What makes Hawaii’s medical marijuana registration process faster and will it withstand an increased demand?
The Hawaii Department of Health took over the Hawaii’s Medical Marijuana Registry Program from the Hawaii Department of Public Safety back in January of 2015. The program is now administered by the department’s Harm Reduction Services Branch. According to state law, all patients prescribed marijuana for medical purposes by a physician must be registered with the program and carrying a 329 Registration Card before the marijuana can be used.
In the last year of managing the registration system, the Hawaii Department of Health has made strides to make the process more efficient. The wait time to receive the 329 Registration Card used to take as many as eight weeks, now patients can receive their card in as little as three days. In an article put out yesterday by Honolulu’s Civil Beat the department was facing application backlogs for upwards of 1,500 patients, now this list of names is below 300.
To help alleviate the wait time patients would have to endure to get their card, Hawaii state law makers proposed House Bill 2709, which allowed those waiting for their cards to be issued a temporary registration permit. This temporary permit acted just like the actual registration card, permitting patients to grow and use medical marijuana in Hawaii.
Although several lawmakers were opposed to this legislation it was a necessary measure to accommodate patients who simply couldn’t wait for the relief that their medicine would provide. That bill was ultimately deferred and the reason cited for this deferral was the new faster turnaround time for registration in the medical marijuana program. Many believe that this deferral was hasty given that medical marijuana dispensaries will be opening up in Hawaii starting in July of this year.
With the new legislation allowing dispensaries to open up, many believe that there will be an influx of patients seeking to get their registration cards. Those same people that are worried about the influx also worry about the department’s ability to uphold the faster processing times once dispensaries open. If their concerns are warranted we could see medical marijuana registration card wait times spike above the levels they were before the department implemented their new time-saving measures.
So what are these new measures that allowed the department to cut the wait by up to seven and a half weeks? Effective January 1, 2016 all Hawaii medical marijuana applications must be submitted electronically. According to the Department of Health’s program coordinator, Scottina Ruis, their staff of four are able to accomplish a faster turn-around by allowing for more overtime hours as well as streamlining the online registration process. The department also plans on hiring one more part-time employee to help with the process, though the new position will only work six months out of the year and won’t be available this summer when dispensaries open.
Check out our how to guide on using the new Hawaii medical marijuana online registration system to submit an application, which includes a step by step how to and instructional videos distributed by the Hawaii Dept. Health.
The department has also created an Information Hotline – (808) 733-2177 where applicants can listen to general information about the program. One thing is for sure, Hawaii seems to be taking a slow approach to legalization, making medical marijuana legal for patients in 2000 and in 2015 finally allowing for legal medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii. Only time will tell if the new system will actually prove to be faster as well as be able to handle the increased demand.
Hawaii regulators are hoping that they get it right the first time. With states like California, Colorado and Washington offering insight into the ways legalization can be handled and how it will greatly affect the viability of the market and medicine as a whole.