We’re very proud to announce that we have a new member of the team! Wendy Gibson, a long-standing patient advocate has come on board as our new field organizer. Here’s what she has to say:
I’m Wendy Gibson, a nurse, and medical marijuana (cannabis) patient advocate. I’m pleased to announce that I will be serving as The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii’s new Field Organizer.
It’s great to be joining them at such an exciting (and hopeful) time in our drug reform history. I appreciate the DPFHI’s successes in reforming Hawaii’s Medical Marijuana (cannabis) Program and promoting harm reduction policies.
In my 21 years of living on Oahu, the transfer of the Medical Marijuana program to the Department of Health is one of the biggest successes, one that I advocated for. I know this will help thousands of patients. And, knowing the need for a dispensary system, I’m hopeful that the Dispensary Task Force will help us establish one.
I have worked in the health care field for over 30 years, 21 of those here in Hawaii. I promoted using pharmaceutical drugs to patients for 9 years working as a pharmacy clerk and for 4 years as an R.N. I hope to work for just as many years helping promote the use of alternative medications, such as cannabis which is showing promise as a safer and sometimes more effective treatment than many of the current pharmaceuticals.
I envision a future in which science and education prevail, so that people are no longer fearfully rejecting the use of these alternative (and formerly illegal) substances as medicine.
I’m looking forward to working with fellow advocates for harm reduction and health promotion.
Read the full story here.
In Pennsylvania, the press has taken to the idea that the Gubernatorial race will likely determine whether or not the state adopts legislation that will allow for Medical Marijuana.
Even if the state legislator is supportive of medical marijuana, and in Pennsylvania, they seem to be, the office of the governor will eventually need to either sign or veto any legislation. Media outlets such as the Daily Pennsylvanian, therefore see the governor’s race as the deciding factor in medical marijuana.
We in Hawaii need to look at their example and begin to compare the various candidates that we will be choosing between with regard to their potential impact on the medical marijuana laws here in Hawaii. We have been working with the Dispensary Task Force to develop a law that will allow for dispensaries in the state of Hawaii. Even if we are able to get this dispensary bill through the state legislature, we will then need to get it signed by the governor. Please, let’s all learn as much as possible about the gubernatorial candidates, and what they would do if a dispensary bill were to land on their desks.
Watch the coverage on KITV, or read the article at the Star Advertiser.
The second and final public input session was held at the State Capitol on Wednesday the 24th of September. Turn-out was relatively limited compared with the number that showed up for the Public Input Hearing in Hilo earlier in the month. Still, the audience for the most part was very supportive of dispensaries, and expressed frustration with the slow pace of reform in Hawai’i.
Some speakers argued for a more permissive dispensary system, and others argued for more restrictions on who could open dispensaries and where they could be located, and about safety concerns. Still the overwhelming consensus seems to be that dispensaries are needed, and soon. A hearty mahalo to those supporters of a patient centered dispensary system that were able to voice their opinions at the event!
We recently attended a screening of the relatively supportive documentary WEED, by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. It cites, and spends a great deal of time repeating the often cited statistic that 9% of marijuana users become addicted to marijuana. Likewise, today’s paper includes an Op-Ed by Kevin Sabet of the prohibitionist group Project SAM that repeats this dubious claim. If you hear that figure and think that it sounds high, you’re right. Here’s an excellent piece by doctor Sunil Aggarwal explaining the faulty science behind it.
The truth is that this study was done in 1994 by the anti-drug government body NIDA, and involved asking self reported “cannabis users” a series of questions like “do you often spend a long time on activities necessary to get the substance, taking the substance, or recovering from its effects?” If people answered yes, they were coded as cannabis dependent, whether or not they considered themselves dependent on cannabis. Even more importantly, people who infrequently used marijuana would be much less likely to identify themselves as cannabis users, especially in the early 90’s when it was much more strongly stigmatized than it seems to be today. Let’s get rid of this particular piece of “data” when we talk about marijuana.
You may know that the dispensary task force has recently done a public hearing in Hilo, on the Big Island. This was a forum for people to give their input on what they need in a dispensary system. If you want to watch it, it is available here:
The Dispensary Task Force had its September meeting (there will still be two Public Input Hearings later in September) and it has been getting a lot of media attention.
Here’s a smattering of it, in no particular order:
This piece on KHON2, this piece from the Hawaii Independent, this excellent story from Chad Blair on Civil Beat, and this front page story from the Star Advertiser.
There were also stories on the Hawaii Public Radio, and on KITV and Hawaii News Now:
These stories don’t get it all right. One major source of confusion was about the report. The Legislative Reference Bureau (a group that does research for the state government) presented a report to the task force at the September meeting, but some news outlets seemed to think that this was instead the report that the Task Force is working on.
