East Hawaii News

DOH Takes Over Medical Marijuana Program

January 21, 2015, 1:01 PM HST
* Updated January 21, 1:03 PM
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The transfer of Hawai’i’s medical marijuana registration program has be completed between the Hawai’i State Department of Public Safety and the Department of Health.

As of Jan. 1, the program became part of the DOH. The program permits the lawful cultivation, possession, and use of marijuana for medical purposes, based on the possession of a valid medical marijuana registration card issued by the DOH and written certification of a physician.

Hawai’i is one of 23 states, along with the District of Columbia, that allows medical marijuana use.

The 14-year-old program was signed into law to be transferred from the Department of Public Safety to the DOH in June of 2013 when Act 177 was signed into law. Officials say that as a health initiative, the medical marijuana program is better aligned with the DOH’s mission and the department’s experience in working with patients and heath programs that involve public outreach, education, and safeguarding patient privacy.

Also signed into law in June of 2013 was Act 178, which amends sections of the existing law. The DOH has made changes to comply with the law, including law enforcement 24/7 online verification and increased registration fees.

Subject verification will be available to law enforcement officers on a 24/7 basis. No confidential information will be released, however, officers will be able to verify if an individual has a valid medical marijuana registration card should the need arise for official law enforcement purposes. Designated officers are being trained by the department.

An increase in medical marijuana registration fees has also occurred. The fee was increased from $25 to $35 on Jan. 1. A new online application and payment system also allows the process to be easier and faster.

“We are working to make the medical marijuana program more accessible to Hawai’i residents who may have a qualifying debilitating medical condition and could benefit from medical use of marijuana,” said Scottina “Scotty” Malia Ruis, medical marijuana program coordinator with the DOH.

The DOH initiated some of its own upgrades to the medical marijuana program. Among the changes is a new medical marijuana website with additional information on the medical marijuana program. Included on the website is the most complete and up-to-date source of information for patients, physicians, law enforcement officials, and the public.

Additionally, the DOH has established a phone hotline system with recorded messages on varying aspects of the program. Interested individuals on the Big Island can call the toll free number at 974-4000.

In hopes of increasing the likelihood of patients and caregivers keeping their medical marijuana registration card on them whenever they are in possession of medical marijuana, the DOH began issuing new cards that include the location of where the marijuana is grown and the name of the primary physician. The new card is thin and wallet-sized liked an insurance card.

Another implemented changed by the DOH is physician education. The DOH has planned physician outreach and information through ongoing planned conference calls, ensuring that healthcare providers have accurate information about the program.

State-wide public hearings are planned, beginning in late January. A public hearing will be held in Hilo on Jan. 28 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the State Office Building in conference rooms A, B, and C, located at 75 Aupuni St.

The hearings are for the proposed adoption of Chapter 11-160, Hawai’i Administrative Rules for Medical Use of Marijuana. The chapter includes the process for the DOH to consider approval of additional debilitating medical conditions for medical use of marijuana; physician requirements to participate in the program; registration of qualifying patients and primary caregivers; monitoring and corrective action; administrative procedure; and confidentiality of information.

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