One year ago this month, Hawaii's medical marijuana law permitted dispensaries in the state to begin selling medical cannabis to registered patients. But even though many of these dispensaries are stocked with product and ready to do business, the state Health Department has prevented them from opening their doors until three cannabis testing labs are approved.
The initial July 2016 rollout of medical cannabis had already been delayed by the Health Department in order to approve a statewide seed-to-sale tracking system. Earlier this year, the contract was granted to BioTrackTHC, but dispensaries were put on hold again so that the department could implement a testing system for the cannabis that will be sold.
The Department of Health is now working to approve three different testing labs in the state: PharmLabs Hawaii, Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii, and Steep Hill Labs. Officials are hoping to complete the approval process this summer, and once these facilities are all approved, the dispensaries' cannabis products must all be tested for purity, safety, and potency before it can finally be sold to patients.
In the meantime, three of the state's licensed dispensaries already have product ready to sell, and six businesses have received licenses to cultivate cannabis crops. “Everyone’s trying their best and working their hardest to build this industry, including the Department of Health. However, it has been a year, and it has been financially extremely taxing,” said Helen Cho, director of integrated strategy for Aloha Green Holdings Inc., one of the dispensaries that is ready to open.
“If the delays continue for much longer, this industry may not have a fair chance of flourishing. If this goes on for a few more months, the financial hole that we’re in may be too deep for us to recover from.”
State officials have stated that it was impossible for them to stick to the timeline outlined in the state's medical marijuana law. “The dates that were in the legislation were unrealistic,” the Health Department's Keith Ridley said. “I think we need to reset our timeframes.”