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DOH Reminds Patients of New Medical Marijuana Rules

Posted October 13, 2015, 10:31 AM HST
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California State University file image.

Department of Health officials are reminding the public of new rules governing medical marijuana following the Department of Public Safety’s transfer of the registry.

Prior to the switch, Governor David Ige approved the new Hawai’i Administrative Rules for the Medical Marijuana Registry Program, Chapter 11-160, on July 6, 2016, with an effective date of July 18.

Under the new rules, all marijuana plants grown by certified patients or caregivers must have a legible identification tag on each plant, up to the allowed seven plants per registered patient. Each of the tags is required to show the patient’s registration number and expiration date on their card. Full guidelines can be reviewed on the DOH’s website.

Along with the properly tagged marijuana plants, all patients and caregivers are required to have their registration card and a valid identification card on them whenever they are in possession of medical marijuana. DOH officials say that the requirement means that patients and caregivers are not authorized by the Department of Health to use medical marijuana until their registration card is received. The law allows proper enforcement of legal requirements for the medical use of marijuana while recognizing patient’s rights within the provisions of the existing laws. Medical marijuana registration cards can be renewed up to 60 days before they expire.

Additional updates to the existing medical marijuana registry include the inclusion of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to the Debilitating Medical Conditions list.

“We want to be as patient-friendly as possible while also ensuring patients remain in compliance with existing laws,” said Scottina “Scotty” Malia Ruis, medical marijuana registry coordinator with the DOH.

The inclusion is the first time since the medical marijuana registry program began in 2000 that a new condition was added to the existing list that qualifies individuals for medical marijuana use, pursuant to Act 241.

“The addition of PTSD and other recent updates to the medical marijuana registry rules reflect the Hawaii State Department of Health’s commitment to improve access to medical marijuana for Hawaii’s patients,” said DOH Director Virginia Pressler.

Other updates include:

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A new petition process for physicians and patients who want the DOH to include additional medical conditions to the qualifying list of conditions in the medical marijuana program.

Along with Hawai’i driver’s license and valid Hawai’i State ID, the DOH will accept a valid driver’s license or state photo ID from any state or a valid passport when applying for a medical marijuana registration card.

A physician with a valid Hawai’i medical license and a valid Hawai’i controlled substance license is required to certify that a patient has a debilitating medical condition, as defined in the law, and that the potential benefits of using medical marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks for the particular patient for the treatment of this condition. It was previously required that a primary care physician would have to certify that the patient had a qualifying medical condition for medical marijuana.

Act 241 updated the requirements and no longer requires that the patient’s primary care physician be the certifying physician for the program. The updated rules are designed to ensure that certifying physicians establish and maintain ongoing responsibility for the assessment, care, and treatment of a qualifying patient’s debilitating medical condition with respect to the medical use of marijuana.

“We see a need to provide more education for physicians and other health care professionals as well as patients and caregivers, so that they can make informed decisions about their health care options as they relate to medical marijuana,” Ruis said.  “Ideally, individuals who feel they have an eligible medical condition will begin to discuss this with their physician who is currently treating them.”

A fully online application system is currently being developed that will reduce turnaround time for the issuance of registration cards, provide patients with greater control over the information that is used on their registration card, and eliminate some of the paperwork burden that may have been a deterrent to certifying physicians in the past.

To learn more, visit the DOH Medical Marijuana Registry Program website.

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