Monthly medical cannabis sales doubled last year, and the number is projected to grow with out-of-state patients now able to purchase it locally.
Hawaii dispensaries sold 1,569 pounds of medical marijuana totaling $12.6 million in 2018. In January 2018 the dispensaries sold $681,389, but by December cannabis sales had climbed to $1.5 million.
“The market adoption is still in its infancy right now,” said Michael Takano, CEO of Maui dispensary Pono Life Sciences Maui.
On Tuesday the state opened online registration for the first time to both residents and patients of other states who are visiting the islands.
For $49.50, mainland residents with a medical marijuana card in their home state can apply for a Hawaii card up to 60 days before visiting Hawaii. The electronic version of the card can be downloaded on the same day and is valid for two months. Patients may apply twice in a calendar year. Medical cannabis is legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia.
Hawaii patients who have been certified by a doctor can get an electronic card for $38.50.
Aloha Green Apothecary made its first out-of-state patient sale Tuesday, said spokeswoman Helen Cho.
“He actually applied and received his electronic version in 20 minutes. We don’t know how big (the market) is, but we know one thing: There is a segment of visitors who wanted to come to Hawaii but couldn’t access their medical cannabis, and now our market is opening up to those individuals,” she said, adding that Aloha Green’s flowers sell for $7.50 to $22 per gram. “We have no idea how this will impact sales. Our job is take care of people who live here … and those who need medicine. We are prepared to handle an influx of patients, but we have no expectations.”
State Health Director Bruce Anderson estimates a 10 to 20 percent increase in patients with the new registration process.
“I’m guessing we’re going to see less than 10,000 more just from visitors,” Anderson said at a news conference Tuesday. Locally, there are nearly 25,000 registered patients.
Purchase limits remain the same: no more than 8 ounces in a 30-day period. Out-of-state patients are prohibited from growing marijuana.
The Health Department said it doesn’t anticipate a shortage of cannabis, even though “thousands” more patients are expected to register online over time.
The state’s eight licensed dispensaries may operate two production centers with up to 5,000 plants each, or a total of 80,000 plants.
Peter Whiticar, chief of the DOH Harm Reduction Services Branch, added, “We’re expecting it to grow in sort of an ongoing way. We are not ready for 20,000 additional patients right away.”
The state legalized medical cannabis in 2000, but patients had no legal way to obtain the drug until Maui Grown Therapies opened in August 2017, followed by Aloha Green Apothecary in Honolulu. The other pot retailers include Pono Life Maui and Noa Botanicals and Cure Oahu in Honolulu. In May, Green Aloha Ltd., doing business as Have a Heart, started sales on Kauai. In August, Hawaiian Ethos on Hawaii island received approval to start growing cannabis but has not received the green light yet to begin sales. Big Island Grown Dispensaries, formerly known as Lau Ola, opened in January.
For more information on the dispensary program, go to health.hawaii.gov/medicalcannabis.