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Plea Deal Offered to Man Facing 77 Years for Medical Marijuana Collective

A hearing held was held for Mike Ruggles, the man facing 77 years for attempting to start up a medical marijuana collective, this morning, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at the courthouse in Hilo on Hawai‘i Island.

The hearing consisted of a Motions to Compel, a Motion to Dismiss Due to Prosecutorial Misconduct as well as a Frye Hearing, in which the state offered Ruggles a plea agreement.

The state of Missouri prosecutors offered Galin Edward Frye two deals while seeking his conviction for driving while his license was revoked, but his lawyer never told Frye about the offers. Frye pleaded guilty to a felony charge and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Frye appealed, saying his lawyer should have told him about the previous deals. A Missouri appeals court agreed. Prosecutors contend that not knowing about the deals they offered doesn’t mean that Frye didn’t know what he was doing when he decided to plead guilty.

Prosecutor Rick Damerville spoke to Big Island Now after the hearing and explained the process of the Frye Hearing and how it is pertinent to this case.

In a written letter from the prosecutors office, Deputy Prosecuting Damerville offered the following plea:

Dear Mr. Ruggles:
Re: State of Hawai‘i v. Michael Doyle Ruggles, CR. No 15-1-0391

Pursuant to Rule 11 of the Hawai‘i Rules of Criminal Procedure, and a recent suggestion by the Court, the State of Hawai‘ij makes the following plea offer in the above styled case:

  1. Mr. Ruggles may conditionally plead guilty of no contest (for civil liability reason only) to:
  2. Count 3, the lesser included offense of Commercial Promotion of Marijuana in the Second Degree (knowingly possessing marijuana (cannabis) having an aggregate weight of two pounds or more, in violation of Section 712-1249.5(1)(a), HRS; or
  3. Count 5, the lesser included offense of Promoting a Harmful Drug in the Second Degree (knowingly possessing 50 or more capsule, and/or tablets and/or dosage units containing one and/or more of the marijuana (cannabis) concentrates, in violation of Section 712-1245(1)(a), HRS; or
  4. Count 6, the lesser included offense of Commercial Promotion of Marijuana in the Second Degree (knowingly possessing, cultivating, and/or has under his control fifty or more marijuana plants in violation of Section 712-1249.5(1)(c), HRS);
  5. and stipulate the forfeiture of the evidence recovered in this case, unless the State agrees to the return of specified items of evidence; In return, the State will agree to recommend 30 months of probation pursuant to Section 706-622.5, HRS and expungement provided Mr. Ruggles complies with the terms and conditions of his probation.  The State reserves the right to ask for up to one year in jail as a condition of probation; further the parties agree that a PSI will be conducted in this case.  If the PSI writer recommends a lesser amount of jail, the State will concur with that recommendation.  The State Reserves the right for other reasonable terms and conditions of probation including drug testing.
  6. Further, Mr. Ruggles may condition his plea of guilty or no contest reserving in writing the right on appeal from the judgement, to seek review of the adverse determination of the specific pretrial motions listed below, and if Mr. Ruggles prevails on appeal he shall be allowed to withdraw the pleas: (1) An adverse ruling on Ruggles’ motion to quash the warrant filed on February 2, 2016; (2) An adverse ruling on Ruggles motion to dismiss for vagueness and/or on the grounds of entrapment and/or for constitutional violations filed on February 2, 2016; (3) An adverse ruling on Ruggles motion in limine no. 1 to assert the affirmative defense of medical cannabis at trial.
  7. Should Mr. Ruggles enter a conditional plea guilty or no contest as described above, the State will agree to stay any sentence imposed pending appeal should Mr. Ruggles elect to ask for a stay.
  8. If Mr. Ruggles accepts this offer by pleading guilty or no contest as described above and then pending sentencing, inexcusably fails to cooperate in the preparation of the PSI report, or commits a new crime pending sentencing, then the State will not be bound to recommend the sentence described above and can ask the court to impose any legal sentence including up to ten years in prision.
  9. As part of this plea agreement, the State will dismiss the remaining counts of the complaint.
    This offer will remain open unless withdrawn in writing before acceptance.

Thank you for your cooperation,
Very truly yours,
Ricky R. Damerville
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney

Interview with Man Who Faces 77 Years in Prison for Medical Marijuana Collective

Mike Ruggles is shown outside Hilo’s courthouse. Courtesy photo.

Fern Acres resident and medical marijuana activist Mike Ruggles will have a court hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, in the Hilo Third Circuit Court in front of Judge Nakamura. Ruggles is charged with running an “un-permitted medical marijuana dispensary” and is facing 77 years in prison.

