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Hawaiʻi’s Medical Marijuana Oligopoly

It seems crazy that though Hawaiʻi has legalized medical marijuana, many patients still buy from the black market because it’s easier, cheaper and there’s more variety. 

The state government opted for a tightly controlled, vertically integrated industry of eight companies. Other states created more open systems.

When Christopher Garth started the nonprofit Hawai‘i Dispensary Alliance in 2016, he envisioned the Islands as a leader on the global cannabis stage – a Hawai‘i that let its paka lōlō roots blossom into a bustling industry, where cannabis stood beside hospitality and agriculture as a local economic force. That hasn’t happened. Instead, Hawai‘i’s medical marijuana industry is a state-sanctioned oligopoly. The eight licensed companies with 10 outlets statewide control all the legal growing, processing and sale of medical marijuana. There are no outlets on Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i, and patients are not allowed to transport marijuana between islands.

Garth and other cannabis advocates who are outside the oligopoly say strict government regulations and an inadequate state administrative direction have created an ineffectual industry in which dispensaries charge high prices for their limited number of products to stay afloat. [Read more at Hawaii Business Magazine]

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