Home Hawaii Cannabis Patients in Hawaii Agonize Over Delays in Medical Marijuana

Cannabis Patients in Hawaii Agonize Over Delays in Medical Marijuana


HONOLULU, HI – There are medical marijuana dispensaries currently open in Hawaii, but the medicinal greens remain idle on the shelves. They have remained unsold for nearly a year since dispensaries were allowed to open legally.

Aloha Green on Oahu, a medical marijuana dispensary, has been spending $100,000 on rent, payroll, and operational expenses monthly for nearly a year but has had no income. James H.Q. Lee, CEO, says the delay has been a bit frustrating but lab certification needs to be done.

To make use of their store space, Aloha Green has recently opened their doors for outreach and education. He says he is more concerned about the patients who have been following up on when they will open and finally sell medical cannabis.

The reason for the delay is that the state has not authorized any lab to run the safety tests. Hawaii legalized medical marijuana 17 years ago, but it was only in 2015 that dispensaries were allowed to legally open.

It was one of the first states to legalize the sale of medical marijuana, but now its 17,000 registered patients have no choice but to either grow their own marijuana or go to the black market. In July 2016, the law allowed medical dispensaries to open. However, none of them could sell or even grow cannabis as the software to monitor the product from growing to selling has yet to be approved.

Jari Sugano has an 8-year old daughter suffering from severe epilepsy and she badly needs medical cannabis. He is highly anticipating the opening of the dispensaries. He says patients are suffering from the delay.

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Keith Ridley of the Health Department says they are working double time to put everything in order as the timeline set by legislation was unrealistic. They are now modifying the timelines.

Becky Dansky, a Marijuana Policy Project legislative analyst, says that after passing a law, it takes a state at least 1 ½ to 2 years to open medical marijuana dispensaries. It took Minnesota 13 months to open dispensaries while Maryland still has to open a dispensary five years after the law was passed.

Being an isolated and small island state, Hawaii still has certain challenges to face. It has a small population and it is not a certainty that lab revenues will be able to cover their operational experiences.

Michael Rollins is chief administrative officer of PharmLabs. Just like the rest, his lab in Maui has been waiting for their Department of Health certification. He says there have been some changes in Hawaii’s laws that are affecting the process. Rollins added that labs needed to change their equipment when the originally approved 700 pesticides for testing were reduced to 150.

Three labs have so far applied for certification and State officials are waiting for their documents. They say they may give certification to at least one of the labs by summer.

Aloha Green expected labs to open back in May. Tai Cheng, its Chief Operating Officer, says their marijuana can still hold up for a year given a dark and cool environment. However, as time passes, the crop loses its potency.

Hawaii Rep. Della Au Bellati, who lobbied for the dispensary law, says that although he understands the public’s frustration, it takes time to build an industry that requires a lot of regulation.

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