After the police arrested Ruggles on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, the collective has since closed.

Ruggles daughter, Councilmember Jennifer Ruggles, posted the following to her Facebook account:

“Collectives are like farmers markets while dispensaries are like Walmarts for medical cannabis. I believe patients should options,” said Councilwoman Ruggles. “Come help support the man fighting so our island can have Collectives in addition to Dispensaries. Collectives are patient owned and supported, and support local patients and caregivers by allowing patients to transfer among themselves while Dispensaries are run by the rich for the rich,” she added. 

Supporters of Ruggles set up a crowd funding page where 70 people so far have contributed over $3,500.

Ruggles stated on Facebook, “I opened Hawai‘i’s first medical marijuana collective modeled after successful collectives in California, and we were raided a few months ago. While I’m facing 77 years in prison, this is an opportunity to set precedence for medical marijuana collectives in Hawai‘i.”

Big Island Now spoke to Ruggles at his house today in Fern Acres:

The following is a release that was sent to media following his arrest while he was still in jail:

Michael Ruggles, 58, a medical cannabis patient and activist who operates the Alternative Pain Management Pu`uhonua’s Collective out of his home in Fern Acres, was raided and arrested on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015.

Ruggles’ private medical cannabis collective provides a means for members to dispose of excess medical cannabis via transfer to other members who have also been authorized to use medical cannabis. Ruggles’ collective allows members to comply with the quantity restrictions set forth in Hawai`i’s medical marijuana laws and maintain an uninterrupted supply of safe medical cannabis.
The police served a search warrant and seized all the medical cannabis being cultivated on the property registered to multiple patients and caregivers, in addition to several Collective member’s excess medical cannabis in its various forms.

All business and tax records, members’ files containing protected health information, electronic devices, fine jewelry, professional music recording gear, other property resident firearms, his daughter’s college text book, a greeting card containing a personal message and some food were also confiscated from the collective. No property receipt was left by the police for the seized items.
Ruggles is being charged with 30 violations for allegedly operating an unauthorized dispensary even though the Pu’uhonua is operated as a collective. Bail has been set at $84,500.

The numerous collective medical cannabis patients who relied on the collective as a safe means to obtain their doctor approved medicine are now being forced to turn to the black market or go without.

The raid was based upon an undercover officer who presented a false doctor’s written certification that stated he was in the process of obtaining a medical marijuana card under an alias and was allowed to be processed as a member.

Under HRS 329 Medical Use of Marijuana Laws, conditions of use are defined and specify that patients must have a written certification under a physician to use medical cannibis and does not require the patient to register with the Department of Health and Department of Safety as a condition of use. It was under this premise, that the undercover officer was allowed to acquire medical cannabis according to a collective volunteer and member.

Ruggles’ is currently being held at a Hilo police cell block and his first court appearance is on Monday, Sept. 14, 2015 at 1 p.m. Friends who recently visited Ruggles say that he is in high spirits and prepared to defend the rights of medical cannabis patients to safely dispose and acquire medicine within the confines of the law.

Legal Cannabis Businesses Must Be Allowed Access to Banks, Hawai‘i Urges

Hawai‘i Attorney General Doug Chin and Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, joined by 17 other attorneys general, urged Congress on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, to advance legislation allowing states with legalized medical or recreational marijuana to bring that commerce into the banking system.

AG Chin and AG Lindemuth co-chair the bipartisan National Association of Attorneys General Marijuana Working Group, comprised of states that have legalized either medical cannabis dispensaries, like Hawai‘i, or recreational cannabis.

“Banks and other depository institutions are currently hindered by federal law from providing financial services to cannabis businesses,” said Attorney General Chin, “This encourages a cash-only, grey market that hurts law enforcement and tax collections.”

The multi-state letter requests legislation that would provide a legal “safe harbor” for depository institutions that provide a financial product or service to a covered business in a state that regulates its marijuana industry. Attorney General Chin and the 18 attorneys general emphasized that the requested legislation would not only protect public safety by bringing grey-market financial activities into the banking sector and thus subject to law enforcement monitoring, but would also result in billions of dollars infused into the banking industry.

“Twenty-nine states [including Hawai‘i] and several US territories have legalized the medical use of marijuana. Among those, eight states and the District of Columbia also allow recreational use by adults over 21 years of age. However, because federal government classifies marijuana as an illegal substance, banks providing services to state-licensed cannabis businesses could find themselves subject to criminal and civil liability under the Controlled Substances Act and certain federal banking statutes,” the letter states.

