HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new law will soon bring major enhancements to Hawaii's medical marijuana program.
Starting next year, medical marijuana patients from the continental United States will be able to buy medical cannabis at Hawaii dispensaries. All they'll need is a Hawaii registration card that will set them back $45 and be valid for 60 days.
"It'll be available to them to take to dispensaries to show they are registered patients for purchase and for possession of medical cannabis," said Peter Whitacar, chief of the Department of Health's Harm Reduction Branch.
Health officials forecast about 5,000 visitors will get the cards in the first year, with the potential for up to 30,000 to obtain them annually.
Additionally, dispensaries can now sell devices under the umbrella of Safe Pulmonary Administration products, or SPAs. They turn cannabis or cannabis oils into an aerosol and only work with containers and cartridges pre-filled by a dispensary.
They're disposable and cost about $60 each.
"This is great not only for safety, but because it is more potent and cleaner and so much faster for people who are in serious chronic pain," said Helen Cho of Aloha Green Apothecary.
To speed up medical marijuana approvals for new patients, minors and people with cancer and in hospice will have priority. They'll get registration cards within one or two days, the state says.
Next year, the health department will begin issuing electronic patient registration cards.
"They will be available on a secure website to patients and caregivers. They will be able to download them onto their phones, their iPads," Whitacar said.
There are more than 21,000 registered medical marijuana patients in Hawaii. Six dispensaries are currently open, and two on the Big Island hope to begin selling their products to patients by early next year.