Medical marijuana bill heads to Gov. Ige - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Medical marijuana bill heads to Gov. Ige

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - House Rep. Joy San Buenaventura held up a pill bottle and package from a medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado

"It comes sealed with all of the trappings of the Federal Bureau of Investigations," she said.

She wanted to illustrate how Hawaii's medical marijuana may be packaged and presented before the House took its final vote on HB 321. The measure sets a framework for dispensaries statewide.

"This, Mr. Speaker, seems to me to be putting the infrastructure in place for full-blown legalization within five years," Rep. Bob McDermott argued.

Rep. Chris Lee talked about how medical marijuana helps his sister cope with Multiple Sclerosis.

"This isn't a question of public safety," he said. "This is a question of helping those around us."

The bill passed 36 to 13 with two lawmakers excused. It's relief for Jari Sugano. Her 6-year-old daughter suffers from epilepsy.

"She's going to be able to get a safe form of medicine that's very dose specific. That's something that we can keep consistent every single day," she said.

The bill allows for eight dispensary licensees in the state. Each dispensary needs $1 million in assets. A license will cost $75,000 with a $50,000 annual renewal fee.

Michelle Tippens of Hawaii Veterans Cannabis Alliance has visited dispensaries in four states. She said they are professional operations staffed by experts.

"You need someone who's educated and experienced to be able to give you something that's actually going to work, and not just be something that takes away your pain for an hour or two," Tippens said.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Hawaii for 15 years. Hawaii has about 13,000 patients who qualify for it, but they have had to grow their own pot or get it from a caregiver or the black market. Dispensary advocates said that will change.

"You can leave your oncologist's office as a cancer patient now and go to the dispensary and get your medication," Teri Heede said.

If Governor Ige signs the bill into law or lets it become law without his signature, the State Department of Health will begin accepting applications for dispensary licenses in January.

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