HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – In just more than nine months the number of medical marijuana permits issued in Hawaii jumped 27%. At the end of June, 2011 7,593 people held medical marijuana cards. By April 11, 2012 that number had climbed to 10,454.
"Some, like I said, are legitimate, but there is some questionable. Why do we have (almost) 3,000 more patients all of a sudden?" asked Keith Kamita, Deputy Director of Law Enforcement for the Department of Public Safety.
"It may be because there was a push toward dispensaries on this island or there was a push toward legalization. We don't know, but 3,000 patients. That's a significant bump," Kamita added.
Of the 10,454 permits, 6,199, or 59%, were issued for "severe pain." That is by far the most for any single category. Cancer patients account for 155 of the medical marijuana certificates, 89 HIV or AIDS patients have certificates, and 85 glaucoma patients have marijuana cards.
Kamita does not have proof, but suspects some patients and physicians are acquiring and issuing certificates for recreational purposes instead of medicinal purposes.
"When we look at our physicians who are issuing certificates, a lot of our oncologists (cancer doctors), our pain management people, are not issuing more. What we're seeing is an increase by general practitioners utilizing this as a business," Kamita said.
"We know that some are abusing the system. But it comes down that the doctors need to police this better. They need to go back to what it was initially intended for. (It was intended for) severe debilitating medical conditions, not a sore leg, not soft tissue damage. That wasn't the intent of the bill," Kamita told Hawaii News Now.
The state keeps track of how many certificates physicians issue. As of April 11, a Big Island doctor had issued 2,358, or 22.5% of all certificates issued state-wide.