State certified vs. black market: Medical marijuana patients paying for quality

(Image: Hawaii News Now/File)
(Image: Hawaii News Now/File)
Updated: Aug. 21, 2017 at 7:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There has been strong demand during the first two weeks of Hawaii's medical cannabis sales, but dispensaries are still competing with black market sellers.

"It's probably double the price of what I usually pay for when I get it from my friends," said Romy, a patient who has purchased products from Aloha Green. "I think they should lower it, at least to make it affordable."

Aloha Green offers several different strains and prices start at about $17 per gram. The company says it offers a higher quality product that's lab tested.

"We guarantee that there's no pesticides, fungicides, no bacteria and mold that can be harmful to patients," explained Tai Cheng, Aloha Green's chief operating officer. "That's something the black market dealers cannot do."

Aloha Green is working to expand its production to help drive the prices down. If prices drop too low, however, the state is worried that some patients may end up reselling the products.

"It's very much a concern. That's one of our foundational principles -- public safety and the prevention of diversion. We would consider any sale to be a form of diversion. That is something that we just absolutely will not tolerate," said Keith Ridley, chief of the Hawaii Department of Health's Office of Health Care Assurance.

Registered patients may buy up to 4 ounces during a 15 consecutive day period and a maximum of eight ounces over a 30 consecutive day period.

"What we're seeing from patients now is they're just testing the market. They're testing the dispensaries to see if they can provide a good quality product for a good price," said Cheng. "We're not seeing patients buying the full 4 ounces or the full allotment that the department allows them."

Even though they now have a legal way to buy medical cannabis, some patients aren't ready to completely give up on the black market until dispensary prices come down.

"Maybe half and half. Over here you get a selection of stuff. With the black market, it's more you get what you get," said Romy.

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