Hawaii Commission Recommends MMJ Dispensaries by 2017

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Though Hawaii remains one of the few medical marijuana states without legal dispensaries, that could very well change this year.

Solid details for a plan to set up a medical cannabis industry in the state finally became a reality this week, when a legislative task force outlined a set of recommendations for establishing a regulatory infrastructure that would pave the way for cultivation and sales.

According to West Hawaii Today, Democratic state representative Della Au Belatti, who oversaw the task force’s work, plans on introducing a bill to begin licensing MMJ businesses. Au Belatti said the task force recommendations are “really just a starting point… some of the recommendations will be taken up and some of them won’t.”

Still, the proposals are very specific.

For example, the task force recommended that the state’s health department authorize one dispensary for every 500 patients, with at least one dispensary per county and a minimum of 26 licenses issued by 2019.

Under the recommendations, the department would begin issuing licenses in January 2017, and dispensaries could begin serving customers the following July. Cultivation licenses would be separate, and the department could authorize at least 30 grow facilities.

The task force is also suggesting a fee structure that includes $20,000 for a dispensary application (though $18,000 would be refunded to applicants who don’t win licenses), and an annual renewal fee of $30,000. For would-be growers, it would cost $2,000 to apply for a license to cultivate up to 500 plants, and $4,000 to apply for a permit to grow between 501 and 1,000 plants (with half of the fee refunded if a license isn’t granted).

The recommendations were announced just weeks after the Hawaii state auditor released a report urging the state to legalize dispensaries.