Pubdate: Wed, 27 Apr 2016
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald (Hilo, HI)
Copyright: 2016 Associated Press
Author: Marina Starleaf Riker, Associated Press


HONOLULU (AP) - With less than a week to go before the state is 
scheduled to announce the names of its first medical marijuana 
dispensary owners, lawmakers are considering a bill to clarify gaps 
in the dispensary law passed last year.

State lawmakers discussed a bill during a hearing Monday that would 
clear up tax problems and give certain nurses the ability to 
recommend medical marijuana for patients. It also would allow for 
interisland transport of medical marijuana for laboratory testing and 
make rules for what kind of marijuana products could be sold in dispensaries.

Marijuana business owners can open pot shops as soon as July 15, but 
industry experts say they could be confronted with unique challenges 
in a state comprised of eight separate islands.

Right now, there's currently a shortage of physicians willing to 
prescribe medical marijuana, so the component of the bill allowing 
highly trained nurses could help increase patient access, said Wendy 
Gibson of the Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii. Only 10 
physicians have given her permission to share their contact 
information with patients, she said.

Under the law passed in 2015, interisland transport of medical 
marijuana was banned, but all of it is required to be tested in a 
state-approved laboratory before being sold. Right now, there are no 
laboratories open in the state, and some worry high startup costs and 
low patient numbers will prevent laboratories from opening on rural islands.

The bill also would clear up a tax loophole that currently makes 
dispensaries eligible for tax breaks if they set up in enterprise 
zones, which were intended to incentivize business investment in 
areas with low income or high unemployment.

The state Department of Health is currently reviewing dispensary 
applications and plans to award licenses Friday (April 29).
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom