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Laboratories, Derivative Products Top Agenda for Medical Cannabis Oversight Meeting

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The who’s who of Hawai?i’s medical cannabis dispensary program will be meeting today. The Medical Cannabis Working Group has been meeting every month for the past year. This will be the first meeting since dispensaries have opened. HPR’s Ku’uwehi Hiraishi has this story.

The roll out of Hawai’i’s medical cannabis dispensary program was anything but smooth. Carl Bergquist is the Executive Director of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai’i.

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Credit Hawaii Dispensary Alliance
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Hawaii Dispensary Alliance
First meeting of the Medical Cannabis Legislative Oversight Working Group in October 2016.

“What we’re seeing is a high demand and issues in the supply line,” says Bergquist, “One or two of the dispensaries say there is plenty of supply; there’s just been some bottlenecks.”

Bergquist is one of the stakeholders being brought to the table in today’s convening of the Medical Cannabis Legislative Oversight Working Group. Maui Senator Roz Baker co-chairs the Working Group, and predicts a lot of frustration in today’s discussion.

“The biggest frustration with the licensees is that the Department (of Health) has only certified one lab,” says Sen. Baker, “So the guys from Maui, even though we have a lab that is going through the certification process on Maui. They’ve had to send their product over here.”

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Credit Maui Grown Therapies
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Maui Grown Therapies
Maui Grown Therapies was the first dispensary to open in Hawaii.

Maui Grown Therapy was the first dispensary to open for business a little over two weeks ago. Terry Gorman heads up community relations and patient affairs for the Maui dispensary.

“The overwhelming issue is the inability to sell the derivative products,” says Gorman, “We had invested a lot of time and effort into producing oils, tinctures, concentrates, capsules, and creams, you know? Things like that”

Steep Hill, the only certified laboratory, is not certified to test products other than dried cannabis flower, which means dispensaries cannot currently sell products other than weed.

“Our patients, they literally call us every day, asking are they in yet? Are they in yet?” says Gorman.

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Credit Maui Grown Therapies
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Maui Grown Therapies
The Euphoria Strain is one of 10 strains sold at Maui Grown Therapies. Prices are currently $19 - $24 per gram.

Let’s not forget the patients waiting for the other six licensees to open up. Bergquist hopes the Working Group will come up with interim solutions until the dispensaries are ready.

“Again we would advocate that we start to loosen up that restriction of traveling with the medicine,” says Bergquist.

Bergquist says many of these supply issues have been discussed but are only now materializing since the roll out. Add to that the likely increase in demand.

“The interest was predicted to increase once dispensaries open so I’m curious to see what’s happening on that front?” says Bergquist, “And then again what are we seeing in terms of number of licenses and dispensaries that might open up in the future?”

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Credit Hawaii Dispensary Alliance
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Hawaii Dispensary Alliance
The Working Group meets monthly with the ultimate goal of coming up with recommendations to the Legislature for the upcoming 2018 session.

The Working Group meets once a month, and receives updates from the State Department of Health, dispensaries, and subcommittees. The ultimate goal is to provide the legislature with findings and recommendations on the medical cannabis dispensary program.

“It really helps us to better inform what the Department of Health may be looking at as well as anything that we find that may be necessary for the 2018 legislature to take up,” says Sen. Baker.

The Working Group meeting is open to the public beginning at 2:00 p.m. at the State Capitol, Conference Room 309.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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