The state of Hawaii has had medical marijuana laws on the books for some 15 years now, but just recently did the legislature and Governor see fit to allow a dispensary system to be implemented. That system is on track with the state taking applications for licenses last month.
The law calls for eight licenses to be awarded to companies in the state. The licenses must be issued by April 15 and the dispensaries could be open as early as this summer. Since eight licenses are not likely to be enough in the future, the law allows for more to be added starting in 2017.
The severe restrictions come in when you delve into what individual dispensaries are allowed — and not allowed — to do. Not only is advertising strictly limited, but dispensaries are not allowed to sell rolling papers, edibles, vape pens, joints or any other paraphernalia that is deemed not to be for strictly medical use. Of course edibles and vape pens are perfect for many patients, but that’s what you get with severe regulations: nonsense laws that hurt the very people the laws are supposed to be helping.
Other restrictions have been put in place regarding branding, growing, zoning and licensing. Each license allows the holder to operate two production facilities and two dispensaries, making for a total of 16 of each, but the production centers and dispensaries must be in different locations.
It seems like a lot of restrictions for something as relatively harmless as cannabis, but the stigma that surrounds the plant is still very apparent. Putting it behind a counter or in a case in a store and only selling it to adults — or risk losing your license to sell — should be enough. But because of some perceived “danger,” cannabis is regulated more like nuclear waste than alcohol.
As I’m fond of saying, one day it won’t be like this and cannabis users will be free. But it’s up to us to make that happen.