Morikawa is refusing.

The preponderance of evidence begs a crucial question. Why do we actually need any medical marijuana dispensaries here on Kauai, when only six people are having problems getting the medicine? Rapozo noted that Kauai can match up volunteer “caregivers” to cultivate for any people who are having trouble getting their medical marijuana. This would be much safer, and cheaper for our community than the dispensary route. 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 Rep. Marcus Oshiro, Hawaii Family Forum, Rapozo and Kagawa are proposing.

An amended version of HB321 (now SD2), passed the State Senate April 14 with 23 yes votes and only two no votes. The no votes were Kauai’s Ron Kouchi and Oahu’s Sam Slom. It now goes to conference.

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Alfred P. Sarmento is a Kekaha resident and member of Kauai Christian Voters.

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