State unveils process for visitors to obtain medical marijuana

The state Department of Health unveiled Tuesday the process by which out-of-state medical marijuana patients will be able to register for medical cannabis while visiting Hawaii.

Qualifying medical marijuana patients from the mainland are now able to register online for a temporary card allowing them to purchase medical cannabis products while visiting the state.

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Facilitating this is another DOH initiative: an electronic registration card for out-of-state and local patients.

Dylan Shropshire, chief executive officer of Big Island dispensary Big Island Grown, said the two new developments will be a boon not only to Hawaii dispensaries but to patients as well.

“We’ve had people from out of state come and try to buy from us and we’ve had to tell them that there’s nothing we can do,” Shropshire said. “We can’t even let them into the dispensary if they’re not registered.”

By allowing out-of-state patients to pre-register before visiting, patients don’t have to worry about whether they can obtain necessary medications during their visit, or break the law by attempting to smuggle cannabis across state lines.

In order to qualify, out-of-state applicants must be already certified in their home state’s medical marijuana program, with a qualifying medical condition that also is considered a qualifying condition in Hawaii. When applying online at the DOH’s website, applicants must upload a copy of their current valid registration from their home state, as well as a copy of government-issued ID from the same state.

Out-of-state registrations are valid for 60 days, although patients can specify a starting date for that period to coincide with travel times. Patients can apply up to 60 days before that specified date, and can register twice per year.

Out-of-state patients will be required to follow the same rules regarding possession quantities as local patients: 4 ounces within 15 days or up to 8 ounces within 30 days.

Meanwhile, the electronic cards — which DOH director Bruce Anderson said he thinks have not yet been introduced in any other state — will reduce delays and allow patients to access their medication in a timely fashion.

“If you registered for a card or lost your paper card, you would have to wait for a couple of weeks before the new one came in the mail,” Shropshire said. “And if you’re dependent on that medication to treat an illness, that’s not ideal.”

All out-of-state registrations and any local registrations made or altered going forward will have access to an online version of their registration card, which they can download to their mobile device or print out at their convenience.

Those will be made available to registrants as soon as their registrations are approved.

Anderson emphasized that the state currently has no cannabis reciprocity laws on the books — that is, there are no laws whereby a registered medical cannabis patient from out of state can have his or her registration honored in Hawaii or vice versa. Pre-registering online currently is the only way for out-of-state patients to legally obtain cannabis in Hawaii.

Andrea Tischler, chairwoman for the Big Island chapter of medical cannabis consumer advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, agreed that the out-of-state registry will certainly prove profitable for dispensaries, “for better or for worse.”

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While the new registry will be popular with tourists, Tischler said, “the people of Hawaii are ready for marijuana legalization.”

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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