Prescription pot experts says 16 dispensaries insufficient

Prescription pot experts says 16 dispensaries insufficient

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow)

Some lawmakers had wanted 26 medical marijuana dispensaries to be licensed. Compromise whittled it down to 23 then 16.

"We were conservative because there is the concern about law enforcement, and we want a tightly regulated system," House Health Committee chair Rep. Della Au Belatti said.

But the conservatism has some medical marijuana experts questioning the math.

"I do not believe that 16 dispensaries are enough in the state of Hawaii," Sarah Bennett said.

Bennett operates Human Collective, one of Oregon's biggest dispensaries. She believes Hawaii's 13,000 patients will need at least an ounce a month of medical marijuana. That totals 812 pounds a month, roughly 50 pounds per dispensary.

"That is a lot of cannabis," Bennett said. "In my dispensary we transfer, I would say, 20 to 30 pounds a month."

Oregon has 230 dispensaries.  Belatti said Hawaii based its dispensary number on state's with comparable programs.

"I think that because we have personal growth still allowed, with those dispensaries we will have an adequate supply," she said.

But medical marijuana advocate Michelle Tippens says lawmakers underestimated.

I'm very concerned that we're going to be out of marijuana to sell to med marijuana patients in a week or two and they're going to fall back to the black market," she said.

Governor David Ige is still examining House Bill 321. The dispensaries measure allows the Department of Health to add more outlets based on need and an increase in patient applications. Oregon's patient list grew by 20 percent after dispensaries opened last year. Prescription pot is doled out to 70,000 patients.

"We are anticipating growth," Belatti said. "Doctors will feel more comfortable certifying patients, knowing there is a safe supply available."

The question is whether that supply will be enough to begin with.

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