HONOLULU, Hawaii (July 23, 2015) – Medical marijuana dispensaries will open in Hawaii in 2016, representing another step toward nullifying the federal ban on cannabis in practice in the Aloha State.

On July 14, Gov. David I. Ige signed HB321 into law. The bill sets up the framework for operating retail medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii. Under the new law, the Hawaii Department of Health must establish administrative rules and application procedures by Jan. 1, 2016. The state will issue eight licenses in April 2016, with the doors of up to 16 dispensaries opening in July of that same year. The law also allows for 16 medical marijuana production centers.

By allowing dispensaries, Hawaii has further rooted cannabis in the state and took another big step toward nullifying federal marijuana prohibition in effect.

The federal government prohibits marijuana for any purpose, even for treating patients suffering from painful medical conditions. Of course, the feds lack any constitutional authority to prohibit or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Many people find it abhorrent that the federal government denies Americans suffering from debilitating pain a treatment that offers them relief. When states back the federal ban, these patients face an agonizing choice: risk jail or suffer in silence. But 23 states have said, “No!” to federal prohibition, and “Yes!” to patients who benefit from marijuana.

Hawaii legalized marijuana for medical use back in the year 2000, but up until now, patients have had to grow their own. Under the new law, Hawaii’s 13,000 registered users of medicinal cannabis will have the option of going to a dispensary and purchasing what they need. This not only means greater convenience for patients, it will also provide economic benefits to the state. According to a Hawaii marijuana business attorney quoted in Pacific Business News, “each license could generate 70 to 100 jobs, for dispensaries, cultivation centers, production and extraction centers, security personnel, and management.” The state will also reap the benefit of license fees and tax revenues.

While the feds can still try to enforce their ban in Hawaii, arresting a cancer patient simply trying to find relief from pain doesn’t make for very good PR. More importantly, the number of states legalizing marijuana for both medical use, and for the general public, has made it increasingly difficult for the DEA to enforce prohibition. The federal government simply lacks the resources to impose its will on more than half the country.

Statistics from Americans for Safe Access (ASA) suggest that costs-per-raid and costs-per-investigation far exceed the yearly DEA budget. Figures indicate It would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.

The feds need state cooperation to enforce prohibition.

That has rapidly evaporated through the actions of states like Hawaii, nullifying in practice the federal ban.

Mike Maharrey

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