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Hawaii OKs Med MJ

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Hawaii OK's Marijuana as Medicine

.c The Associated Press

By BEN DiPIETRO

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii's governor signed a bill Wednesday approving the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Hawaii became the first state to decriminalize the use of medical marijuana through the Legislature. Alaska, Washington, California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Maine and the District of Columbia have done so through ballot measures.

Gov. Ben Cayetano said the new law was one aspect of his effort to make Hawaii the health care center of the Pacific.

``I'm glad to see this bill before me,'' he said. ``My own feeling is more states are going to come on.''

It is against federal law for doctors to prescribe the drug, and the Justice Department is challenging the state laws that let doctors recommend marijuana to patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma and other conditions.

Under Hawaii's law, patients with certain qualifying illnesses must obtain a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana and must register with the state Department of Public Safety to avoid criminal prosecution.

The department first must come up with rules to govern the registration process, and Donald Topping of the advocacy group Drug Policy Forum estimated that could take up to two months.

``It will allow patients who have been using marijuana to do so without fear or prosecution,'' Topping said. ``There are a number of people who would like to use it but have hesitated because of the illegality of it.''

Between 500 and 1,000 people in Hawaii will be eligible to use medical marijuana, although the exact number is hard to discern because some people keep quiet about their use, Topping said.

On the Net: Hawaii Legislature: Hawaii State Legislature

Marijuana Policy Project: Marijuana Policy Project | We Change Laws

Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii: Drug Policy Forum of Wisconsin Home Page