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Big Island still has most medical marijuana users


    Thirty-eight percent of the 17,591 patients registered in Hawaii’s medical marijuana program were located on the Big Island.

Recently released data by the state Department of Health indicates the trend of medical marijuana patients in Hawaii is changing.

Thirty-eight percent of the 17,591 patients registered in Hawaii’s medical marijuana program were located on Hawaii Island, according to the data released Friday. That’s down from 40 percent in March and 42 percent in December.

Meanwhile, the percentage of patients hailing from Oahu has jumped from 25 percent in December to 29 percent last month, a more than 1,300-patient increase. The Big Island’s patient count increased by about 300 people in that same time, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

“I think the Big Island is reaching the saturation point,” Andrea Tischler, chairwoman of the Big Island chapter of Americans for Safe Access said Friday. “And there are many more people (on Oahu), which is why they might be seeing the biggest increase in numbers and I’m happy for that. I’m glad Oahu is catching up, they need to.”

The data also shows the percentage of caregivers based on Hawaii Island dropped from 39 percent in December to 36 percent last month. On Oahu, the caregiver count increased from 26 percent to 30 percent in that same time.

More than half of Hawaii’s patients were older than 46, according to the report. Sixty-five percent were male and 66 percent used medical marijuana for severe pain. About 13 percent used medical marijuana for muscle spasms, 6.2 percent for PTSD, 5 percent for severe nausea and 7.4 percent for cancer. Collectively, fewer than 6 percent used marijuana for cachexia, glaucoma, seizures and HIV or AIDS.

The state’s patient count overall has increased by more than 2,200 since December. Patients were certified by a total of 108 physicians and 10 advanced practice registered nurses.

The state Department of Health began posting data in 2015.

Eight companies last year were selected to open Hawaii’s first dispensaries. Once open, those dispensaries will provide patients a way to legally buy medical marijuana for the first time since it was legalized in Hawaii in 2000.

At least one dispensary on Oahu announced last month it was ready to open but unable to do so because of a lack of state-certified laboratories.

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