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New Mexico, Hawaii: States Pass Bills To Decriminalize Industrial Hemp

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Both New Mexico and Hawaii overwhelmingly passed bills earlier this month to decriminalize industrial hemp. Passage of the bills into law would set the stage for the people there to nullify federal prohibition of the plant.

Rep. Rick Little (R-Chaparral) introduced New Mexico's House Bill 166 (HB166) on Jan 18.

A coalition of eight Democrat representatives introduced Hawaii's House Bill 773 (HB773) on Jan. 20.

The new legislation will remove industrial hemp from each state's list of controlled substances. Both bills will require no license and will create no state regulatory structure. Industrial hemp would be treated like any other plant, such as corn, in both states. Residents of the states will now be able to start farming industrial hemp should they be willing to risk violating ongoing federal prohibition.

The New Mexico House passed HB166 by a 53-13 vote on Monday, February 18, and Hawaii's House Agricultural Committee passed HB773 by a 7-0 vote on February 8.

U.S.: 4 States Most Likely To Legalize Recreational Marijuana Next

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Legalized recreational marijuana has been a big news headline ever since the Election Day, when the number of states with legal pot going from 4 to 8. Several other states are getting closer to seeing legal recreational pot legalized, with some being closer than others.

In Arizona, Proposition 205 was defeated by a margin of just 2 percent. Cannabis advocacy groups encouraged by the close defeat will focus their attention on remaining hesitant voters. They expect to see legal recreational weed passed very soon. California just passed Prop 64, but similar measures in 2010, 2012, and 2014 were defeated. Oregon voted “No” on legal cannabis in 2012, then “Yes” in 2014.

Recreational marijuana becomes officially legal in Massachusetts on December 15, 2016, allowing adults to possess as much cannabis as they can grow. Otherwise, individuals can have up to 1 ounce, including 5 grams of concentrate. Neighboring states Rhode Island and Vermont are likely to follow suit, since citizens of those states could easily cross the border to take advantage of legal pot in Massachusetts. Both states are interested in the tax revenue the legal cannabis industry generates.

Hawaii: Cannabis Dispensaries Can Legally Open, But None Are Ready

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

July 15 was the first day that medical marijuana dispensaries were allowed by law in Hawaii, but none of the state's eight dispensaries were approved to open as of Monday, July 18.

One obstacle is the state has not certified a lab to test the dispensaries' products.

"On the dispensary front, they're all doing their best to open their doors with as diverse a product line to serve all of the many needs of the patients and all the qualifying conditions that are out there," said Chris Garth, executive director of the Hawaii Dispensary Alliance. "Until those products can be tested in a clinical capacity, no dispensary will be able to open their doors, no matter how perfect their product is."

Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for the Department of Health, said that the state has not yet received any applications from interested laboratories.

Spectra Analytical Lab is working on an application, but the lab needs to be certified as meeting international standards, said Michal Covington, lead chemist. "It's a big deal for a lab to get that certification, and that's why nobody's applied yet."

Hawaii: Marijuana Activist Sues, Says Licensing Medical Pot Violates Federal Law


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A longtime activist in Hawaii who is facing criminal charges of selling pot for running a now-defunct medicinal cannabis collective is suing to try to stop the opening of state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.

The suit was filed on Thursday in U.S. District Court by Mike Ruggles of Mountain View, naming as defendants Hawaii Governor David Ige, state Health Director Virginia Pressler, state Attorney General Douglas Chin, and the four companies which have been awarded state licenses to grow and sell marijuana, along with those companies' owners, reports West Hawaii Today.

Ruggles' suit alleges that Hawaii's medical marijuana dispensary law is a violation of federal racketeering and drug laws.

“The state cannot license people to break federal law and that’s exactly what they’ve done with these dispensaries," Ruggles claimed. "How does California do it? You’ll notice Act 228 (Hawaii’s medical marijuana law passed in 2000) mirrors California’s medical marijuana law word for word. Dispensaries in California are not regulated, and that’s how they get around (federal law). You see, the state cannot give citizens a license to break federal law. What they can do is ignore federal law being broke.”

Hawaii: Nurses May Soon Be Able To Certify Medical Marijuana Patients

Nurses in Hawaii may soon be allowed to certify medical marijuana patients.

