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HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii lawmakers are saying they might revive a bill to create a system of medical marijuana dispensaries.
The bill died late Friday when it failed to pass out of a key committee before a legislative deadline. But Senate President Donna Mercado Kim said Friday night that the Legislature may make an exception and revisit passing the bill out of committee.
"There's an opportunity that we may extend, only for this bill, until Monday," Kim said.
Hawaii was among the first states to legalize medical marijuana nearly 15 years ago. But the estimated 13,000 patients approved for the drug statewide have generally been left to buy it on the black market or grow it on their own.
Negotiators between the House and Senate said they could not reach agreement before a committee deadline late Friday.
Hawaii was among the first states to legalize medical marijuana, but the estimated 13,000 patients approved for the drug statewide have generally been left to buy it on the black market or grow it on their own.
"It is certainly a very unfortunate turn of events for patients," said Rafael Kennedy, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii. "Many patients are already pushed to the black market by the fact that there is no legal way for them to access their medicine."
Kennedy later said he's happy the Legislature would revisit the bill, but he wished there was a more definitive outcome.
The last sticking point remained how the state would choose to dole out dispensary licenses. Sen. Josh Green, chairman of the Senate side of the conference committee, wanted a first-come, first-served basis. Rep. Della Au Belatti had wanted to choose licensees using a merit-based approach.
Legislative negotiators who were ironing out details met throughout the day Friday, reaching agreement on differences including the number of dispensaries, who could qualify to obtain a dispensary license and which types of maladies could qualify patients for a medical marijuana card.
At the final committee meeting 45 minutes before the deadline, Belatti announced that the bill would be deferred.
"The House cannot accept the Senate's position, and I'm sorry but this bill is deferred," Belatti said.
Green had held firm on the way the licenses should be distributed, saying the House's proposal would leave open the possibility that those issuing dispensary licenses would issue them to family or friends.
"How can we play favorites?" Green said.
Kim said late Friday that lawmakers were reconsidering the latest version of the bill that had been submitted by the House, which included the merit-based approach to awarding licenses.
The legislative session ends Thursday.
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