HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two additional medical marijuana dispensaries – one on Oahu, the other on Kauai – were recently given the green light by the state Health Department to begin cultivating cannabis, even though the labs needed to test marijuana products still have not been certified to begin doing so.
The announcement brings what's expected to be an even bigger workload for employees from the three independent testing facilities, who have not even begun to approve any of the cannabis that's already been harvested.
The continued delays have one pain specialist concerned for a very specific reason: He says one of his patients died waiting for relief that can only come in the form of medical-grade cannabis.
Paul Klink is the founder of the Honolulu Wellness Center on Oahu – and a certified medical cannabis consultant. His clinic offers non-synthetic solutions to medical conditions, including the use of medical-grade marijuana.
For one of his patients, Klink said, the wait for the cannabis was too long.
"I don't know why I still get emotional over this, but I can tell you his first name was Peter," Klink said. "He had cancer, very bad. Came in (to the clinic) in a wheelchair. Just sitting down, talking about the medicine, he was smiling."
Even though Peter was terminally ill, Klink said, he refused to take marijuana that wasn't tested for impurities and ended up dying while waiting for the drug to become legally available.
Klink said Peter was just one of his many patients who refuse to break the law by turning to the black market – even if it would mean relief.
"Most of the people can't afford the space or the time, or are too sick to grow it, and they need to go to the dispensary," Klink said. "And those dispensaries need the product on their shelves as soon as possible, and they cant do it until its tested by the lab, which we all want."
When, exactly, that will begin to happen is still not clear.
The Department of Health on Wednesday issued a statement on the subject, which read, in part, that they were "working with three independent laboratories to complete the submission process for each private laboratory's validation studies and documentation required for state certification."
The statement continued: "Once the independent labs can complete their proper document submission and an onsite audit is conducted, then state certification will follow. At this time, based on the laboratory documents that DOH has received to date, we estimate a private laboratory may be ready for state certification this summer."
But for some of Klink's patients, that may not be soon enough.
Klink said his clinic alone he has some 198 patients waiting for the state to certify the testing labs so they can get the drug he claims they need to live a better life.
"It's emotional," he said. "I'm seeing people die waiting for the medicine."