By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Hawaii lawmakers approved a bill Tuesday that changes many aspects of the state's medical marijuana dispensary law, but enough issues are left unsolved that advocates will probably be lobbying at the Capitol again next session.

The Hawaii Senate unanimously voted to pass House Bill 2707. The bill, which the House approved 36-12, amends various aspects of the state's law establishing a dispensary system.

Hawaii only approved dispensaries last year, but has allowed patients to grow their own marijuana for 16 years. Dispensaries are expected to open their doors this year.

If Gov. David Ige approves HB 2707, advanced practice registered nurses will be able to certify patients to use medical marijuana, in addition to physicians.

Carl Bergquist, executive director at the advocacy group Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, said he hopes the change will make it easier for patients to access medical cannabis, as many physicians are unwilling to recommend it.

“We can get a million inquiries but I can’t certify anyone,” he said. “The more people we have who are aware of this and who are willing to do this, the better.”

HB 2707 also adds an exception to the ban on transporting marijuana across islands. If the bill becomes law, companies will be able to carry cannabis between islands for the sole purpose of getting the drug tested in a lab.

Hawaii: Actor Woody Harrelson's Application To Open Pot Business Denied

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Oscar-nominated actor Woody Harrelson's application to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Hawaii was denied on Friday when the state approved eight of more than 60 applicants.

Harrelson had applied for a license on behalf of his company Simple Organic Living LLC.

Harrelson is probably best known for his role as bartender Woody Boyd in the TV sitcom Cheers, but he is also known for some of his notable film characters in movies such as White Men Can't Jump and Kingpin.

The actor has been a vocal marijuana advocate for more than a decade, and is on the advisory board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

On Friday the Hawaii Department of Health released a list of approved applicants with three in Honolulu on the island of Oahu, two on the Big Island, two on Maui and one on Kauai.

Harrelson's business was not on the approved list. A statement from the department did not specifically say why the actor's application was denied.

Hawaii: Lawmakers Ask How Much Marijuana Is OK While Driving

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Hawaii lawmakers are seeking to find a way to determine how much marijuana a driver can consume and then safely operate a car.

Hawaii is currently in the process of setting up medical marijuana dispensaries. Rep. Cindy Evans and 15 other lawmakers have introduced a resolution asking the state Department of Health to determine whether or not a person can safely drive while under the influence of marijuana.

"I think that it's really important that we do this now," Evans said. "Hopefully this is the beginning of the discussion."

There is a nationally recognized level of impairment for drunk driving, a blood alcohol content of 0.08 grams per milliliter. But there is no federal rule or general consensus on what is an acceptable limit while driving under the influence of drugs.

Hawaii law bans people from driving under the influence of a drug that impairs their ability to drive, but there is no set threshold for how much marijuana — medically prescribed or not — is acceptable in the blood stream.

Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in accidents, but the role marijuana plays in those accidents is often unclear because it can remain in the bloodstream for days and it's often combined with alcohol, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says marijuana use impairs cognitive functions, lane tracking and other driving-related skills.

Hawaii: Medical Marijuana Dispensary Rules Won't Be Unveiled Until January


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Hawaii Department of Health doesn't plan any public hearings for comments on rules governing the state's new medical marijuana dispensary system before releasing draft rules on January 4, 2016.

Entrepreneurs will have only a few days to review the rules before applying, between January 11 and January 29, for eight highly sought licenses to grow and sell medicinal cannabis, reports Anita Hofschvneider at Honolulu Civil Beat.

Hawaii's recently enacted state law establishing the dispensary system exempts the health department from seeking public input, because legislators in July decided they want to establish a medical marijuana system by July 16, 2016, public commend be damned.

“We’re taking full advantage of that exemption so that we can spend the time to get the necessary rules done,” Health Department official Keith Ridley told legislators during a briefing Thursday at the Hawaii State Capitol.

The Department of Health is struggling with a backlog of 1,000 applications for the medical marijuana authorizations. It is still hiring to run the dispensary program, and still hasn't decided how much information about the applications it will make available to the public.

Ridley said the health department doesn't plan to release the names of any applicants for licenses until it selects the licensees on April 15, 2016, "because it may frustrate the state's process of determining the licensees."

