For-Profit Marijuana Dispensaries Are Bad for Hawaii

At the onset, I believe marijuana has a place in the treatment of disease. However, for-profit growing and selling of marijuana, even for medical use, would be a bad untested social experiment on Hawaii’s people. Hawaii’s citizens are not laboratory rats. Not-for-profit or co-operatives or limited imports are better aligned with Hawaii’s values.

First, legalizing for-profit selling of marijuana is a new idea in the world. The USA and Uruguay and not the Netherlands or Jamaica, are the only places that allow for legal production and sales. Interestingly, in the US only 11 of 23 medical marijuana states or less than half have any actual operating experience. Furthermore, the average retail store experience is about two years. Consequently, 24 months of social-science evidence at best may justify a pilot project but not a permanent laissez-faire policy built on such skimpy evidence.

Second, no state has consistent standards to insure safe and uncontaminated products. Unlike prescription drugs and most food products it is still caveat emptor. Unhealthy mold, pesticides, and petroleum residue are showing up in marijuana in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon. If they were sold at Longs they would be recalled. Do we tolerate third-world purity standards because it is “medicinal” marijuana?

Third, all states that have medical marijuana dispensaries have a higher than average use of marijuana among youth. Contrary to common belief, marijuana is addictive. The National Institutes of Drug Abuse suggest that about 9 percent of users become addicted to marijuana; this number increases among those who start young (one in six) and among people who use marijuana daily (to 25-50 percent).” A University of Colorado study reveals that about 74 percent of teens obtained their marijuana from medical marijuana card holders. Will this happen here?

Fourth, legalizing medical marijuana for retail sale will not eliminate the black market but disguise it and enhance its penetration into our communities, especially among youth. The fact is, no state that has either legalized medical or recreational marijuana has eliminated the illegal drug trade. As a Colorado law enforcement officer observed, “legalization of marijuana floats all boats.” Are Hawaii’s criminals different?

Fifth, allowing out-of-state sub-contractors access to Hawaii’s 16 dispensaries will place our families and communities at the mercy of rich Mainland interest. Once given a toe hold, they will never leave but use their increasing wealth and political influence to expand their market share and bottom line.

Of course, they will give to this charity or that but it is merely another good-will business investment. Certainly, nothing to write home about and meager compared to the destructive human cost we will pay. Like the pharmaceutical, alcohol, and tobacco entrepreneurs, corporate marijuana pushes a business model built on reliable customers. Also known as addicts.

In close, as legislators we have a moral duty to carefully and critically consider policy decisions with the future ever in mind. Here, however, we have relied on anecdotes and not evidence, untested and unfished social experiments, and we have not exhausted less drastic means of helping our medical marijuana patients and families get marijuana. Progressive states only allow nonprofits marijuana dispensaries but why not Hawaii?

Hence, HB 321 is the “Pandora’s Box” sitting on the governor’s koa desk. And, I hope it remains unopened and closed. Moreover, that the governor’s action reminds all of us that Hawaii is a very special place. And, a special place like Hawaii deserves policies and laws that reflect our best traditions and highest values. Medical marijuana “pot barons” are creatures of Mainland culture and corporate greed. We should not welcome them into our island homes.

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Rep. Marcus R. Oshiro, House District 46, Wahiawa-Whitmore-Launani (586-6700)

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