Hawaii medical cannabis program lagging despite patient surge

Hawaii’s medical marijuana patient counts are increasing rapidly, but the sheer numbers, problems with seed-to-sale tracking software and a dearth of licensed testing labs are undermining the program’s rollout and costing at least one MMJ business money.

Though regulators say they are receiving about 100 applications per day, the state’s MMJ businesses aren’t reaping any benefits, according to Hawaii News Now.

“We are losing a lot of money every month as we wait for things to happen in areas that are outside of our control,” Michael Takano, CEO of Pono Life Sciences Maui, told the TV news-gathering agency.

Takano’s dispensary is one of four vertically integrated MMJ that businesses have received cultivation licenses. Four other businesses are licensed but not yet up and running.

The number of patients in Hawaii has soared to 16,275 through March, up from 15,334 card-holding patients at the end of 2016.

But regulators are having a difficult time keeping up with demand, resulting in a backlog of 1,200 medical marijuana applicants and an 11-day wait time for MMJ cards, Hawaii News Now reported.

The seed-to-sale tracking system stalled while the Hawaii’s Department of Health attempted to link its software with that used by the MMJ businesses.

State regulators are working on getting three labs licensed, and one official predicted one could start testing before summer. But one lab license applicant was skeptical.

“It could be as early as this summer, but we would have to see a drastic change in the attention with DOH and with the narcotics division to resolve these final issues,” Michael Rollins, chief administrative officer of PharmLabs, told the TV news outlet.