In 2000, Hawaii’s legislature became the first in the U.S. to allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana.[1] In 2015, Hawaii expanded patient access by creating a system for medical marijuana dispensaries with the enactment of Act 241. On May 5, 2016, the last day of the legislative session, the Hawaii Legislature sent HB 2707 to the governor for his signature. Sponsored by Rep. Della Belatti, HB 2707 clarifies and strengthens Hawaii’s medical marijuana dispensary program.

Legislative oversight working group: To assist the department in implementing the dispensary program, HB 2707 established a legislative oversight group that will develop and recommend legislation to improve the program. The group will be composed of 21 members, including lawmakers; medical, scientific, and marijuana experts; advocates; patients; and two law enforcement representatives. The group will address operations, edibles, and any other issues it finds relevant. It will submit an interim report to the legislature prior to the 2017 legislative session and a final report prior to the 2018 session.

Data collection: The Department of Health and dispensaries will collect and report data regarding sales, number of patients, and economic impact, which will be aggregated and available upon request to the legislature.

Paraphernalia: HB 2707 creates protections from drug paraphernalia charges for authorized individuals participating in the program, including patients and employees of marijuana businesses. This includes the use and possession of paraphernalia for patients and the equipment necessary for dispensing, manufacturing, or producing marijuana products authorized under the program.

Registered nurses: Advance practice-registered nurses with prescribing authority can now provide recommendations for patients who wish to participate in the program. They can also diagnose debilitating conditions and request that the department add additional conditions.

Testing: In order to facilitate testing of medical marijuana products, HB 2707 creates protections for the transportation to and from authorized business to certified laboratories. Inter-island transport is only allowed if no certified laboratory is located in the county or on the island where the dispensary is located.

New modes of administration: In addition to already approved methods of administration, patients may use transdermal patches or pre-filled and sealed containers used to aerosolize and deliver marijuana orally, such as an inhaler or nebulizer.

Research and testing: Medical testing and research programs will be established at the University of Hawaii. However, the university is not required to participate in any activity that could affect receipt of state or federal funding.

[1] All of the earlier medical marijuana laws had been enacted by voter initiative.