Pot and politics fuse at annual Hawaii Cannabis Expo

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Organizers said about 10,000 people attended the 3rd Annual Hawaii Cannabis Expo at the Blaisdell Center over the weekend.

The 3-day event hosted about 120 vendors, which is up from nearly 60 vendors when the expo first started in 2015.

"Every year we've been growing about 25%," said Kyle Paredes, event director. "People want to get involved and learn more."

Vendors included the three Oahu medical marijuana dispensaries, who opened for business just last year.

The expo was also the debut for local business, Bomb Boocha Kombucha -- fermented tea infused with Cannabidiol, or CBD, oil.

"It's extracted from the hemp plant then we drop it into each individual bottle," said owner Kawehi Haug.

While attendees browsed the mix of exhibitors showcasing everything from cannabis-inspired apparel to bud-trimming training, lawmakers were on hand to drum up support for medical cannabis bills circulating in the legislature.

One bill would establish an Office of Medical Cannabis Control and Regulation.

"This would be an office by itself handling both the patient registry program and the dispensary regulation program," said Rep. Della Au Belatti, member of the house health committee. "Particularly in this environment where we have a federal government that may not be partial to even medical cannabis, we need to make sure our systems are proper."

Another bill would extend the expiration of a patient's written certification from one year to three years for chronic conditions and allow out-of-state patients to obtain medical cannabis.

"We know Hawaii is a visitor destination and we know that people use cannabis in their own states," said Belatti. "So we want to make sure they can access their medicine here."

Dr. Winslow Engel who works primarily with chronic pain patients at the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center said he agrees with the proposals, but wants to be sure Hawaii residents get first priority.

"We need an expedited system so new arrivers on our shores can access their medical treatment, but at the same time it makes no sense to facilitate it for that group and delay it for our own residents," Dr. Engel said.

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