The attorneys general also note a recent decision by the United States Department of Justice to rescind guidance on how financial institutions could provide services to state-licensed marijuana businesses consistent with federal law. That rescission, the attorneys general argue, has made even more urgent the need for congressional action to get the cash generated by this industry into a regulated banking sector.

The multi-state letter was sponsored by Hawai‘i, Alaska, District of Columbia and North Dakota. It was also signed by California, Colorado, Connecticut, Guam, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington.

Today in Hawai‘i, eight licensees have received permission to operate dispensaries for licensed medical cannabis patients.

Dear Congressional Leaders:

We are a bipartisan group of state attorneys general who recognize that the states and federal government share a strong interest in protecting public safety and bringing grey market activities into the regulated banking sector. To address these goals, we urge Congress to advance legislation that would allow states that have legalized medical or recreational use of marijuana to bring that commerce into the banking system.

Twenty-nine states and several US territories have legalized the medical use of marijuana. Among those, eight states and the District of Columbia, also allow recreational use by adults over 21 years of age. However, because the federal government classifies marijuana as an illegal substance, banks providing services to state-licensed cannabis businesses could find themselves subject to criminal and civil liability under the Controlled Substances Act and certain federal banking statutes. This risk has significantly inhibited the willingness of financial institutions to provide services to these businesses.

Despite the contradictions between federal and state law, the marijuana industry continues to grow rapidly. Industry analysts report that sales grew by 30% to $6.7 billion in 2016 and expect those totals to exceed $20 billion by 2021. Yet those revenues often exist outside of the regulated banking space. Businesses are forced to operate on a cash basis. The grey market makes it more difficult to track revenues for taxation purposes, contributes to a public safety threat as cash intensive businesses are often targets for criminal activity, and prevents proper tracking of large swaths of finances across the nation.

To address these challenges, we are requesting legislation that would provide a safe harbor for depository institutions that provide a financial product or service to a covered business in a state that has implemented laws and regulations that ensure accountability in the marijuana industry such as the SAFE Banking Act (S. 1152 and H.R. 2215) or similar legislation. This would bring billions of dollars into the banking sector, and give law enforcement the ability to monitor these transactions. Moreover, compliance with tax requirements would be simpler and easier to enforce with a better-defined tracking of funds. This would, in turn, result in higher tax revenue.

Prior Department of Justice guidance outlined how financial institutions could provide services to state-licensed marijuana businesses consistent with their obligations under federal law and created some space for the banking industry to work with those businesses, though challenges remained in many areas. The recent rescission of that guidance has made the need for Congressional action to get the cash generated by this industry into a regulated banking sector even more urgent.

Our banking system must be flexible enough to address the needs of businesses in the various states, with state input, while protecting the interests of the federal government. This includes a banking system for marijuana-related businesses that is both responsive and effective in meeting the demands of our economy. We look forward to working with you as you move forward in this process and lending our voice and expertise as you develop legislation.

Clarification – Cash Will Be Accepted at Hawaii Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

This was shared w/ Governor Ige’s followers on Facebook yesterday.

I received the following Press Release from Richard Ha this afternoon clarifying the shared Facebook post that Governor Ige shared from Civil Beat yesterday:

HONOLULU – Hawaiʻi Educational Association for Licensed Therapeutic Healthcare (HEALTH) has long been involved in seeking banking options for Hawaiʻi’s nascent medical cannabis dispensaries. We deeply appreciate the leadership and creativity demonstrated by Governor David Ige and Hawaiʻi Financial institutions Commissioner Iris Ikeda that culminated in yesterday’s announcement that the state had secured a banking solution for its legal cannabis industry.

Partner Colorado Credit Union’s Safe Harbor Private Banking Program is a pioneering program that takes on the regulatory burden required for our industry to be in compliance with federal guidelines so that state-licensed cannabis dispensaries can access banking services. Because these services are unavailable in Hawaiʻi, we are grateful that Colorado has stepped up to help.

The CanPay debit payment application is an alternative to cash payments that will be a welcome option for patients and dispensaries alike. Unlike a credit or debit card, payment will be instantly transferred from the patient’s existing bank account to the dispensary’s account in Colorado to facilitate a cashless purchase.

We recognize that the success of Hawaiʻi’s medical cannabis dispensary program is directly linked to the ability of patients to have safe access to cannabis products to help manage their medical conditions. As employers, we also want to ensure our employees enjoy a safe work environment. These options take us in the right direction at the right time.

