The number of Hawaii residents with medical marijuana cards has unexpectedly surged since last summer, creating new opportunities for cannabis-related businesses even though there aren’t any dispensaries in the state.
Nearly 10,500 patients in Hawaii held medical marijuana cards as of April 11, up from about 7,600 in June of last year, according to Hawaii News Now. That represents a 27% spike in just nine months.
Hawaii’s medical marijuana law allows residents with qualifying medical conditions to obtain cards that allow them to use, possess and grow limited amounts of cannabis. It does not, however, allow dispensaries or collectives to operate – meaning patients have to cultivate their own or obtain the drug from caregivers.
The rise in patient numbers is good news for vendors and ancillary MMJ companies, particularly those that help people get doctor recommendations, provide legal services and sell cultivation equipment to home growers. These businesses now have 3,000 more potential customers and can capitalize on a growing market.
It also could help with future efforts to pass legislation that would allow dispensaries to operate in the state. A measure that would have done just that died last year after the federal government began its crackdown on dispensaries in other states.
But MMJ advocates in Hawaii have vowed to continue to press for a legal distribution model that would include compassion centers, so the issue will likely come up again in the near future.
It’s unclear why there’s been such a big increase in patient numbers. Local officials speculate that many residents signed up for cards last year in anticipation of medical marijuana centers opening as the state weighed the dispensary measure.