Mike Ruggles was ready for court before he was arrested. He was continually denied a speedy trial. After four years, neither law enforcement or prosecutors were prepared. As you might imagine, the courts are busy. With ten percent of our island population (some say more) consuming Cannabis it must be tough to arrest everyone. Over 5,000 traffic cases generated in and around Pu’u Huluhulu adds to the courts burden. After 8 attorneys failed to bring Mike’s case to court under an affirmative defense for medical Cannabis, Attorney Stanton Oshiro rose to the challenge. Stanton will not take most Cannabis-related cases. “But if you’re sincere, and Mike is it’s hard to say no.” So Mr. Oshiro like so many other lawyers are getting medical Cannabis educations hasta pronto. The jury and Mr. Oshiro are heros.
Medical patients in Hawaii that require Cannabis must follow dozens of laws, hundreds of rules and conflicting web pages of details as required by a few people in the department of health and governor’s office. If any rule is broken an affirmative defense is not allowed. Meaning, if you have rolling papers a judge may not allow you to tell a jury that you are a licensed patient with Cannabis purchased from any dispensary. Literally, you could walk into a dispensary today, purchase Cannabis and get busted pulling out of the parking lot.
Why? Because rolling papers are paraphernalia and still illegal in Hawaii. Police tell us they are not interested in busting people for rolling papers. But any officer will tell you the easiest way to search you and your car without a warrant is to have something illegal in plain sight. The creation of suspicion that allows police officers to do what some call, “warrantless vehicle searches.” Pill container in sight during a traffic stop? What else do you have or your passengers have in your car?
If your Cannabis is not stored properly for your ride home you would then lose your affirmative defense. This is “marijuana prohibition and you’re paying for it as taxpayers.”
The affirmative defense aspect of the medical Cannabis “program” was troubling to Stanton Oshiro as it has been for many lawmakers since the year 2000. That’s why they changed the law in 2015. Law enforcement and prosecutors misread the law intended to help patients acquire medicine. Lawmakers like Russell Ruderman and Joy San Buenaventura try to ease the suffering for patients. Yet courts have continually denied patients an affirmative defense.
In fact, Mike Ruggles case is the first of its kind where a jury decided his innocence. When faced with jail time vs a year probation most patients accept a plea bargain with the courts. Then they fail a drug screening over the course of their year of probation and they’re back into the court system. At this point the patient loses their medical license.
When arrestees lose their ability to tell a jury that they had a medical license for Cannabis justice is not served. In fact, hurting patients with court dates, fines, jail, community service and anything besides compassion is not what Hawaii, the state of Aloha was promised to be.