Hawaii cannabis leaders explore new edibles regulations and employment issues

Hawaii lawmakers explore new edibles regulations and cannabis employment issues

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Less than a year after Hawaii's first cannabis clinics opened, the laws on medical marijuana are still full of loose ends.

Lawmakers are trying to figure out what new rules might be needed for the quickly growing industry.

The state says about 10,000 new patients have received medical marijuana cards in the past three years for a total of nearly 22,000 licensed users.

But what happens when they fail a drug test at work? Should they be protected from discipline? Or can employers fire them?

That's one of several outstanding issues Hawaii lawmakers and cannabis leaders hope to clear up in the coming months.

"We're looking at people who are medical cannabis card carriers and also employed," said Senator Rosalyn Baker during a working group meeting at the State Capitol on Wednesday. "Any kinds other demographic...any additional research or help in that area, I think will be very useful to the employment group."

Baker chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health.

The working group, established from HB2729, will make recommendations to the legislature.

Representative John Mizuno chairs the House Committee on Health and Human Services and introduced the bill.

"If the job is not dealing with heavy machinery, if the job entails something more straight forward and simple, to me, I don't see the harm in that," said Rep. Mizuno. "Who am I to say no? If they cleared the doctor and the Department of Health is gutting it and it looks like this person could be a great person for medical cannabis, and it can alleviate her pain and it's not so significant that it's not going to hurt her job in a significant manner, I would say I'm fine with that."

The other topic the working group is tackling is edible cannabis. From candies to drinks, it's a growing segment of the industry with little oversight.

"Some of the topics are the medical need for edibles, packaging, safeguards for children," said Teri Freitas Gorman with Maui Grown Therapies. "In addition to that, the rules and regulations for manufacturing and sell of edibles. And then the things that come along with food selling, such as recall. What happens in the case of a food borne illness? Those types of things."

The working group is aimed at developing a list of topics that may need policies or at least clarification.

Leaders hope to learn from other states and bring those best practices to Hawaii.

"Beginning to better understand what the primary focus is, what the legislature asks the working group to focus on," said Keith Ridley, with the Department of Health. "And then coming up with some potential issues to do homework on and do research on for the next meetings."

The working group is required to provide periodic reports to the Legislature and submit a final report prior at the start of the 2019 session.

Their next meeting is on Sept. 4.

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