Hawaiʻi’s aspiration to have a predominantly “cashless system” for all medical cannabis dispensaries is admirable. However, it is important to clarify that progress toward this goal will take considerable time. We will work with all stakeholders to successfully implement the proposed system. Patients who choose not to participate in a program that requires checking account transfers will still be able to make cash purchases in all Hawaiʻi-Licensed Medical Cannabis Dispensaries. Qualified patient access and compassion are two key tenets to any successful medical program.

Medical Marijuana Dispensary Allowed to Open on Oahu

The Hawai‘i Department of Health issued a formal notice to proceed to Aloha Green LLC today after the dispensary completed laboratory testing requirements and passed its final onsite inspection. Aloha Green is the second licensed medical cannabis dispensary in the state, and the first on O‘ahu, to receive approval to begin sales of medical cannabis to registered patients and their caregivers.

The licensed retail center for Aloha Green is at the Interstate Building at 1314 South King Street in Honolulu. The retail center is licensed to begin selling dried medical cannabis flowers when it opens to registered patients.

“The opening of a licensed dispensary on O‘ahu is a major milestone for the more than 5,000 qualified patients and caregivers in Honolulu,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “Our staff continues to work with all the licensees as they build their facilities and business operations in compliance with county and state laws to ensure product and patient safety.”

The rigorous dispensary approval processes to open and begin selling medical cannabis are based on the requirements of Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Chapter 329D and Hawai‘i Administrative Rules Chapter 11-850. Dispensaries are required to comply with all state and county, health, safety, and sanitation regulations, and are subject to unannounced inspections by DOH.

Registered patients and their caregivers may purchase up to four ounces of medical cannabis during a 15 consecutive day period and purchase a maximum of eight ounces over a 30 consecutive day period. All use of medical cannabis must be on private property and may not be used in a car while on the road, at work, at the beach, on hiking trails, or in any other public space. It is illegal to use or possess medical cannabis on any federally owned property such as military installations and national parks. When bringing medical cannabis home after purchasing it from a dispensary, the medical cannabis must be in a sealed container and not visible to the public.

There are eight licensed dispensaries in Hawai‘i. There are three on O‘ahu: Aloha Green Holdings Inc.; Mānoa Botanicals LLC; and TCG Retro Market 1, LLC dba Cure Oahu. There are two in Hawai‘i County: Hawaiian Ethos LLC and Lau Ola LLC. Two on Maui: Maui Wellness Group, LLC dba Maui Grown Therapies and Pono Life Sciences Maui, LLC; and one on Kaua‘i, Green Aloha, Ltd. These dispensaries are now at different stages of development by the licensees, and at varying stages of the approval process.

Hawaii’s First Medical Cannabis Dispensary Opens Today

Maui Wellness Group, LLC dba Maui Grown Therapies is the first licensed medical cannabis dispensary in the state to receive the green light from the Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH) to begin selling medical cannabis to registered patients and their caregivers. The Department of Health issued a formal notice to proceed to Maui Grown Therapies today after the dispensary completed laboratory testing requirements and passed its final onsite inspection.

The licensed retail center for Maui Grown Therapies is located at 44 Pa‘a Street in Kahului, Maui. The dispensary will begin selling dried medical cannabis flowers when it opens to registered patients.

“This is an important day for qualified patients and caregivers on Maui who now have assurance the medical cannabis they purchase at Maui Grown Therapies has been thoroughly tested and is safe for them to use,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “Implementing a new health program is always challenging, and the dispensary program was no exception. With legal guidance from Department of the Attorney General, the DOH team paved the way for this new industry in Hawai‘i and has set a new standard for dispensary programs other states can emulate.”

The rigorous dispensary approval processes to open and begin selling medical cannabis are based on the requirements of Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Chapter 329D and Hawai‘i Administrative Rules Chapter 11-850. Dispensaries are required to comply with all state and county, health, safety, and sanitation regulations, and are subject to unannounced inspections by DOH.

Registered patients and their caregivers may purchase up to four ounces of medical cannabis during a 15 consecutive day period and purchase a maximum of eight ounces over a 30 consecutive day period. All use of medical cannabis must be on private property and may not be used in a car while on the road, at work, at the beach, on hiking trails, or in any other public space. It is illegal to use or possess medical cannabis on any federally owned property such as military installations and national parks. When bringing medical cannabis home after purchasing it from a dispensary, the medical cannabis must be in a sealed container and not visible to the public.

