Hawaii’s Governor Sandbags Law to Allow Marijuana As Opioid Remedy

Hawaii’s Democratic Gov. David Ige faces a big decision — whether to authorize the use of medicinal cannabis as treatment for individuals addicted to opioids.

SB 2407, advanced by the State Legislature on April 19, 2018, awaits Ige’s signature. Despite the bill’s passage in both the House and Senate, Ige filed a notice of intent to veto the legislation in late June.

So, why is he hesitant?

“Our nation is facing a serious opioid crisis that is claiming the lives of thousands of people, plunging families into tragedy, and taking a devastating toll on society. While our state often experiences public health trends well after they occur on the mainland, the warning signs are appearing,” Ige said in acknowledging the state’s growing opioid crisis in a special message on Dec. 1, 2017.

Yet a bill that would help address this has been sitting on his desk since April.

Rather than signing SB 2407 and addressing the opioid epidemic head on, Ige plans to defer to the state’s Department of Health (DOH) and support its petition process for adding new conditions.

Per the department’s website, adding a qualifying condition requires a formal evidence-based petition and can take more than  12 months.

“At least once per calendar year, if there are pending petitions, the department shall conduct a public hearing to receive public oral or written testimony on those petitions; provided that the department shall have the discretion to establish time deadlines for the inclusion of petition in the public hearings,” according to Hawaii.gov.

At least one supporter of the legislation is asking her constituents to take action.

Democratic US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has appealed to her supporters  to either phone or email the governor and urge him to reconsider his promised veto.

A field medic with Hawaii’s Army National Guard from 2004 to 2009, Gabbard believes Hawaii is on the front lines of the opioid epidemic and cannabis can help.

“191 drug-related deaths per year & nearly 500,000 active opioid prescriptions, enough for a third of our state. SB 2407 would provide access to medical marijuana to help them get off opioids. But @GovHawaii says he will veto.”

If Ige doesn’t sign or veto the bill by Tuesday, July 10, 2018, it will automatically become law in the Aloha State.

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