Health Department: Tag your marijuana plants

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Medical marijuana plants are to be tagged with the patient’s state registration number and expiration date, under rules adopted by the state in July.

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Medical marijuana plants are to be tagged with the patient’s state registration number and expiration date, under rules adopted by the state in July.

Not everyone is aware of the new rules, although the information is being mailed out with annual medical marijuana registration cards and is on the Department of Health’s website, officials said. The Health Department sent out a reminder news release Tuesday.

“My understanding is people are learning about it,” Peter Whiticar, a Health Department branch chief overseeing the program, said in a recent interview. “The word should be getting out.”

In addition, all patients and caregivers are required to have their registration card and valid ID on their person whenever they are in possession of medical marijuana. This means that neither patients nor caregivers are authorized by the Department of Health to begin the use of medical marijuana until they receive their registration card.

The state has also clarified laws about interisland travel with medical marijuana, by banning it under state law. Previously, patients often had their marijuana confiscated at the airport by federal Transportation Security Administration agents because it was against federal law, leaving patients in limbo under state law.

All certified patients or caregivers who are registered to grow marijuana plants must have a legible identification tag on each marijuana plant, up to the allowable limit of seven plants per registered patient. The plants must be at the registered address, which is either the patient’s address or his or her caregiver’s. The plants can’t be split between two sites.

There are between 12,000 and 13,000 registered patients statewide, Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said Tuesday. While the majority of patients have historically lived on Hawaii Island, updated figures are not yet available and are currently being compiled by the department.

Caregivers who grow medical marijuana for more than one registered patient must have the appropriate patient’s information on each tag, and no more than seven plants per patient, under the rules.

Tags must be at least 3 inches long by one-quarter inch wide, with blue or black lettering on a solid background, affixed to the base of the plant. Detailed information about the tags is found at http://health.hawaii.gov/medicalmarijuana/files/2014/11/Tags-7-24-15-FINAL.pdf.

The definition of “adequate supply” — the maximum a patient is allowed to possess — changed in January from “three mature marijuana plants, four immature marijuana plants and one ounce of usable marijuana” to “seven marijuana plants, whether immature or mature, and four ounces of usable marijuana at any given time.”

The program was transferred from the Department of Public Safety to the Health Department in January. The law enforcement agency is helping spread the word by handing out brochures as it conducts its marijuana enforcement activity, Public Safety Department spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said Tuesday.

“We’re mostly finding that the people who have medical marijuana licenses are following the rules,” she said.

The law taking effect in July made further changes, including:

• Adding post-traumatic stress disorder as an eligible debilitating medical condition.

• Removing the requirement that a certifying physician be the qualifying patient’s primary care physician as long as the certifying physician maintains a bona fide physician-patient relationship with the qualifying patient.

• Prohibiting interisland transportation of marijuana, usable marijuana or any manufactured marijuana product.

• Prohibiting patients and caregivers from using butane to extract tetrahydrocannabinol from marijuana plants.

• Adding the provision that after Dec. 31, 2018, no primary caregiver shall be authorized to cultivate marijuana for any qualifying patient. New medical marijuana dispensaries are expected to be operating by that time.

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“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 Health Department Director Virginia Pressler, MD, in a statement Tuesday.

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

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