According to the StarAdvertiser:

Hawaii history will be made today when the first dispensary opens for business on Maui, nearly two decades after the state legalized medical marijuana.
Maui Grown Therapies, one of eight dispensary licensees, will begin at 11 a.m. the first legal sales of cannabis in the islands…

There are eight licensed dispensaries in Hawai‘i. There are three on O‘ahu: Aloha Green Holdings Inc.; Mānoa Botanicals LLC; and TCG Retro Market 1, LLC dba Cure Oahu. There are two in Hawai‘i County: Hawaiian Ethos LLC and Lau Ola LLC. Two on Maui: Maui Wellness Group, LLC dba Maui Grown Therapies and Pono Life Sciences Maui, LLC; and one on Kaua‘i, Green Aloha, Ltd. These dispensaries are now at different stages of development by the licensees, and at varying stages of the approval process.

Aloha Green Receives Department of Health’s Notice to Proceed for Growing on Oahu

Aloha Green Holdings Inc. (Aloha Green) received its Notice to Proceed to Acquire and Cultivate Marijuana from the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) for Aloha Green’s second production center on Oahu – a purpose-built cannabis greenhouse the company has been developing with engineers and architects since the application. This is the first structure of its kind in the State of Hawaii for cannabis cultivation, allowing for a 400% increase in current production capability.

Aloha Green is currently leading the industry as the only licensee on Oahu to receive notice from the DOH for both production centers, in accordance with statutory and regulatory requirements. Aloha Green was the first Oahu licensee to receive a Notice to Proceed to begin cultivation in Production Center #1 on February 1, 2017. Production Center #1 is a computer controlled, environmentally sealed indoor cultivation nursery with advanced cannabis cultivation equipment. The Aloha Green also has opened the first and only dispensary in the state, though there are no cannabis products currently available for sale.

Aloha Green is now authorized to expand cultivation into Production Center #2, which was designed specifically to provide a stable environment for cannabis cultivation while taking advantage of the natural growing conditions in Hawaii and reducing carbon emissions. The greenhouse’s state-of-the-art opaque roof materials provide for superior natural sunlight diffusion for optimal plant health. It has computer controlled environmental systems, light deprivation, supplemental lighting, fan controls, heating, and cooling.

“By bringing our state-of-the-art greenhouse online, Aloha Green is able to meet current and future patient demand for safe lab-tested cannabis medicine,” states Tai Cheng, Chief Operating Officer of Aloha Green, “Aloha Green hopes to become a world leader in sustainably grown greenhouse cannabis.”

James H.Q. Lee, Chief Executive Officer, adds, “Aloha Green’s goal is to provide value-priced medicine to qualified patients. Greenhouse grown cannabis will use significantly less electricity than indoor grown cannabis. These savings are being passed on to the patients. The cost of living is already high in Hawaii, and the cost of medicine should not force patients to make the hard choice of whether to seek relief from their symptoms.”

Hawaii Ranked 5th Highest in Nation for Medical Marijuana Program

Hawaii Department of Health has received a “B” and ranked the fifth highest in the nation for its medical marijuana program, based on a recent report card of new, regulated medical marijuana distribution programs issued by Americans for Safe Access (ASA).

The national organization’s mission is to reduce barriers to medical cannabis by creating policies to improve access for patients and researchers, using legislation, education, litigation, research and other means.
According to the report card, “Hawaii is on track to become one of the best programs in the country if they continue with their timely implementation.”

The grades ranged from B+ to F-. Hawaii’s “B” grade was based on 430 points out of a total 500, earning a score of 86 percent. The highest grade of “B+” was awarded to Illinois, with 449 points and an overall score of 89.9 percent

The report used a point system to grade the medical marijuana programs in 44 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories Guam and Puerto Rico, based on five criteria:

  1.  Patients’ rights and protection from discrimination
  2. Access to medicine
  3. Ease of navigation
  4. Functionality
  5. Product safety protocols

The complete report can be viewed at: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/medical_marijuana_access_in_the_usa

 

Democratic Party of Hawaii Hosts 4/20 Forum to Discuss the Future of Cannabis in Hawaii – Forum Will Be Live-Streamed on Facebook

On Thursday (April 20th), the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i (DPH) will host a forum to discuss the future of cannabis in the state. The informational forum will serve to educate party members and the public at large on the debate surrounding cannabis and efforts currently underway at both the state and federal levels.

The conversation will be wide-ranging and touch upon decriminalization and descheduling efforts in Congress, decriminalization bills at the Hawai‘i State Legislature, the national trend toward legalization in other states and municipalities, the current status of measures relating to medical dispensaries across the state, and the health benefits of cannabis for Hawai‘i patients.

