State braces for surge in medical marijuana patients

DOH braces for medical cannabis registry surge
Published: Aug. 14, 2017 at 2:40 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 14, 2017 at 10:52 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With two medical cannabis dispensaries now selling products, the Hawaii Department of Health is bracing for a surge of patients signing up for the state's medical cannabis registry.

"With other states that have similar size programs, we've seen up to a 50 percent increase in the first year. We've had for our program, from inception to date, about a steady 20 percent per year, so we're expecting at least 20 percent, up to 50 percent," said Scottina Ruis, coordinator for the state's medical cannabis registry program.

More than 18,000 patients have now joined the state's medical cannabis registry.

"They see a light at the end of the tunnel. It has been a long road since 2000 to today, where we have an opportunity for patients to actually get their medicine from a licensed dispensary with products that have been tested by a laboratory," explained Ruis.

Most of the patients, about 38 percent, live on the Big Island. A growing number, however, roughly 29 percent, reside on Oahu.

"We do see the beginning of a possible trend that shows more growth happening on Oahu," said Ruis.

The state has managed to bring the turnaround time for applicants down to three to five business days.

"At the high end, when we got the program initially, the process was an entirely paper application process, so a lot different functions for staff. I think high end of turnaround time was six to eight weeks," said Ruis.

There are four full-time employees and three more will be added by the end of the year.

"We've only got so many live bodies and we're doing our best to keep up with the demand and hopefully, we can stay ahead of that," said Ruis.

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