Medical marijuana bills would change terminology, amend video storage requirements

HONOLULU — A couple of bills seeking to amend laws regarding medical marijuana are passing through the Legislature.

“I supported both bills in committee hearings, and anticipate more amendments before any bills become law,” said Rep. Dee Morikawa.

One is SB 786, which aims to change language in Hawaii laws that use the term “medical marijuana.” Instead, when talking about marijuana used for medical reasons, lawmakers want it to be referred to as “medical cannabis.”

Justin Britt, CEO of Green Aloha Ltd., which is approved to be the medical marijuana dispensary on Kauai, supports the measure.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Hawaii since 2000, but because patients or caregivers could grow it only within certain parameters, access was a challenge, according to the Hawaii Department of Health.

In July 2015, the Legislature passed a Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program, which will make medicinal products available to registered patients.

SB 786, which was introduced by Sen. Kidani Gabbard, was transmitted to the House of Representatives on March 7.

It was unanimously passed on third reading Tuesday and transmitted back to the Senate. Passage on third reading means it’s been approved by all of the committees it needs to go through.

Another medical marijuana bill being tossed around the Legislature is SB 305, which seeks to change the amount of time video surveillance footage from dispensaries have to be stored.

As it’s written now, the law requires dispensaries to store video footage for one year. SB 305 wants to change that to 45 days.

Because licensees are required to have a year’s worth of storage, having enough camera equipment to accommodate the law can get expensive, Britt said.

“There is extreme cost that goes to the patient because the cost of storing is high when you have 30, 40 or 50 cameras,” Britt said.

There is also no other state that requires footage to be stored for 365 days, he added.

“HB 305 was introduced using other state policies and an effort to help dispensaries by easing the video monitoring retention time,” Morikawa said. “The Department of Health, however, has some legitimate concerns, because the dispensaries are not up and running yet, and a good regulatory system cannot be evaluated by prematurely, putting this policy into statute.”

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