Panelists include U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (with a brief presentation via videoconference), Sen. Will Espero, Me Fuimaono-Poe (Medical Director and founder of the Maile Cannabis Clinic), and Pamela Lichty, MPH – (President of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai‘i). A member is the Hawai‘i State House of Representatives has also been invited to join and will be confirmed tomorrow.

The forum will be moderated by Christopher Garth, Executive Director of the Hawai‘i Dispensary Alliance (HDA). The event will begin at 5:30pm with a legislation summary by Rep. Gabbard and continue with presentations from other panelists and a Q & A until 7:30pm. Tickets to the event are sold-out, so the DPH will be live-streaming the event via Facebook through the DPH page: https://www.facebook.com/HawaiiDems/

For more information contact: tim@hawaiidemocrats.org

Hawaii Department of Health Approves Pono Life Sciences Maui LLC to Acquire and Cultivate Medical Marijuana

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) today issued a Notice to Proceed to Acquire and Cultivate Marijuana to Pono Life Sciences Maui LLC for their production center on Maui. Pono Life Sciences Maui is the fourth licensee to receive notice from the state and the second Maui licensee to meet all requirements to begin growing marijuana.

Pono Life Sciences Maui is now authorized to acquire and grow marijuana seeds, clones and plants, for the purpose of providing marijuana and marijuana products to qualified patients registered with the department’s Medical Marijuana Patient Registry Program. This month, in addition to Pono Life Sciences Maui, DOH issued Notices to Proceed to Maui Grown Therapies, Aloha Green Holdings, and Manoa Botanicals for production centers on Maui and Oahu.

To receive a Notice to Proceed from DOH, dispensary production centers must comply with statutory and regulatory requirements that include building a secure, enclosed indoor facility; operating a computer software tracking system that interfaces with the state’s system and submits current inventory data of all marijuana seeds, plants and manufactured products in the production center; and authorization from the Narcotics Enforcement Division of the Hawaii State Department of Public Safety.

More information on the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program is available at http://health.hawaii.gov/medicalmarijuanadispensary/

A total of eight medical marijuana dispensary licenses were issued in April 2016. Three dispensary licenses for the City and County of Honolulu were issued to Aloha Green Holdings, Inc.; Manoa Botanicals, LLC; and TCG Retro Market 1, LLC dba Cure Oahu. Two licenses for the County of Hawaii were issued to Hawaiian Ethos, LLC and Lau Ola, LLC. Two licenses for the County of Maui were issued to Maui Wellness Group, LLC and Pono Life Sciences Maui, LLC. One license for the County of Kauai was issued to Green Aloha, Ltd.

Each dispensary licensee is allowed to operate two production centers and two retail sites for a total of 16 production centers and 16 retail dispensary locations statewide. Each production center may grow up to 3,000 marijuana plants.

Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana Online Registry – Accelerates Access for Hawaii’s Patients

The Hawaii Department of Health’s medical marijuana registry program is now able to issue patient registration cards in a fraction of the time it took to process a year ago.

Medical Marijuana Registry ButtonWith the introduction of a new online registry, it now takes three to five business days for the department to issue medical marijuana registration cards to patients — a dramatic decrease from the six to eight weeks it previously took when there was a backlog of patients last year.

“Without compromising the integrity of our review process or the safety of Hawaii’s people, we brought everything up to speed and improved our processing time so that patients can receive their registration cards faster,” said Scottina Ruis, medical marijuana registry program coordinator for the Hawaii Department of Health.

Process Improvements

Ruis noted that some of the benefits of the new online registry system are having the physician certify the patients electronically and having the registration cards sent directly to patients. In the past, when the Department of Health issued registration cards, the cards were mailed to the certifying physicians for their signature then the certifying physician would give or mail the cards to their patients. The use of the physician’s electronic signature during the registration process allows the Department of Health to send the registration cards directly to the patients. Since the program requires that patients wait until they receive their registration card before they are authorized to use medical marijuana, the sooner they receive their card, the sooner they are protected by the program.

“Both patients and their physicians play a critical role in ensuring that registration cards can be issued promptly,” Ruis said. “Patients must make sure they complete the electronic registration form properly and submit all of the required documentation to their physician, electronically. Physicians must review the electronic registration form as well as electronically certify the patient’s condition before submitting the completed application to the Department of Health.”

