The Hawaii Department of Health is preparing to make a slew of modifications to expand The Aloha State’s medical marijuana program.
This week, Hawaii’s Department of Health announced that it would be expanding avenues of access to the state’s medical marijuana program. Some of the biggest moves include creating a mechanism for out-of-state medical marijuana patients to access Hawaiian dispensaries, allowing doctors to give patients certifications that last three years instead of one under special circumstances and allowing vape pens to hit the shelves.
“As we implement these amendments, our foremost objective is to provide equitable access to medical cannabis for qualifying patients without compromising patient and product safety as well as public safety,” Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson said in a statement.“These new laws benefit both Hawai’i patients as well as those from other states who are visiting our islands.”
However, it won’t be easy for medical marijuana patients from other states to visit Hawaii’s dispensaries. Under the proposed rules, patients registered in another state for the medical use of cannabis for a qualifying health condition also legally permitted in Hawaii will have the opportunity to get approved on a temporary basis by the state’s Department of Health. Visitors will pay about $50 to apply online. The health department will review the applications and may issue Hawaii registration cards to these out-of-state qualifying patients. These cards will be good for a 60-day period to access dispensaries. Anyone who qualifies for the program will have the opportunity to extend their temporary license for another 60 days during the calendar year.
According to Hawaii News Now, health officials expect about 5,000 visitors will get the cards in the first year, with the potential for up to 30,000 to obtain them annually.
“The amendment was based on a finding that SPA devices allow more precise dosage administration and can be more effective for certain patients,” the statement read.
The new cartridges hitting Hawaii’s cannabis market are not allowed to contain nicotine, tobacco-related products or any other non-cannabis-derived products, such as synthetic terpenes.
Testing protocols will also see some changes under the new law. Currently, all medical cannabis and products sold at Hawaiian dispensaries must first be tested for safety by a laboratory. With the new changes, dispensaries will have the option to retest the same sample or a different sample from the same batch at the same laboratory or a different laboratory, if a sample batch does not meet state’s patient safety standards. If the second test comes back with different results from the first one, it will be up to the Department of Health to determine whether the batch should be approved for sale or if further testing is required.
Other recently announced amendments to Hawaii’s medical marijuana program will simply make life easier for everyone. For example, a video conference between a doctor and a patient will now be considered as “bona fide” after an initial in-person office visit, which means that patients can teleconference with their doctors to keep their medical marijuana certificates up to date remotely for three years. Also, one or both parents or guardians are now allowed to register as caregivers for one or more qualifying minor patients. This also applies to the patents of minors visiting the state.
Finally, Hawaii’s Department of Health says that they will establish a working group, starting in August, that will look at many of the issues currently facing Hawaiian cannabis patients. One of the things that will be covered is drug testing, and the employment issues that state-qualified patients might face. The working group also plans to cover what type of regulations will be needed around various edible products, especially those with a design likely to appeal to children. The working group will issue its final report in January 2019.
Currently, six dispensaries are open in Hawaii, with two more expected to open early in 2019.