The race is on for Hawaii medical marijuana dispensary licenses.
The 50th state has had a medical marijuana program for 15 years and was the first state to legalize it through the legislative process back in 2000. The law only allowed for patients to grow their own, but that was changed last July.
It’s a fairly restrictive program considering that Hawaii is considered a “national leader” among states in the production of high-grade marijuana according to the website www.hawaii-aloha.com. Hawaii is one of five states whose pot crops are worth over $1 billion and the state ranks number 4 in the U.S. for marijuana market share.. The ability to get pot is perceived as normal and 70% of high school students said they could get it. NORML Hawaii says the state has the highest marijuana usage rate in the nation among those 18 and older.
The dispensary bill as it is known will launch a limited program with 8 licenses to start and the application window is limited. January 12th was the first day to apply and hopefuls will need to be done by January 29th. It is expected to create 800 jobs according to the Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii.
The licenses must be issued by April 15th and the dispensaries could be up and running by July 15th. So far only three are allowed for the city and county of Honolulu, two each for the counties of Hawaii and Maui and one for Kauai. More will be added in 2017 if there seems to be a need for them.
Like most other states, Hawaii has its own unique set of rules complicating the process for people new to the industry. Final Rules, a medical consulting firm, is meeting with potential applicants to help them navigate the process. Final Rules has worked in 10 different states and is led by Moe Asnani, Charles Boyden and Sara Gullickson. The rules are so unusual that Final Rules has written an ABC Guide for potential businesses.
Here are some of the restrictions on the program:
In Hawaii, dispensaries aren’t allowed to sell rolling papers or other paraphernalia that deviates from a medical patient approach. Vape pens and joints are not allowed. Edibles cannot be sold. Advertising is strictly prohibited. Product lines can’t be imported or exported to other Hawaiian islands. Maui wowie stays in Maui. That makes statewide brand awareness impossible and the state won’t allow a wholesale market.
License holders can operate two production centers and two dispensaries, but retail locations can’t be in the same location as a production facility. Each center is limited to 3,000 plants. What is unique about Hawaii is that grow centers aren’t allowed. Instead it will be grown on acreage where agricultural production is already approved, as long as it isn’t near a school or playground or a public housing project.
The applicants must have been a legal resident for at least five years and the entities have to be majority owned by Hawaiian residents. Each applicant must have at least $1 million and an additional $100,000 for each dispensary.
While many are pleased that the law will allow for dispensaries, the black market is expected to continue to thrive.