State has yet to choose panel in charge of selecting medical marijuana licensees


Hawaii has less than two months before licenses are supposed to be awarded for medical marijuana dispensaries.

But the state still has not chosen a panel to make those decisions.

The health department is in charge of selecting the panel members who will sift through 66 accepted applications.

Eight licenses will be awarded and each licensee can operate two production centers and two retail locations.

The licenses are supposed to be awarded by April 15, and the goal is to have the dispensaries operating by July.

But critics are not confident that that will actually happen.

Lawmakers approved the law to establish medical marijuana dispensaries in May at the end of last year’s legislative session.

The goal was to finally provide relief for those patients who either had to grow their own or buy marijuana illegally. The applicants have been announced, but there’s no word yet on who will select the eight licensees.

“This would have been a very simple thing they should have started January. Here’s the people that are gonna be on the panel, here are the requirements, and we’re gonna have the declaration in 30 days, bam, but that’s not happening,” said Sen. Sam Slom, R, Diamond Head, Hawaii Kai.

According to a spokeswoman for the health department, there is no timeframe for assembling the selection panel. After receiving plenty of criticism about not revealing who will be on the panel, DOH reversed course and now says it will share that information to the public.

“How confident are you that this will turn out smoothly?” KHON2 asked.

“I’m not confident. I’m not confident at all,” Slom said. “Look at what we do here in government. We don’t do things smoothly. We don’t do them correctly, and then we come back and we pass another bill.”

Slom said that April 15 deadline might have to be pushed back.

KHON2 asked the health department if this was possible, and why it’s taken this long to select the panel, but a spokeswoman said any questions about selecting the panel will have to be sent to the website and it will probably take a couple of days to answer them, because they still have to be approved by the Attorney General’s office.

KHON2 reached out to a company called Medicine Man Technologies in Colorado, which helps applicants go through the process of getting a license. Founder Brett Roper said there’s a lot of information that panel will have to sift through to come up with the right decisions.

“Perhaps they ought to have that panel of eight, perhaps sit down with three or four good advisers to get a little bit of a head start on best practices for cultivation, best practices for manufacturing, best practices for plant safety, product safety, public safety, those elements,” Roper said.

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