Medical Cannabis in Hawaii

On June 14th, 2000, Hawaii became the 8th state to legalize medical marijuana in America. However, Hawaii was the first state to legalize medical cannabis via state legislature, the previous seven states had done so through voter initiatives. The new bill which legalized the cultivation and use of medical cannabis was signed into effect by Governor Benjamin Cayetano. However, the list of qualifying conditions is, unfortunately, a short one. To become a medical patient in Hawaii, you have to have Cachexia, cancer, chronic pain, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, nausea, muscle spasms, PTSD, or seizures. Once you have obtained a doctor’s recommendation for the substance, you can legally grow up to seven plants and possess up to four ounces of medical cannabis. There are approximately 13,000 medical patients currently living in the state.

For those who obtain their medical marijuana card but don’t want to or can’t grow their own cannabis, they can get someone to be their primary caregiver. Caregivers in Hawaii can only have one patient and are able to grow cannabis for said patient.

However, if you can’t find anyone to be your caregiver, aside from buying marijuana illegally there weren’t too many other options until recently. While the medical bill signed into effect by Governor Cayetano legalized cannabis, it did not set up guidelines for dispensaries to open.

Fifteen years later in the summer of 2015 House Bill 321 was signed into effect by Governor David Ige. The new bill outlined laws for finally opening dispensaries in the state of Hawaii. “I support the establishment of dispensaries to ensure that qualified patients can legally and safely access medical marijuana,” Gov. Ige stated shortly after signing the bill. The new law would allow 16 dispensaries to be opened across the state by mid-July 2016. Eight separate licenses were to be issued, with each license allowing for two grow facilities and two dispensaries. These licenses would only be issues on certain islands, three going to Oahu, two for the Big Island, two on Maui, and one for Kauai. There is currently no legislature which will allow dispensaries to open on Molokai or Lanai.

The applications to obtain a license start at a pricey $5000, an additional $75,000 upon approval, and an annual $50,000 renewal fee. In April 2016, the department of health (DOH) issued the eight licenses. However, currently, the DOH has only approved four dispensaries to start growing medical cannabis. In addition to this, dispensaries are still waiting for the DOH to certify testing labs. Three separate labs have submitted applications to the DOH. Once approved said labs will test THC and CBD levels as well as test for contaminants and pesticide levels.

There have been numerous delays since the new dispensary law was passed in 2015, and nearly two years later some patients are starting to get frustrated. One such delay was due to BioTrackTHC, a software company that would provide the DOH with real-time data regarding inventory, sales, and waste disposal of various in state dispensaries. The company would essentially provide seed to sale information to the DOH in an effort to minimize medical cannabis ending up in the wrong hands. While it is an excellent idea, the contract took almost a year to negotiate with the DOH. Kieth Ridley, Chief of the DOH stated that negotiations with BioTrackTHC lasted longer than anticipated due to disagreement on pricing.

While dispensaries don’t look like they will be opening in Hawaii anytime soon, all we can do is hope these delays get resolved sooner rather than later.



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