Hawaii: Medical Marijuana Patients Rely On Down-Low Grower Network


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Most of Hawaii's 13,000 medical marijuana patients first had to commit a crime to obtain and grow their medicinal cannabis under the state's laws. Though Hawaii voters legalized medical marijuana back in 2000, it didn't make provisions for legal dispensaries; it required patients to grow their own supply, but didn't specify where to get the seeds or plants.

"When the state passed the law, they allowed you to have a card, but they didn't provide you any way to get the product, grow the product or how to make the product into any form of medicine," said Jari Sugano, whose first cannabis plant came illegaly from another Hawaiian caregiver, reports News21. The plant was the only way she could grow medical marijuana for her now six-year-old daughter, who has Dravet syndrome, a rare and severe form of epilepsy.

The sale or transfer or seeds and plants is still illegal in Hawaii, even between qualified patients. For 15 years, the absence of a legal solution has fueled a thriving black market and made it hard to know who's using weed legally and who's not. Only this year did the Hawaii Legislature finally get around to legalizing dispensaries.

Hawaii: Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Medical Marijuana Dispensaries


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Hawaii Gov. David Ige on Wednesday signed House Bill 321, legalizing and establishing a system of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Hawaii for 15 years, but patients haven't had an official place to buy their medicine. Instead, they had to grow their own cannabis, or had a caretaker do it for them, reports Anita Hofschneider at Civil Beat.

The bill will also stop counties from enacting zoning regulations that discriminate against licensed dispensaries and marijuana production centers, reports Jamilia Epping at Big Island Now.

“I support the establishment of dispensaries to ensure that qualified patients can legally and safely access medical marijuana,” the Governor said said. “We know that our challenge going forward will be to adopt rules that are fair, cost effective and easy to monitor.

"The bill sets a timeline," Gov. Ige said. "We will make a good faith effort to create a fair process that will help the people most in need.”

HB 321, now Act 241, creates the framework for a dispensary system that would allow up to 16 dispensaries statewide by July 15, 2016.

Hawaii: State Capitol Flies Hemp Flag On Opening Day Of Legislative Session


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Hawaii on Wednesday, the opening day of the 2015 legislative session, joined the U.S. Capitol and four other states in flying an American-grown, American-produced hemp flag.

GOP state Rep. Cynthia Thielen, who has long advocated for industrial hemp use, sponsored the flag-raising and borrowed a hemp flag from Colorado advocate Michael Bowman, reports Chad Blair at the Honolulu Civil Beat.

Bowman enlisted the help of a Colorado hemp farmer to make the flag, according to a press release from Thielen's office.

The flag has "a vintage feel to it which appears to be a nod to America's hemp growing founding fathers and the many original flags that were made of hemp," according to Thielen's office.

"This durable flag will be flying high," the state representative's office adds.

The University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources is allowed to establish a two-year industrial hemp remediation and biofuel crop research program after last year's passage of Act 56 into law.

The federal Agriculture Act of 2014 allows colleges and state departments of agriculture to conduct industrial hemp research, including cultivaiton.

The neighboring Hawaiian island of Maui "is slated to become the first island in the state with a home built using industrial hemp," reports the Maui News.

Photo: Rep. Cynthia Thielen and the hemp flag

U.S.: Some Police Stop Ripping Up Marijuana Plants In Medical States


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Police in some medical marijuana states -- who once ripped up marijuana plants by the roots without a second thought, or just stashed them away to die -- are now reevaluating the practice.

Police departments from Colorado and Washington to Hawaii and California are being sued by people who want their cannabis back after prosecutors chose not to charge them, or they were acquitted, reports Sadie Gurman at The Associated Press.

Some former suspects are asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash compensation to replace dead plants that the cops either uprooted, or left to die in evidence rooms.

Police departments in some municipalities have, therefore, either stopped rounding up the plants, or have started collecting just a few samples and photographing the rest to use as evidence in court.

"None of us are really sure what we're supposed to do, and so you err on the side of caution," claimed Mitch Barker, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

The evolving paradigm under which cannabis is now viewed as medicine rather than as a dangerous scourge which must be wiped out is responsible for the changing ways police departments deal with the question.

"Law enforcement is going to have to think more carefully about what their procedures are and how those procedures might need to change in light of changes in the law," said University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin.

