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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Marijuana shops? Wowie, what a bad idea

As if this state wasn't swimming in a sea of troubles already, some lawmakers are seriously contemplating various strategies for loosening state curbs on marijuana use, beyond the current allowances for medical purposes.

Have none of them been paying attention to what has happened in other communities once this particular Pandora's box has been opened?

The proposal that seems to be moving fastest is Senate Bill 2213: It passed the Senate and will be heard by two House panels at 10:45 a.m. tomorrow in Room 309.

This bill would allow counties to establish "compassion centers" for the sale of marijuana "to qualifying patients and their primary caregivers." The argument is that many people who could benefit from the comfort that marijuana provides are not well enough to grow it but should be able to buy it.

There might be people with such benign motives, but where so-called "dispensaries" have been legalized, they've been overwhelmed by operators interested in only one thing.

Hint: It's not "compassion." It's all about the money.

And, judging by the language of the bill, that seems to be a motivation of the government as well. The state and counties would split the registration fee of $5,000 per dispensary and the $30 tax customers would pay per ounce of pot.

Really, we know times are hard in this state, but do we have to stoop this low?

For those who've missed it, direct your attention to the current experience in Los Angeles, just to name one troubled jurisdiction. Since the Obama administration has made pot busts a low priority given the hodgepodge of state laws, the number of dispensaries has exploded, not always in places where they're appreciated. The city's attempt to regulate this has been met with lawsuits from all the newly wealthy pot peddlers. Established drug traffickers are descending on these newly legal retail outlets.

People laugh at ludicrous claims from folks like the Colorado pot user who now says the habit is a sacrament in his Hawai'i-based church. That might be funny; the prospect of state-licensed marijuana dispensaries is not.

Police hate this measure, with good reason. The state is not in a position to be a gatekeeper of medical marijuana, and should not be in the pakalōlō business. It's a dopey, dangerous idea.