Push for pot policy changes

By Paul Drewes
Published On: Dec 30 2013 06:41:00 PM HST

Hawaii is one of 20 states and districts which allow medical marijuana, but one of the only ones without a dispensary for patients to buy their pot.

HONOLULU -

On Jan. 1, residents in Colorado will be legally allowed to use marijuana as a recreational drug.

Relaxing marijuana restrictions around the country have some hoping there will also be changes to Hawaii's pot policies.

Click here to watch Paul Drewes' report.

Teri Heede is one of Hawaii's 12,000 registered medical marijuana patients.

"Marijuana keeps me walking and keeps me moving," said Heede.

Heede has suffered from muscular scoliosis for more than twenty years.  One day, the debilitating condition stopped her in her tracks.

"I fell at work, and I literally could not get back up," said Heede.

After tiring of taking multiple medications and injections, Heede turned to marijuana for relief.

"I traded all my pills and needles for pot. If you had a choice, would you rather eat a cookie or take a shot?" asked Heede.

Like most other marijuana patients, Heede has to grow her own medicine. She said her seven allowed plants are sometimes not enough.

"With only seven plants you're going to have to go to the black market to buy more, because you're not to be able to grow enough on your own," stated Heede.

Hawaii is one of 20 states and districts that allow medical marijuana, but one of the only ones without a dispensary for patients to buy their pot.

"A dispensary is really a crying need. Many of the more than 10,000 patients are asking for it as their number one ask," said Pamela Lichty with the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii.

Providing marijuana to patients is one of the issues expected to be brought before the state legislature in the New Year.

While pot proponents don't expect Hawaii to become the next state to legalize recreational use of the drug, some hope it soon won't be a crime to light up.

A bill to de-criminalize marijuana use passed the State Senate last year but stalled in the State House. It will be re-introduced again, according to Lichty.

Because of all the other changes to marijuana use around the country, some Hawaii residents are now holding their breath that enough lawmakers have also changed their minds when it comes to pot.

"Public opinion is changing, demographics are changing, young people are much more open to cannabis. They don't see it as a threat like their parents or grandparents," said Lichty.

There is one change already set for Hawaii's pot program: starting in 2015, patients won't have to go through the State Narcotics Enforcement Division to obtain their medical marijuana license, they will be issued by the Department of Health . 

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