Gov. David Ige has notified legislative leaders and key lawmakers of his Intent to Veto list, which includes 11 measures. It didn’t take long for the concerns and criticisms to begin, with threats of an override session quickly taking shape.
“The Hawaii State House of Representatives will examine the list and consult with Senate leadership to determine if an override session is warranted to address any measure that is actually vetoed,” said House of Representatives Speaker Scott K. Saiki.
If both chambers determine that an override session is unnecessary, the interim will provide additional time for members and proponents of vetoed measures to address the governor’s objections. According to the Hawaii State Constitution, the Legislature may convene on or before Tuesday, July 10, in Special Session to override a veto.
On July 10, any measure that has not been signed or vetoed by Gov. Ige will become law with or without his signature.
One threatened veto from Ige caught the attention of Hawaii’s congressional leaders, and that is, Senate Bill 2407 relating to medical cannabis.
This measure authorizes the use of medical cannabis as a treatment for opioid addiction, substance use, and withdrawal symptoms resulting from the treatment of these conditions.
First, here is Ige’s rationale behind the veto: The Department of Health already has a formal, evidenced-based petition process, made available annually to patients and physicians, so patients and physicians can apply to add qualifying conditions to the list of uses for medical cannabis.
That sounds reasonable — and not surprising. Ige said, on a recent visit to Kauai, he could not support legalizing recreational use of marijuana.
“As long as it’s illegal from the federal government perspective, I really don’t believe we should be making it legal for recreational purposes,” he said.
Congresswomen Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard disagree with Ige’s plan to veto the bill that would permit the prescription of medical marijuana to combat opioid abuse in Hawaii. They are urging him to reconsider.
“America is managing an opioid epidemic that is killing an average of 91 Americans a day. Medical cannabis provides similar relief for chronic pain patients without the possibility of a fatal overdose. We need to explore every opportunity to help our citizens who are battling addiction to pain killers and other prescription drugs. This is a life or death issue,” said Hanabusa.
Gabbard said there is an ongoing opioid epidemic in this country and Hawaii is on the front lines.
“This legislation has the potential to save people’s lives in Hawaii — states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey that have adopted similar policies have seen addiction rates drop and opioid abuse deaths decrease by over 20 percent,” she said. “Understanding that people’s lives are at stake, I urge Governor Ige to reconsider and sign this legislation into law now.”
Both congresswomen included this information: In May, researchers at the University of Georgia, Athens, released a study that used data from Medicare Part D, that found prescriptions filled for all opioids decreased by 2.1 million daily doses a year when a state legalized medical marijuana, and by 3.7 million daily doses a year when dispensaries opened. About 41 million Americans use Medicare Part D.
The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii also announced it opposes the veto.
“This announcement is misguided since Hawaii has the chance to join the vanguard of other states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey in approving medical cannabis against opioid and other substance use,” said Executive Director Carl Bergquist. “As the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, said when she recently approved the use of medical cannabis against substance use disorders, this is not meant to be a ‘substitute’ for other proven treatments but rather to act as ‘another tool’ against this devastating disease. As a state that pioneered the legalization of medical cannabis, and now has dispensaries serving the patient population, it makes sense that we embrace this kind of progressive outlook rather than bury it in process that will lead to prolonged suffering.”
Those are convincing arguments, but unlikely to sway Ige, who is correct when he points out the state already has a petition process regarding the use of medical cannabis. It is available to those who qualify. So, the state already has an avenue for people to use medical cannabis.
With Ige seeking re-election, it’s interesting that his top opponent, Hanabusa, has come out on the opposite side of this. With Ige trying to present himself as a strong, decisive leader after the missile alert fiasco, it’s doubtful he will change his stance on the issue of medical cannabis. He has stated his case, and we expect him to stand by it.
This weekend, we’ll take a look at the other bills on his Intent to Veto list. A key one, SB 2699, is related to the Transient Accommodation Tax, which proposes to include resort fees in gross rental proceeds that are subject to the Transient Accommodations Tax.