As anticipated, Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed legislation this week that called on state lawmakers to study review guidelines and practices pertaining to Hawaii’s nearly 10-year-old medicinal marijuana program.
Specifically, Senate Bill 1058 called for the formation of a legislative task force to:
(1) Examine current state statutes, state administrative rules, and all county policies and procedures relating to the medical marijuana program;
(2) Examine all issues and obstacles that qualifying patients have encountered with the medical marijuana program;
(3) Examine all issue and obstacles that state and county law enforcement agencies have encountered with the medical marijuana program;
(4) Compare and contrast Hawaii’s medical marijuana program with all other state medical marijuana programs; and
(5) Address other issues and perform any other function necessary as the task force deems appropriate, relating to the medical marijuana program.
In her veto address, Gov. Lingle alleged — implausibly — that the mere act of examining the medical marijuana laws of Hawaii and a dozen other states violates federal anti-drug laws.
“I am returning herewith, without my approval, Senate Bill No. 1058. … This bill establishes the medical cannabis task force … to review issues related to (Hawaii’s) medical marijuana program and make recommendations for any proposed legislation and rules. … The medical task force is unnecessary because it would attempt to deal with issues raised by medical marijuana users that can only be addressed by circumventing federal law.“
Keep in mind that just days earlier lawmakers in Rhode Island overwhelmingly approved legislation to allow the state to license nonprofit facilities to produce and dispense medicinal cannabis to qualified patients. (California and New Mexico have codified similar programs.) Yet in Hawaii the Governor would have you believe that just gathering feedback from patients and local law enforcement regarding the state’s nearly ten-year-old medical cannabis program somehow violates federal law. It’s an absurd position and no doubt Gov. Lingle, who vetoed a similar task force bill last year, knows it.
Of course, the true motive behind Gov Lingle’s action is to silence any sort of public or political debate surrounding America’s failed marijuana policies. She’s hardly alone.
This was the motivation behind President Barack Obama’s decision to ‘laugh off’ the issue of marijuana law reform during his online town hall this past March. Silencing free speech was also the driving force behind the actions of members of Congress who earlier this year threatened to withhold funding from the city of El Paso, Texas, if they so much as dared to hold an “honest, open national debate” regarding US drug policy. And surely this was the motivating force behind a South Dakota Judge’s decision this week to bar longtime activist Bob Newland from engaging in any public advocacy of marijuana law reform for one year. (Newland, who was leading the petition drive to place a medical marijuana initiative on the 2010 state ballot, pled guilty to one count of felony marijuana possession and will serve 45 days in jail, in addition to being stripped of his First Amendment rights.)
In California television ads were slated to begin running this week in support of Assembly Bill 390, the Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act — which seeks to legalize, tax, and regulate the retail sale of cannabis to adults in California. I say “were” because many major television outlets have refused — without comment — to air the television spots. Keep in mind, this network blackout is taking place in a state that has already established a regulated market for the distribution of medical cannabis, and whose voters solidly support legalizing the personal consumption of pot by adults.
Frustrating? Most definitely. Disillusioning? Not really.
Prohibitionists will use any means necessary to stifle honest, open debate because they know that they have no legitimate basis to defend marijuana prohibition. Their ardent refusal to even discuss the issue — and their strong arm tactics to intimidate others from discussing it as well — confirm this fact.
Nevertheless, despite their underhanded stalling tactics, the ‘national debate’ that the prohibitionists have so long feared has already taken place. Granted it did not take place in public forum; rather, and more significantly, it took place in the hearts and minds of the American voter. And we won — hands down. We know it and our opponents know it.
And so does Gov. Linda Lingle. Paul Armentano, Hawaii Reporter