Pubdate: Thu, 12 Jul 2018 Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI) Copyright: 2018 Star Advertiser Contact: http://www.staradvertiser.com/info/Star-Advertiser_Letter_to_the_Editor.html Website: http://www.staradvertiser.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/5154 Author: Sarah Domai DISPENSARY SALES MAY CLIMB WITH MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAW CHANGES IN HAWAII Sales at Hawaii's six medical marijuana dispensaries totaled $6.7 million in the past 10 months, and their earnings are likely to grow with two changes to the state's cannabis law. Medical cannabis dispensaries can now sell "safe pulmonary administration products" - essentially cannabis oil vapes. Sales at Hawaii's six medical marijuana dispensaries totaled $6.7 million in the past 10 months, and their earnings are likely to grow with two changes to the state's cannabis law. Dispensaries last week began selling a type of vape cartridge for cannabis oil and are now allowed to sell pot to tourists who obtain a medical marijuana card. Brian Goldstein, founder and CEO of Noa Botanicals, said that his company's cannabis vaping products sold out on the day, last Friday, when dispensaries were first allowed to carry them. Tori Staples, assistant dispensary director at Cure Oahu, said, "We are all very excited to be providing this type of product to patients." Dispensaries refer to the vaping products as safe pulmonary administration products, which act in the same manner as e-cigarettes. The other change that could boost sales at dispensaries is that out-of-state patients can now apply for a Hawaii medical cannabis card, which would allow them to possess and purchase medical cannabis in the state for a 60-day period. These and other changes were the topic of a news conference Wednesday at the state Department of Health. Peter Whiticar, chief of the Harm Reduction Branch at the Department of Health, said as of March 31, Hawaii had 21,358 medical marijuana card holders, up from 12,000 in 2015. The current turnaround for applicants hoping to qualify for a medical cannabis card is 25 days. For priority patients, such as those with cancer, cards arrive within one to two days. Whiticar said that the DOH is currently implementing a new streamlined communication system, and hopes to create electronic patient registration cards for all patients by 2019. Thirty-seven percent of medical cannabis patients are on Oahu, 32 percent are on the Big Island, 23 percent are on Maui, and 8 percent are on Kauai, Whiticar said. The majority of patients are in the 56- to 65-year-old range, and 65 percent of all patients cite severe pain as their treatment qualifying condition, he said. Another change in the medical cannabis law will allow patients under the age of 18 to have multiple caregivers instead of one, who can buy cannabis for them. Forty-one minors currently qualify for medical cannabis. "It's a significant change in the ability to care," Whiticar said. The state has issued licenses for eight dispensaries. Six currently sell medical cannabis, while two are in the process of cultivating medical cannabis and plan to start selling products by the end of the year, said Keith Ridley, chief of the Office of Health Care Assurance at the Department of Health. At the beginning of the year, the combined sales for all dispensaries was about 80 pounds of cannabis and 18,000 cannabis products per month. In June, numbers increased to 140 pounds of cannabis and 20,000 cannabis products sold for the month, Ridley said. The average price per gram was $17.37, or nearly $500 per ounce. For vaping, the dispensaries sell purified cannabis oil that is pre-packaged in disposable cartridges and depending on the company, can retail anywhere from $55 to $75 per cartridge. Helen Cho, director of Integrated Strategy for Aloha Green Apothecary, said that the appeal of vape devices is in the "no-prep required" design. Patients can medicate without the process of preparing medical cannabis, she said. Cannabis oil, unlike plant material, turns into a vapor when heated instead of being burned, Cho said. This eliminates carcinogens and carbon from entering the lungs along with the vapor, she said. The Department of Health sets the limit on how many cartridges patients can buy based on the current medical cannabis authorization from a physician or an advanced practice registered nurse.