Hawaii Regulates Sale of Medical Marijuana

     HONOLULU (CN) – Medical marijuana will be sold in Hawaii, perhaps in a year, after Gov. David Ige quietly signed a bill outlining a licensing system for dispensaries.
     Ige had supported the bill, but did not hold a bill-signing ceremony. He had until midnight Tuesday to sign or veto this year’s bills. His office announced Wednesday that he had signed it.
     “I support the establishment of dispensaries to ensure that qualified patients can legally and safely access medical marijuana,” Ige said in a statement.
     It’s uncertain when dispensaries will open for business, as the Department of Health needs to institute the licensing process. Act 241 wants a “selection process and criteria” for licensees set up by Jan. 4, 2016, selection of licensees by April 15, and dispensaries open for business by July 15, 2016.
     Ige said the six-month deadline for the Department of Health to write final rules and regulations was too aggressive. “There are some concerns about adequacy of funds provided and the aggressive timeline,” he said.
     But the governor added “We will make a good faith effort to create a fair process that will help the people most in need,” and would seek “rules that are fair, cost effective and easy to monitor.”
     Advocates lauded the bill, saying 88 percent of Hawaii voters support legal access for registered patients.
     “Imagine being diagnosed with a debilitating disease, then being told that one of the medicines recommended by your doctor is only available if you grow it, or buy it – untested, uncertified – on the underground market. It sounds absurd, yet without legal dispensaries this has been daily life for 13,000+ registered patients in Hawaii’s medical marijuana program,” said Carl Bergquist, executive director for the Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii and the Drug Policy Action Group.
     “Act 241 is the single greatest leap forward for Hawaii’s medical marijuana program since its inception in 2000 – and better fulfills the original, compassionate intent of the program,” Bergquist said.
     House Bill 321, codified as Act 241, establishes a regulated statewide dispensary system for the state’s qualifying patients who “lack the ability to grow their own supply of medical marijuana” due to “a number of factors, including disability and limited space.”
     In 2000 the state recognized “the beneficial use of marijuana in treating or alleviating pain or other symptoms associated with certain debilitating illnesses” and legalized medical marijuana through Act 28.
     Act 241 defines a medical marijuana dispensary as “a person licensed by the state” to “own, operate, or subcontract up to two production centers and up to two retail dispensing locations.”
     A medical marijuana production center is “a farm or facility wholly owned, operated or subcontracted by a person licensed by the state” solely for the purpose of supplying “marijuana and manufactured products to one or more of the retail dispensing locations of the licensed medical marijuana dispensary.”
     The Department of Health can issue eight dispensary licenses statewide. Three are to be in the city and county of Honolulu, two licenses each in Maui and Hawaii and one license for the county of Kauai and the county of Kalawao.
     Each production center is limited to 3,000 marijuana plants.
     Production centers and dispensaries must comply with county zoning ordinances, rules and regulations, and “no medical marijuana production center or dispensary shall be permitted within 750 feet of the real property comprising a playground, public housing project or complex, or school.”

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