Hawaiian dispensaries have been experiencing a heavy cost over the last year. While the state was one of the first to legalize medical marijuana, it was only legalized for sale in 2015. Up until that point, for the entire 17 years the plant has been legal, patients have either had to grow their own or acquire it through the black market. Hawaii has 17,000 registered medical marijuana patients who have been awaiting the day they could legally purchase the marijuana they need for their health. Technically, that day came in July 2016, when dispensaries were finally allowed to legally open, but there was one monumental problem. No testing facilities have been approved.
The Problems Arising from the Testing Facility Delay
This means that medical marijuana cultivators have been able to grow plenty of product and dispensaries have the legal license to sell but there is no one licensed to approve the product for sale. Therefore, there is no legal medical marijuana available for patients to buy. This is a devastating reality for dispensaries such as Aloha Green that are currently having to fork out approximately $100,000 a month for rent and the cost of business without any income being made. It has been equally disturbing for patients who have waited so long to have access to high quality medical marijuana for relief of their debilitating conditions.
The Beginning of Certification
In the past few weeks, the Department of Health in Hawaii began to make some forward progression towards getting labs up and running. Testing facilities such as Steep Hill Hawaii and PharmLabs Hawaii have noted that the department improved communication in the past couple of weeks and began the process of handing out certifications. The department is currently waiting on labs to submit information proving that their procedures produce accurate results. Labs are expected to submit data by the end of the week. Keith Ridley from the Department of Health seems to believe that dispensaries may be able to start selling marijuana in the summer of this year. He told Civil Beat “Certainly by the end of the year. We’re working very hard to get them open as quickly as possible.”
Learning from History
Becky Dansky, who is legislative analyst for the advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project, explained to The Cannabist that it usually takes states approximately 2 years to set up the infrastructure of their medical marijuana industry. She believes that 1 year was too short a time to estimate that the industry would be ready to start selling.
In the meantime, Aloha Green has decided to open its doors and let the public look around the dispensary, despite it being empty of sellable items. The store believes it will help to destigmatize marijuana and get people comfortable in the dispensary environment. Officials seem committed to resolving the issue as soon as possible. Until then, dispensaries are simply expected to patiently struggle to make it through, persevering any way that they can.