Other media outlets got confused about the types of hearings. There are two “public input hearings” in September on the 10th and 24th in addition to the regularly scheduled Task Force meeting on Sept. 9th.
Still, despite these oversights one thing stood out about all of these reports: they approached the topic with compassion and support. Maybe the tide is turning on dispensaries, especially as more and more news outlets start carrying this story: at the end of the day, dispensaries are about compassion for the sick. I’m glad that message is starting to come through.
The Legislative Reference Bureau has just released a new report entitled “Is the Grass Always Greener” that outlines features of Medical Marijuana programs in other states and how we can adapt them to Hawaii. This report will be one of the things that the Dispensary Task Force will consider when it makes its recommendation about dispensaries in Hawaii.
This report has been getting a certain amount of attention. Here’s what Chad Blair of Civil beat has to say about it.
Here’s what Henry Curtis of Ililani Media had to say.
Hawaii News Now also ran a piece about the report, emphasizing the fact that even 14 years later, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about the program and still no dispensary system in Hawaii. It is past time for us to put patients first.
Anyone who has the time, and I recognize that it can take a while, should give the report a read, and let us know what you take away from it.
As you may know, we recently had to postpone an upcoming talk story event. I asked patients to write me an email if they felt like sharing their stories electronically. Here is one:
I am 75 yrs old. My knees were very bad. I was using a cane and I was considering a walker. I started using marijuana oil on my knees. I applied the oil and wrapped my knees in plastic for about 2-3 hours. First it was daily, then every other day, then twice a week then once a week then twice a month then once a month. Now I don’t have to do it at all. I walk normally AND I can climb up and down stairs with out a problem.
Two months ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. While I was waiting for my surgery, I used marijuana leaves and buds in a fruit smoothie every day for three weeks.
My tumor was 7mm at diagnosis and was 5mm when removed. I wish that I could have taken it for the whole time to see if it would have shrunk even more.
The problem I have is that I live on my meager Social Security. Because of the current legal status, the cost of the license and the cost of the product are a real burden. I do not smoke it.
I do not use it to get “high”. I use it to get well.
If you would like to share your story, contact us.
Harm Reduction 2014: The Tipping Point November 7, 2014
Registration for this excellent conference put together by our friends at CHOW project is now open! We’ll be putting together a breakout session on marijuana. It should be an exciting and informative day!
Click here to register or learn more.
8:00 – 4:30 Friday, November 7th 2014
Honolulu Community College
Harm Reduction is a philosophy and set of strategies for working with people engaged in potentially harmful behaviors. The main objective is to reduce the potential dangers and health risks associated with such behaviors, even for those who are not willing or able to completely stop. Harm reduction uses a non-judgmental, holistic and individualized approach to support incremental change & increase the health and well-being of individuals and communities.
The Tipping Point
The tipping point is the time when many small changes become significant enough to create larger, more important changes. Many in Hawaii and across the country feel we are at the tipping point in our response to drug use, drug users and recovery. A collaboration of service providers, community organizations, and concerned citizens will convene for a one-day interactive conference to discuss ways of developing more holistic and culturally appropriate evidence-based interventions in the context of harm reduction practice.
Conference Topics Include:
- Housing first, homelessness & drug use
- Harm reduction and recovery
- Trauma informed care
- Youth and drug use
- Marijuana and medicinal cannabis
- Drugs and sex work
- Prescription drugs and overdose
- Self-care for harm reduction workers
- Kupuna and drug use
- Overview of harm reduction
Conference Partners Include:
AIDS Education Project * AIDS Community Care Team * Community Alliance on Prisons * Drug Policy Forum of Hawai’i * Gay Straight Alliance Hawai’i * Gregory House Programs * Hale Kipa *Harm Reduction Hawai’i * Hawai’i Appleseed * Hawai’i Department of Health’s Injury Prevention and Control Section * Hawai’i Department of Health’s STD/AIDS Prevention Branch * Hawai’i Island HIV/AIDS Foundation * Hawai’i Pacific University’s School of Social Work * Hawai’i Public Health Association * Hawai’i Youth Coalition * Hawai’i Youth Services Network * Hep Free Hawai’i * Hepatitis Support Network of Hawai’i * Hina Mauka * Kawai Foundation * Life Foundation* Mālama Pono * Maui AIDS Foundation * Mental Health America of Hawai’i * Planned Parenthood of Hawai’i * University of Hawai’i at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry * University of Hawai’i at Mānoa School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene *Waikiki Health Care-A-Van Program
Jari Sugano is a familiar face in the Hawaii State Capitol. She is the mother of a five year old girl with Dravet’s syndrome, a type of severe epilepsy. You may already know her story, but if you don’t, check out this interview she gave to the solar guy Jeff Davis.