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Hawaii Senate Votes To Tax Pot $30/Ounce, Allow Dispensaries

By Steve Elliott

Medical marijuana would be taxed $30 an ounce and sold at county-licensed "compassion centers" that would grow and sell marijuana to qualified patients and caregivers under a bill passed Tuesday by the Hawaii State Senate.

The bill to allow the sale and taxation of medical marijuana, Senate Bill 2213, was passed by lawmakers as they try to add up enough money to stop the state's projected $1.2 billion budget shortfall, reports Richard Borreca at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

The marijuana bill, after provoking debate on the Senate floor, eventually passed 20-4.

"I don't think this is helping to alleviate the drug problem," said Sen. Norman Sakamoto (D-Salt Lake/Foster Village), who had evidently wandered into the wrong debate.

Windward Oahu Republican Sen. Fed Hemmings said the FDA should test medical marijuana before people sell it.

Gary Hooser (D-Kauai/Nilhau) defended the bill, calling the arguments against it "offensive to many in our community whose only relief from cancer or HIV is through the use of marijuana."

"These votes show that Hawaii's Senate supports sensible marijuana policies that will serve the best interests of state citizens," said Eric M. McDaniel, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project.

"Hawaii's most vulnerable citizens deserve safe and reliable access to their medicine, and no Hawaiian deserves to go to jail simply for using a substance that is safer than alcohol," McDaniel said. "If House members agree, I would strongly encourage them to pass these measures as well."

The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, headed by Pamela Lichty and Jeanne Ohta, and the Peaceful Sky Alliance, headed by Matt Rifkin, played crucial roles in getting these measures through the Senate, according to MPP.

The bill, with its special $30-an-ounce tax, now goes to the House for further consideration.