Gov. David Ige has signed a bill establishing a system of medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Hawaii for the past 15 years but patients haven’t had anywhere to buy it. Instead, they must grow their own cannabis or have a caretaker do so for them.

“I support the establishment of dispensaries to ensure that qualified patients can legally and safely access medical marijuana,” Ige said in a press release. “We know that our challenge going forward will be to adopt rules that are fair, cost effective and easy to monitor. The bill sets a timeline. We will make a good faith effort to create a fair process that will help the people most in need.”

Governor David Ige during press conference announcing several bills that he will veto. 29 june 2015. photograph by Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Gov. David Ige has ended the suspense over whether he would sign the dispensary bill or allow it to become law without his signature.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

House Bill 321, now Act 241, creates a framework for a dispensary system that would allow up to 16 dispensaries statewide by July 15, 2016.

Three dispensary licenses will be issued on Oahu, with two licenses issued each in Hawaii County and Maui County. Only one company will receive a license to grow and distribute marijuana on Kauai.

After the Department of Health completes its rule-making process, the agency will start accepting applications for licenses Jan. 11, 2016. The licensees will be announced next April.

“Imagine being diagnosed with a debilitating disease, then being told that one of the medicines recommended by your doctor is only available if you grow it, or buy it — untested, uncertified — on the underground market,” said Carl Bergquist, executive director of the Drug Policy Action Group in a press release celebrating the bill signing. “It sounds absurd, yet – without legal dispensaries — this has been daily life for 13,000-plus registered patients in Hawaiiʻs medical marijuana program.”

He continued: “Act 241 is the single greatest leap forward for Hawaiiʻs medical marijuana program since its inception in 2000 – and better fulfills the original, compassionate intent of the program.”

Click here to read the full version of the bill and learn the details of the new program.

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