Chart: Hawaii’s medical cannabis reciprocity program off to slow start

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Hawaii’s fledgling medical marijuana reciprocity program has the potential to boost sales at local dispensaries given that several million domestic tourists visit the state each year, but the program has experienced a slow start since its launch.

From early March through the end of May, Hawaii’s out-of-state program added an average of 160 patients per month. Growth slowed in June with fewer than 50 patients joining the roster, bringing the total to 533.

The out-of-state program (OSP) allows registered patients from other medical marijuana states to apply for a temporary card to use during visits to Hawaii.

Modest growth is not necessarily a bad thing, according to Pedro Haro, executive director for Hawaii Education Association for Licensed Therapeutic Healthcare, the state’s trade association for licensed dispensaries.

“We did expect that it would be slow to begin with. (The state health department’s) primary priority has been to make sure there is enough product and services for local populations,” Haro said.

“We didn’t want for it to grow very quickly and exhaust the limited supply.”

Hawaii’s medical marijuana program has proved slow to come online, as licensed dispensaries were plagued with challenges such as regional permitting requirements.

As seen in other states – Ohio is a recent notable example – when marijuana demand outpaces supply, high dispensary prices can drive patients to seek options that cost less from the illegal market.

Haro said it is too early to make predictions now about how many out-of-state patients will join the registry.

“There’s no data out there that really shows the number of visitors to Hawaii that have been medical cannabis users,” he said. “When the data doesn’t exist, it’s hard to make those projections.”

Here’s what else you need to know:

  • Arizona and Colorado have consistently shown themselves as the top two states for patients applying for an OSP card, followed by Florida and Michigan. You can see Hawaii’s statistics page here.
  • California hasn’t cracked the top three states participating in the program – a surprise given the size of that state’s medical marijuana market and closer proximity to Hawaii. Haro said more than half of California applicants have been denied because they submitted improper documentation.
  • The Marijuana Business Factbook estimates Hawaii’s medical cannabis sales this year will hit between $40 million and $50 million.

Maggie Cowee can be reached at