HONOLULU, Hawaii – Patients like Mike Ruggles are not happy with last year’s changes to the state’s medical marijuana law, set to take effect in 2015. However, an amended senate bill seeking to address his concerns and the concerns of other medical cannabis patients is currently making its way through the legislature.

Senate Bill 2574 intended to clarify amendments to the registration requirements for the medical use of marijuana, by “allowing for medical marijuana patients to have more certification options by additionally permitting a board certified pain specialist physician, oncologist, ophthalmologist, or board certified palliative care physician to issue a written certification to a patient for medical marijuana treatment.”

The bill was introduced to alleviate the widespread patient dissatisfaction with last year’s senate bill 642, put together by South Kona senator Josh Green. When it goes into effect in January 2015, it will increase the amount of marijuana a patient may have, but will also require a primary care physician to certify the need for medical marijuana, as opposed to the “blue card” process currently used. Medical cannabis patients predicted a disaster for the state’s once progressive program.

The initial changes proposed by SB 2574 did not satisfy patients. Wrote Lee Eisenstein in testimony submitted on the first version of the bill:

Adding “board certified pain specialist physicians” is a step in the right direction but does not go far enough. In greater depth: Any doctor that determines that marijuana is what is best for their patient should be able to recommend it, and legislators should not get between doctors and their patients. This bill is a step in the right direction, but must be expanded to include all licensed doctors.

The senate passed the bill on to the house, where on March 19 the House Committee on Health amended the bill further. The changes were detailed in the Standing Committee Report:

Your Committee has amended this measure by:

(1) Removing the requirement that the certifying physician of a medical marijuana patient must be the primary care physician or other select subspecialist;

(2) Clarifying that the Department of Health will issue a registration card, not certificate, to medical marijuana patients who meet the medical marijuana registration requirements;

(3) Specifying that the Department of Health shall charge no more than $35 per year, rather than $35 per year, to any medical marijuana patient who registers with the Department of Health to obtain authorization to use marijuana for medical purposes in compliance with the law;

(4) Specifying requirements that the certifying physician shall adhere to in providing a written certification to a patient;

(5) Changing the effective date to July 1, 2050, to encourage further discussion; and

(6) Making technical, nonsubstantive amendments for clarity, consistency, and style.

The new SB 2574 was heard and passed by the Senate Committees on Judiciary and Consumer Protection and Commerce on Friday.

Pam Lichty of the Drug Policy Action Group testified in support of the measure.

The changes also pleased Puna resident Robert Petricci, who told the senate committee about his own healing experience with cannabis. Petricci has undergone a noticeable change in recent months.

Status of bills represent up-to-date information via State Legislative website

SB2574 SD1 HD1 – Medical Marijuana; Registration; Requirements

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