Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Musings: Dark Ages

The gray sky wore a black cap pulled down low over its eyes, creating a world so dark that the stars and Venus were afraid to show their faces, when Koko and I went out walking this morning. Dark clouds poured in over the dark mass that I knew to be the Giant, making the dawn, still dark as night, darker still, and then they dumped dark rain.

When it comes to medical marijuana, Hawaii’s law enforcement community is still in the Dark Ages, as evidenced by the testimony it submitted in opposition to SB1458, which establishes a state-regulated process for distributing marijuana to patients, including “compassion centers” — aka dispensaries — that would give people safe, secure access to the medicine their doctor prescribed.

There was the usual unsubstantiated fear mongering — More children will have access! Murder and violent crimes will increase! — and discriminatory rhetoric — We don’t want those kinds of people in our neighborhoods! — from cops and prosecutors who have everything to gain, in terms of drug forfeiture revenue and job security, from keeping the herb locked down.

But the most ludicrous, hyperbolic and ultimately ironic testimony came from the Department of Public Safety, which unfortunately now runs the medical marijuana program. Consider this:

The [White Paper] report found that in California, marijuana dispensaries are commonly large moneymaking enterprises that will sell marijuana to most anyone who produces a physician's written recommendation for its medical use.

Unlike, say, those reputable pharmacies at Walmart and Long’s.

Then it delivered these lines:

Furthermore, storefront marijuana businesses are prey for criminals and create easily identifiable victims.

Drug dealing, sales to minors, loitering, heavy vehicle and foot traffic in retail areas, increased noise, and robberies of customers just outside dispensaries are also common ancillary byproducts of their operations.

Unlike, say, the broad daylight armed holdup of Aureo Moore outside the Safeway pharmacy after he’d filled his prescription for a whopping 150 oxycodone and at least 50 morphine pills — the same guy who was later shot to death, again in broad daylight, near a beach park, allegedly because the robbers wanted to silence his testimony.

Just yesterday I was talking to a woman who the week before had tried to commit suicide using some of the oxies and morphine her doctors had prescribed for years — massive doses that left her barely functioning, anxious, sick, desperately depressed and still very much in pain. Having survived the attempt to end her life, she was struggling to find some way to get off the shit and out of her dark hole, but as we all know, there’s no treatment center here. Her doctors had nothing to offer but another prescription drug.

Unfortunately, she and Aureo, both turned into addicts by their doctors, are not isolated cases. According to a press release from the Prosecuting Attorney’s office printed last month in The Garden Island:

”The intentional abuse of prescription drugs, such as pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives is a growing concern particularly among teens, who often misconceive that these substances are somehow safer than traditional illegal drugs,” the release states. “Both the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney and the Kaua‘i Police Department are committed to reversing this emerging trend by actively pursuing enforcement and prosecution of prescription drug offenses in our community.”

So they indicted 14 poor saps, who themselves are likely addicts, for possessing drugs that at one time were prescribed to somebody. Interestingly, no doctors, pharmacists or drug company salespersons were among them, even though they are the ultimate pushers.

I recently talked to a physician who has spent his 30-year career in palliative care, that is, in helping those who are in pain find relief. Much of his practice these days is devoted to writing prescriptions for medical marijuana because, he said, he got sick of turning people into junkies, of making them ill from the toxic side effects of the pharmaceuticals, of giving them increasingly higher doses when they built up tolerance.

“In so many cases, marijuana works just as effectively as pharmaceuticals, without all the nasty side affects or risk of addiction,” he said. “It’s really quite a miraculous substance.”

The rain is past and the misty sky is finally brightening, in shades of baby blue, pale pink. The drenched vegetation is glistening, glowing green. And the Legislature is, once again, considering bills that would lessen the state’s Draconian approach to marijuana, which, unlike pharmaceutical drugs, has never been linked to a single death.

Let’s hope they listen to doctors and patients, rather than cops and prosecutors. Because it’s time to move out of the dark and into the light.

SB 1458 will be up for a vote by the Public Safety, Government Operations and Military Affairs Committee on Thursday, and the Health Committee next Monday. No testimony will be submitted, but you can make your views known to PGM Committee Chair Sen. Will Espero at 808-586-6360 or senespero@Capitol.hawaii.gov; and Vice Chair Sen. Michelle Kidani at 586-7100 or senkidani@capitol.hawaii.gov; and Health Committee Chair Sen. Josh Green, M.D., at 808-586-9385 or sengreen@capitol.hawaii.gov and Vice Chair Sen. Clarence K. Nishihara at 808-586-6970 or sennishihara@Capitol.hawaii.gov.

All of these Senators co-introduced the bill. A simple phone call or email in support of SB 1458 will let them know you’re behind them in getting it approved.


Anonymous said...

Seems to me other countries have figured this drug situation out already, with better than postive results...


Anonymous said...

The real problem here is NIMBYs not supporting a rehabiliation center. It should be either located in an urban area with access to a nearby hospital...and away from residential neighborhoods - such as Maalo Road - not across from a long time established neighborhood in downtown Lihue.

Anonymous said...

great points regarding the reality of the status quo. mahalo for the bill update.

Anonymous said...

If we locked up all the people who took a hit off a jay or had use for a bong then all the most interesting people would be in jail.

Joan Conrow said...

Mahalo for the link, Anon. 3:15 PM. It was a very interesting and encouraging article.

Anonymous said...

If we locked up all the people who took a hit off a jay or had use for a bong then all the most interesting people would be in jail.

Is that the most interesting thing you can think of about a person? Lame.

Anonymous said...

--Is that the most interesting thing you can think of about a person? Lame.

Nah, it's just that people who have never tried marijuana tend to be boring. They don't have to keep smoking it to be interesting. In fact, people who are high all the time are kind of boring, too.

Anonymous said...

Shame, shame, such lies. Dispensaries/collectives in California are professional, clean, safe and an extremely good business plan. If I had to live back in Hawaii after knowing what I've seen in Cali, I would be PISSED OFF!