HONOLULU — The group tasked with developing and recommending legislation to improve the medical marijuana system to ensure safe and legal access to qualifying patients is scheduled to have its first meeting in Honolulu on Wednesday.
The Act 230 Medical Marijuana Legislative Oversight Working Group will be spending the bulk of its initial meetings getting updates about the current patient registry program as well as the dispensary licensing program, said Rep. Della Au Belatti, D-24, the working group chair.
“We are also hoping to have presentations done by licensees, so we can get a better understanding of where they are in the process and to get an understanding of some of the obstacles and issues that might be arising from the rollout of the dispensary program,” she said.
With over 14,500 patients statewide, the 12-month forecast for the medical marijuana dispensary system may see $12 million to $38 million in annual revenue for the state, according to a report from the Hawaii Dispensary Alliance report.
Additionally, Kauai may see between $1.5 million to $4.5 million of revenue generated from Green Aloha Limited, its sole medical marijuana dispensary, based upon the island’s 1,723 registered medical marijuana patients, during the company’s first 12 months of operation.
Justin Britt, Green Aloha Limited CEO, did not respond to inquiries from TGI on Friday.
Michael Contrades, Kauai Police Department deputy chief, will be one of 20 Hawaii stakeholders on the working group, Belatti said.
“In anticipation of having medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii, the Kauai Police Department has received training and education from law enforcement agencies and other criminal justice partners that have experience with medical marijuana,” Contrades said. “As a member of the Oversight Group I hope to help develop a system that ensures that those who need medical marijuana have access to a safe product, while encouraging public safety and security for the entire community.”
Representatives from the University of Hawaii, Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii and Department of Transportation will also be part of the working group, Bellatii said.
“Because of the composition of the working group, we’re going to have folks with a lot of different perspectives on the program — we’re going to have patients, we’re going to have caregivers, we’re going to have people from all the different agencies,” she said.
As of Friday, the names of all the members have not been finalized, Bellatti said.
Theresa Koki, Life Choices Kauai coordinator, hopes the working group “is going to make sure the dispensaries are secured facilities.”
“I’d like to see their continuous work for the people of Kauai — the sick people and the people that are worried about it,” Koki said. “I don’t want to keep anybody who’s sick from their medicine, but I believe there are other properties that can be extracted from the plant that you don’t necessarily have to smoke. I’m want them to be strict.”
Belatti, who supports medical marijuana, said the working group will address issues and concerns emerging from the community.
“In addition to just being eager to know when the first licensee may be able to start production and how that is going to impact product, we have people who are concerned about things like edibles, reciprocity, with other patients from other states,” she said. “We want to continually look at the experiences of the other states that have medical marijuana programs and how they are best facilitating their programs.”
Koki expressed concerns about the medical marijuana permitting process and edibles.
“I really hope that … the marijuana clinics that are going to be dispensing (medical marijuana) will make sure for its original intention,” she said. “To me, the permitting has gotten out of hand. Anybody can fake chronic pain. We advocated for no edibles in Hawaii. That’s a big misuse with kids in the Mainland. Marijuana doesn’t belong in a kid’s candy.”
She also said hopes the working group will continue “to work with all levels of government, non-profits and for profits dispensaries to come to an agreement to how (dispensaries) operate wherever they are.”