East Hawaii News

Supreme Court to Take Up ‘Lowest Priority’ MJ Lawsuit

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The Hawaii Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to consider an appeal of a lower court’s rejection of a lawsuit over the Hawaii County ballot initiative making  personal use of marijuana the “lowest law enforcement priority.”

The lawsuit filed by eight Big Island residents accused county prosecutors, police and elected officials of not fulfilling the requirements of the law created by the 2008 iniative.

The lawsuit was rejected by Hilo Circuit Court Judge Greg Nakamura in 2011 and then appealed.

Nakamura’s ruling was sustained earlier this year by the Immediate Court of Appeals, which prompted the plaintiffs to ask the state’s highest court to consider the matter.


The Supreme Court has agreed to do so.

The notice filed Wednesday by the court said additional oral arguments on the case would not be taken.

Mike Ruggles of Fern Acres, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said he was optimistic that the Supreme Court would rule in favor of the “lowest priority” law.


The previous court rulings said that the county ordinance was unenforceable because it was preempted by state law.

Ruggles said those rulings were flawed because the county initiative process is authorized by the Hawaii County Charter. He said the Charter is in itself an extension of the Hawaii Constitution, which designates Hawaii as a “home-rule” state.

“They forgot that a county initiative in a home-rule state cannot be preempted by a state law, only by the Constitution,” he said.


The initiative, which passed by a margin of nearly 10,000 votes, established Article 16 of the Hawaii County Code. The ordinance states that all other law enforcement activities should take precedence over the personal use of marijuana by adults on private property.

In a separate matter, Ruggles filed a lawsuit today in Circuit Court accusing the Hawaii Police Department of not following legal procedures in the verification of persons’ medical marijuana certificates.

Ruggles said it was prompted in part by what he said was the recent illegal confiscation of a portion of his medical marijuana crop.

He said a similar lawsuit has been filed by four others who also had their crops seized.

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