On June 22nd governor David Ige signed into law HB 1488 (Act 41) giving patients a new limit on their grows. On June 29th, medical cannabis patients and caregivers can have up to ten plants of any size and maturity, up from the previous limit of seven. However, the definition of a plant is still different for patients and dispensaries. For a dispensary the definition of a plant is any plant over 12 inches high or wide. A dispensary can crack an infinite number of seeds selecting only the very best specimens, killing the rest. Patients will lose legal protections if they have 1 sprout to many.
With Act 41, the MMJ program adds rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, epilepsy, PTSD, and multiple sclerosis to the list of qualifying conditions. Also it allows patients to have their medicine tested at certified laboratories with restrictions. Only a dispensary’s agent can travel inter-island to have samples tested. Patients can only test their medicine on-island leaving patients in Maui, Kauai and the Big Island out in the cold where there are no current certified labs. For those in Oahu, patients must meet a strict regimen to comply with the law including having the date and time and transport of said test reported including verification by the testing facility of the appointment to transport.
When asked how Act 41 will be for his lab, Dana Ciccone of Steep Hill said “Its really about patients knowing what is in their medicine, it’s been a long wait.” After 17 years, patients will now find out exactly what’s in their weed. Caregivers will now be under greater scrutiny that their services are providing safe, clean medicine. “I think caregivers will serve their patients better having it (their meds) tested on a regular basis” said Dana.
Caregivers will be allowed to grow for their patients for another 5 years according to Act 41, something highly needed in the medical cannabis community. Many patients cannot afford the expected $20 per gram for dispensary meds. Even at bulk prices, a patient could spend $1,600 a month for meds (@$400 p/oz) Caregivers can receive compensation for their efforts and costs, not the cannabis itself (that would be illegal). The caregiver program is highly valued by many low income patients on fixed incomes and is their only alternative to the black market where prices are much lower.
The MMJ program in Hawaii has a history of problems. Over the years many patients have been prosecuted for transportation, sharing with patients, having too many seedlings, too much cannabis (for concentrate), charged with felony paraphernalia, and access to medicine was left to the black market. When state authorities were questioned on the major gaps in the law, they would “stand silent” and offer no clarity on the law to patients, leaving many at risk. Act 41 remedies some of these concerns but many more remain to even be addressed.
With attitudes on cannabis changing nationwide and scientific data showing great promise for cannabis' medicinal properties, Hawaii still has a long way to go before it becomes a pakalolo paradise.