The patient registration card includes information on the grow site which permits a qualifying patient or care giver to grow up to seven plants, which must be properly tagged in order to remain in compliance with the program. Inappropriately registered grow sites, unregistered grow sites and improperly tagged plants are not protected by the program and are subject to confiscation by law enforcement agencies.

Background

When oversight of the medical marijuana registry program was transferred from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health a little more than a year ago, there was a total of 11,402 unduplicated, registered patients in the program. That number steadily climbed in 2015, and today has reached more than 13,000 valid patients.

Anticipating Future Community Need “With the dispensary program targeted to be in operation as early as July 2016, medical marijuana will be more accessible. The online registration process is the first step to help ensure that we are ready for any increase in demand for registration cards,” Ruis said.

“To be optimally functional, better able to service existing and new patients, physicians, law enforcement, and to be responsive to the larger community, we need additional staff. We hope to receive funding for an additional staff in the next fiscal year, which begins in July 2016. This will help ensure that we are able to maintain this positive momentum and the timing would coincide with the targeted launch of the medical marijuana dispensary program when demand for cards could potentially increase,” Ruis said.

Importance of Physician Education

In the meantime, Ruis is looking at ways to enlist the support of more certifying physicians for the registration program. The Department of Health recommends that patients who feel they may be eligible for the program begin the discussion with the physician that is currently treating them for the debilitating medical condition for which they are seeking certification.

Ideally these physicians would seek continuing medical education courses specific to medical marijuana and how to best meet patient needs. “Education is a critical component of the medical marijuana program. We hope to be actively involved at all levels – physicians, health care professionals, patients and caregivers, law enforcement, and the general public,” Ruis said.

Senator Espero Introduces Medical Marijuana Bills

Hawai‘i joined the growing list of states across the nation in 2015 when Act 241 was signed into law, providing the framework for the first medical marijuana dispensary program. Today marks the deadline in which prospective applicants interested in obtaining a permit to operate a dispensary may submit their applications.

Capital

While the program continues to make progress under the State Department of Health, Senator Will Espero (Dist. 19- ‘Ewa Beach, Ocean Pointe, ‘Ewa by Gentry, Iroquois Point, portion of ‘Ewa Villages) has introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at improving the medical marijuana program and further help the patients who use it.

Among the measures introduced is SB2176, which would establish a medical marijuana oversight committee under the Department of Health. The committee would include licensed medical professionals and registered patients that monitor, evaluate, and make recommendations regarding the implementation of the use, cultivation, and dispensing of medical marijuana and the overall program.

Other medical marijuana bills being introduced by Senator Espero are:

SB2175 Requires the Department of Health to issue a third medical marijuana dispensary license for the county of Hawaii. Allows medical marijuana dispensaries to be open during certain hours on Sundays. Allows an individual convicted of a felony to be employed at or enter into a medical marijuana dispensary facility only if the individual has not been convicted of a felony within the six years immediately preceding employment or entry.

SB2177 Requires the Department of Health to issue a receipt that shall serve as a temporary registration certificate for the medical use of marijuana upon receipt of a written certification form completed by or on behalf of a qualifying patient. Increases penalty for fraudulent misrepresentation to a law enforcement official relating to the issuance of a written certificate by a physician.

SB2178 Allows arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, and stress to be included among the debilitating medical conditions for which medical marijuana may be authorized to be used.

SB2306 Allows the Department of Health to revoke a medical marijuana dispensary license under certain conditions and subject to a ninety day notice followed by a public hearing within fourteen days. Establishes a fine of up to $500 per day for any licensee who violates state law or administrative rules. Allows a licensee to appeal a fine to an ad hoc special committee. Allows the Department of Health to choose a new licensee if the department revokes a license.

SB2307 Beginning January 1, 2017, establishes a licensing system for medical marijuana growing facilities, production centers, and retail dispensing locations. Allows persons authorized to use and possess medical marijuana in other states to be treated similarly to qualifying patients in this State pursuant to rules adopted by the Department of Health after 1/1/2018. Authorizes the department of health to conduct criminal history checks on license applicants; licensees; prospective employees of growing facilities, production centers, and retail dispensing locations; subcontractors; and persons authorized to enter and remain on such premises. Repeals chapter 329D on December 31, 2016.

SB2308 Establishes a working group to research and make recommendations regarding medical marijuana edibles for human consumption.

SB2627 Establishes a medical marijuana commission to evaluate and make recommendations about the overall effectiveness of the medical marijuana dispensaries in the State.

