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Hawaii Considers Developing Statewide Dispensary System

Small shack in Hawaii surrounded by thick green foliage and a hand made sign for MMJ cards


Hawaii Considers Developing Statewide Dispensary System

Photo by Linka Odom

Although medical marijuana has been available to qualifying patients in Hawaii since 2000, it has taken more than a decade for state officials to seriously consider implementing regulations that would also make medical marijuana dispensaries a part of the program.

Since their medical cannabis law went into effect, Hawaiian patients haven’t had dispensaries to provide loose leaf cannabis or cannabis-infused products, although they have been given the greenlight to grow their own cannabis privately. Interestingly, it’s still illegal to purchase seeds to cultivate, creating a major conflict between patients and the law.

The Hawaii Legislative Reference Bureau recently released an updated report highlighting the policies and procedures for access, distribution and security surrounding cannabis. At a public hearing on the topic, patients voiced their frustrations at not having adequate access to their medicine. Brenda Cloutier, a fibromyalgia sufferer, shared her disappointment with the current structure and shortcomings of the current medical marijuana program.

“Hawaii … does not provide legal means for me to procure seeds, propagation materials or plants without breaking state and federal laws,” she said. “There is no other controlled pharmaceutical or herbal medication available in this state that forces the patient to break the law to obtain their medicine.”

To help alleviate the problem, a 21-member Medical Marijuana Dispensary Task Force was created by the state to craft regulations and develop an efficient plan for making cannabis more accessible to patients in need. The group includes representatives from the House and Senate, a medical professional, caregiver, current medical cannabis patients and law enforcement.

Some major concerns include island-to-island transporting of cannabis, which would be considered a federal crime despite the fact that it’s still considered within the state. Representative Della Au Belatti, head of the task force, recognizes the unique obstacles implementing a statewide dispensary system may impose.

“There are lots of gaps in the law. Hawaii has that special challenge of interstate travel,” he said.

Another public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 24 in Oahu. Following that, the task force will release updated recommendations as well as proposed legislation to be implemented in 2015.

Why do you think it’s taken 14 years for Hawaii to develop a dispensary system? Tell us your thoughts below.

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