Hawaii Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bill Advances

Hawaii Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bill Advances

Medical marijuana dispensaries could be coming soon to the Aloha State. A bill that would allow 10 “compassion centers” on Oahu and another 12 scattered across the state’s other islands, sailed through a key Senate committee with only one “no” vote last Thursday. It now moves to the Senate floor, where it is expected to pass.

The bill, SB 1458, would create three classes of medical marijuana licenses: Class 1 for compassion centers where marijuana is sold to patients, Class 2 for medical marijuana cultivators, and Class 3 for providers of medical marijuana edibles, or “medical marijuana-infused items,” as the bill puts it.

The bill also sets the number of plants allowed patients at seven and increases the amount of marijuana they can possess from one ounce to two ounces. Patients or their primary caregivers could continue to grow their own, or they could register to sell with a licensed dispensary. Licensed growers would sell only to licensed dispensaries or licensed edibles manufacturers.

The businesses could be either for-profit or non-for-profit. Licensees would pay fees, be subject to heavy regulations, and would have pay a special marijuana sales tax.

Hawaii became the first step to legalize medical marijuana through the legislative process in 2000, but that law contained no provisions for medical marijuana sales. Last year, a Medical Marijuana Working Group convened by the legislature, despite Gov. Linda Lingle (R) refusing to fund it, issued a report in February 2010 calling the lack of a distribution system the biggest problem with the state’s system. Now, the legislature is on the way to dealing with it.