SB2757 Authorizes the Department of Agriculture to establish a three-year industrial hemp research program to investigate the viability of industrial hemp as a building material for housing in the State. Requires a final report to the legislature prior to the convening of the regular session of 2019. Defines “industrial hemp”. Repeals 7/1/2019.

Hawaii Department of Health Posts Interim Administrative Rules for Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) posted interim administrative rules for the medical marijuana dispensary licensing program today. The rules can be found at the DOH’s medical marijuana website health.hawaii.gov/medicalmarijuana under “Dispensary Updates.”

Medical Marijauan Registry

The interim rules are effective immediately and will remain in effect until July 1, 2018, or until rules are adopted pursuant to chapter 91 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS).

According to Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler, “The interim rules were written first and foremost to effectively implement the medical marijuana dispensary law and get the dispensary system up and running. The rules have also been drafted to ensure patient safety, product safety and public safety, and prevent marketing to our keiki. This product is intended to be used for registered patients who need it for medical purposes and the rules are written specifically to accomplish that goal.”

The interim rules explain: the criteria and process for awarding dispensary licenses; security requirements; the standards for certifying laboratories that will be responsible for ensuring the safety of the marijuana or manufactured marijuana products distributed at the retail dispensing locations; requirements for operating the dispensaries, including tracking each dispensary’s inventory of products from seed to sale or disposal; and other requirements.

To answer questions from potential applicants and the general public, DOH will post a “frequently asked questions” (FAQ) document on the medical marijuana website.

Anyone who has questions about the rules should send them in an email to DOH.MedMarijuanaDispensary@doh.hawaii.gov.

The FAQ document will be updated with new questions and answers as often as possible. This updated FAQ document will be the sole method DOH uses to answer questions from the public so that the process for providing this information is as fair and transparent as possible.

The medical marijuana dispensary law, chapter 329D, HRS, allows DOH to award a total of eight licenses initially: three licenses for the City and County of Honolulu, two dispensary licenses each for the County of Hawaii and the County of Maui, and one dispensary license for the County of Kauai. Each dispensary licensee will be allowed to operate up to two production centers and two retail dispensing locations. The initial open application period for licensing begins Jan. 12, 2016 and closes on Jan. 29, 2016.

Medical Use of Marijuana Program Transferred to Department of Health

Effective January 1, 2015, Hawaii’s Medical Use of Marijuana Program was transferred from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health, according to Act 177.   Act 178  amends sections of HRS 329 Part IX , some notable changes, which became effective January 1, 2015, are:

  • “Adequate supply” changes from “three mature marijuana plants, four immature marijuana plants, and one ounce of usable marijuana” to “seven marijuana plants, whether immature or mature, and four ounces of usable marijuana at any given time.”
  • Notification of changes to information on the application – if the information provided to the department of health for registration changes, the registered program participant MUST report this change to the department of health “within ten working days” of the change. The previous requirement was “within five working days”

To get a complete understanding of ALL changes to the law, please read Act 178.

Medical MarijuanaClick Here to Learn What’s New About the Program

Click Here to Learn What’s Staying the Same

Click Here to Download the General Information FAQ

Other Documents related to Hawaii’s Medical Marijuana Program

Act 228 SLH 2000.  Hawaii’s initial Medical Use of Marijuana law.

Act178 SLH  2013 –  Makes several changes to the current law (such as: “adequate supply” of medical marijuana changes to 7 plants, regardless of maturity; useable marijuana changes to 4 oz; increase in registration fees from $25 to $35; and other changes) please read Act 178 for more information.

HRS-329 Hawaii’s Uniformed Controlled Substances Act (see part IX – Medical Use of Marijuana).

Department of Public Safety Medical Marijunana Program Info

U.S. Department of Justice “Update to Marijuana Enforcement Policy  Aug. 29, 2013.

U.S. Department of Justice “Formal Medical Marijuana Guidelines”  Oct. 9, 2009.

Newly Enacted Medical Marijuana Bill Refocuses on Compassionate Treatment in Hawaii

Medical Marijuana moves from the public safety side of things to the health side of things.

Medical Marijuana moves from the public safety side of things to the health side of things.

Health Committee Chair Representative Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa) issued the following statement regarding this afternoon’s signing of Senate Bill 642 and House Bill 668, bills relating to the administration of medical marijuana:

“Today’s bills represent a significant step forward in improving Hawaii’s medical marijuana program and aligning it with best practices of medical cannabis programs in other states.  By refocusing the program on medical matters such as the role of the primary physician and the role of the Department of Health in providing regulation and program oversight, the State can better ensure the compassionate treatment of people suffering from debilitating health conditions.”