Hawaii: Prosecution of Marijuana Minister Roger Christie Ignites Legalization Drive


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Cannabis hero and Hawaii-based minister Roger Christie was sentenced on Monday to five years in prison and four years of supervised release, and his case has inspired both lawmakers and advocates who believe, as does Christie, that marijuana should be legalized.

Christie, 64, was held for 3 years and 9 months in Hawaii's Federal Detention Center without bail or trial on charges related to growing and distributing marijuana, reports Malia Zimmerman of Watchdog.org.

The minister says cannabis is a religious sacrament, and he openly sold marijuana in Hilo as part of the services at THC Ministry.

U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi sentenced Christie as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors. He'll be credited for time served, and could be released within two months, according to Thomas Otake, his attorney.

Roger's wife, Sherryanne "Share" Christie, 62, was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release, the maximum time allowed under federal law. She will likely begin her imprisonment in the next two months, around the time her husband is released.

The judge told the Christies that they could continue to participate in religious services, but would not "be allowed" to use marijuana or even to be in the presence of someone else using marijuana.

Hawaii: Marijuana Advocate Roger Christie Enters Guilty Plea After Three Years Behind Bars


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

After spending the last three-and-a-half years in federal prison with no bail, Reverend Roger Christie, the founder of a Hawaii-based ministry that promoted marijuana use as a religious sacrament, pleaded guilty on Friday in federal court to possession of almost 300 cannabis plants, but reserved the right to appeal his case based on religious grounds.

Christie's case has received national attention, with cannabis advocates saying his pre-trial detention with no bail is unconstitutional. Many called him a political prisoner in the War On Drugs.

Christie, who founded The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry (THC Ministry), entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess marijuana and two counts of failing to file tax returns, for the years 2008 and 2009, reports John Burnett at the Hawaii Tribune Herald.

Sentencing is scheduled for January 22 at 2:45 p.m., before U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi. Christie faces up to 20 years' imprisonment on the marijuana charge, with a mandatory minimum of five years. The maximum term on each tax offense is one year.

Christie will forfeit is Wainaku apartment as part of the plea deal. He will also forfeit the $21,494 confiscated by federal agents during a raid in 2010.

Other marijuana-related charges against Christie were dropped as part of the plea deal.

Hawaii: Church Member Files Writ of Habeas Corpus for Jailed Cannabis Minister Roger Christie


By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A member of the The Hawaii Cannabis (THC) Ministry in Hilo has filed a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of his pastor, Rev. Roger Christie, who has been held without bail by the federal government as a pretrial detainee for more than 3 years.

Mike Ruggles, 56, a resident of Mountain View on the Big Island, filed the petition with the United States District Court in Honolulu on July 23.

Rev. Christie was arrested by federal authorities on July 8, 2010, charged with distributing
marijuana to members of his congregation. He has been held without bail at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center for more than 36 months.

“Roger was a pillar of the community and he is sorely missed at this time,” said Ruggles. “Since Roger has been gone, meth use and violent crime have gotten worse, not better. Roger’s influence on the community was more effective than 50 cops on the street.”

Christie founded his Cannabis Ministry in the early 2000s. The Ministry operated openly on the second floor of the historic Moses building in downtown Hilo, right across from Hilo Bay.

Federal authorities conducted an extensive investigation of the Ministry beginning in 2008.

Rev. Christie will argue for his right to base his defense on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act at a hearing scheduled for July 29th at 10:30 a.m. and July 30 at 10:00 a.m. in the Honolulu Federal Building Courtroom of U.S. District Judge Kobayashi.

“Our country was founded on religious freedom,” said Ruggles. “The government wants to shut down his religion. Whose religion is next?”

Hawaii: House Judiciary Committee Approves Marijuana Decrim Bill

Photo: Care2By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana continues to advance through the Hawaii House of Representatives.

The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved the bill, SB 472 SD1 HD1 over predictable objections from law enforcement officials who claimed the proposal would "undermine their work," reports Anita Hofschneider of The Associated Press.

The Senate version of SB 472 SD 1 decriminalized up to one ounce of cannabis. It passed on the floor of the Hawaii Senate last week by a unanimous 25-0 vote. At that point, it already had been amended from the bill's original form, with higher fines (raised from $100 to $1,000) intended to make the bill "more acceptable" to the House, reports Thomas H. Clarke at The Daily Chronic.

