Medical marijuana dispensaries, patients wait through delays

  • Wayne Wills, left, director of security at medical marijuana dispensary Aloha Green, looks over empty shelves Tuesday, June 6, 2017 in Honolulu. Medical marijuana dispensaries are beginning to open in Hawaii, but they're not allowed to sell their products because the state has not yet certified any labs to run required safety tests, nearly a year after dispensaries were legally allowed to open. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz) Cathy Bussewitz

  • James H.Q. Lee, CEO of medical marijuana dispensary Aloha Green, talks to members of the media among empty shelves Tuesday, June 6, 2017, in Honolulu. Medical marijuana dispensaries are beginning to open in Hawaii, but they're not allowed to sell their products because the state has not yet certified any labs to run required safety tests, nearly a year after dispensaries were legally allowed to open. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz) Cathy Bussewitz

  • At Aloha Green, a medical marijuana dispensary, empty shelves surround a customer service window Tuesday, June 6, 2017, in Honolulu. Medical marijuana dispensaries are beginning to open in Hawaii, but they're not allowed to sell their products because the state has not yet certified any labs to run required safety tests, nearly a year after dispensaries were legally allowed to open. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz) Cathy Bussewitz

  • Jari Sugano, center, who needs medical marijuana for her 8-year-old daughter who has a severe form of epilepsy, talks to patients, dispensary employees and members of the media Tuesday, June 6, 2017, in Honolulu. Medical marijuana dispensaries are beginning to open in Hawaii, but theyâre not allowed to sell their products because the state has not yet certified any labs to run required safety tests, nearly a year after dispensaries were legally allowed to open. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz) Cathy Bussewitz

  • James H.Q. Lee, foreground left, CEO of medical marijuana dispensary Aloha Green, talks with employees among empty shelves Tuesday, June 6, 2017 in Honolulu. Medical marijuana dispensaries are beginning to open in Hawaii, but they're not allowed to sell their products because the state has not yet certified any labs to run required safety tests, nearly a year after dispensaries were legally allowed to open. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz) Cathy Bussewitz

  • Aloha Green, a medical marijuana dispensary, was open for media tours Tuesday, June 6, 2017 in Honolulu. Medical marijuana dispensaries are beginning to open in Hawaii, but they're not allowed to sell their products because the state has not yet certified any labs to run required safety tests, nearly a year after dispensaries were legally allowed to open. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz) Cathy Bussewitz

Associated Press
Published: 6/9/2017 6:16:54 PM

Medical marijuana dispensaries are beginning to open in Hawaii, but they’re not allowed to sell their products.

Instead, the leafy medicinal greens they’ve harvested are sitting on a shelf unsold because nearly a year after dispensaries were legally allowed to open, the state has not yet certified any labs to run required safety tests.

That means dispensaries such as Aloha Green on Oahu have no income despite payroll, rent and operations expenses that top $100,000 a month.

“For us it’s a little frustrating, having so many people on board, but it has to be done,” said James H.Q. Lee, CEO of Aloha Green. “I’m more concerned for the patients, because people have been calling: ‘We see it online, when are you going to open? We need our medical cannabis.’ ”

Hawaii was among the first states to legalize medical marijuana 17 years ago, but dispensaries were only legalized in 2015. The state’s 17,000 registered patients have been left to grow marijuana plants on their own or buy it on the black market.

The delays have been frustrating to potential customers, executives and employees in the nascent industry.

Since they’re paying for the space, Aloha Green decided to open their doors to the public Thursday for education and outreach.

“That’s indicative of how creative the licensees are having to be, because they’re bleeding money,” said Carl Bergquist, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii.

By law, dispensaries were allowed to open in July 2016, but none could open their doors or begin grow cannabis because the state had not approved software to track the product from seed-to-sale.

“People are hoping for dispensaries to open, but they’re just waiting and waiting,” said Jari Sugano, whose 8-year-old daughter suffers from a form of severe epilepsy that can be treated with medical cannabis. “In the end, the delays are going to come back on the patient to pay back.”




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