Medical cannabis patient numbers on the rise in Hawaii

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Hawaii saw a 16.6% increase in registered medical marijuana patients in 2016, a great sign for the state’s eight licensed dispensaries preparing to open soon.

There were 15,334 medical marijuana patients registered in Hawaii in December, an increase of 2,184 patients from 13,150 a year earlier, West Hawaii Today reported. That amounts to a gain of 16.6%.

In another positive sign for MMJ business owners, the number of caregivers in Hawaii decreased by 55.5%, from 2,849 at the end of 2015 to 1,268 last month, according to figures recently released by Hawaii’s Department of Health.

Caregivers now grow MMJ for the state’s patients. But state law is set to eliminate the caregiver program by 2018, which would be a boon for dispensary operators seeking patients. Dispensary operators also grow their own medical cannabis.

Meanwhile, 102 physicians and seven Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioners are certified to recommend medical marijuana.

Health department figures found that 67% of patients use medical marijuana for pain and 13% use it for muscle spasms, according to West Hawaii Today.

Eight dispensaries are licensed to sell medical cannabis in Hawaii but they are still making plans to open. Each licensee is permitted to operate two dispensaries, meaning Hawaii could have up to 16 MMJ outlets. Each licensee also may open two cultivation centers.

The dispensaries were permitted to go online last July 15 but weren’t ready. Last month, however, Hawaii’s health department faced pointed criticism from state lawmakers for dragging its feet on approving medical marijuana cultivation by the state’s vertically integrated MMJ companies.

Also, the state’s seed-to-sale tracking program – operated by BioTrackTHC – wasn’t yet ready at the end of the year.