The House version of the bill, approved by the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, lowered the fine back to $100, similar to fines in other decriminalized states. But House Judiciary Committee Chairman Kari Rhoads amended the measure to decrease the amount to seven-tenths of one ounce, or 20 grams.

Rhoads also added language making clear that marijuana possession by minors is still criminal, and emphasizing the supposed "negative effects" of pot on young people.

Hawaii: Senate Votes Unanimously To Decriminalize Marijuana

Hawaii: Senate Votes Unanimously To Decriminalize MarijuanaBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Hawaii state Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. The proposal now goes to the House.

The bill would make the possession of one ounce or less a civil violation. Lawmakers tacked on a $1,000 fine to emphasize that marijuana is still illegal, despite the shift from criminal to civil penalties, reports Anita Hofschneider of The Associated Press.

The bill is designed to reduce the backlog in Hawaii's criminal justice system, according to sponsor Sen. Clayton Hee.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officials, reluctant to give up the disproportionate power over everyday citizens which marijuana criminalization gives them, predictably oppose the bill. They claim decriminalization would make it harder to enforce laws against pot.

A bill to legalize marijuana in Hawaii died in the House earlier this session.

United States: HI legislative committees approve hemp research


There is a truth that must be heard!

HONOLULU (AP) — Two Hawaii state Senate committees have given initial approval to allow privately-funded industrial hemp research.

The approvals Monday afternoon come after a House committee passed a measure last week to establish a pilot program using industrial hemp to get rid of toxins in soil.

Sen. Will Espero, a Democrat who authored the Senate bill, says industrial hemp research could help Hawaii grow its economy.

Espero says hemp has the potential to spur a variety of industries ranging from agriculture to fashion.

"You can even build a house out of hemp today," Espero said. "I saw something on YouTube recently."

Law enforcement officials oppose the bill, saying the law would make it harder for them to regulate marijuana.

The Maui Police Department submitted testimony saying that it doesn't have enough resources to deal with monitoring private hemp research facilities.

Espero says the state used to permit industrial hemp research but allowed the law to sunset in part because of the stigma associated with cannabis.

The Hawaii Legislature is also considering a bill to legalize marijuana. The House Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing Friday addressing marijuana legalization and will make a decision about the bill Thursday.

Espero says industrial hemp research is a separate issue.

He says he is optimistic about the industrial hemp research proposal passing the Legislature.

Hawaii: Bill to legalize marijuana introduced in legislature

By Ben Gutierrez, Hawaii News Now

There is a truth that must be heard!Hawaii could join Colorado and Washington as states that have legalized the use of marijuana by adults, under a measure introduced Friday by state House Speaker Joe Souki.

House Bill 150, also known as the Personal Use of Marijuana Act, would allow adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and to cultivate a limited number of marijuana plants in a secure and locked location. It also would allow for licensed and regulated marijuana retail stores, as well as licensed facilities to cultivate, manufacture and test marijuana.

Proponents of the measure say it would mean more revenue for the state, and save money. "If we legalize it, as Speaker Souki's bill would do, you would save another three million dollars in law enforcement costs. And if you taxed and regulated it, it could be eleven million dollars or even more in tax revenues," said Pamela Lichty of the Drug Policy Action Group of Hawaii.

Hawaii: Proposed Marijuana Laws Could Ease Restrictions

by Peter Sur, Stephens Media

HILO - Several bills that would amend Hawaii's medical marijuana law, and one that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug, are moving through the state Legislature.

Reps. Faye Hanohano, D-Puna, and Mark Nakashima, D-Kohala, Hamakua, Hilo, have both supported the bills in the House Public Safety Committee. They now await action in the House Judiciary Committee.

The bills are:

- House Bill 1635, which would strengthen the record-keeping procedures for physicians who prescribe marijuana for medical uses;

- House Bill 226, which would allow qualifying patients to possess up to 12 marijuana plants and seven ounces of usable marijuana;

- House Bill 1191, which creates a medical marijuana distribution stamp system and allows for a secure growing facility to grow marijuana for no more than 14 qualifying patients; and

- House Bill 1192, which makes the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a civil offense, subject to a $100 fine.

"In the economy we are in right now, we don't have the resources to keep people in prison," Hanohano said. "This is one way, to me, to look at it."

In addition to a civil fine, those under 18 years of age would also be required to complete a drug awareness program.

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