Medical cannabis is currently legal in 29 states, and it seems as though that number is on a gradual incline towards increasing every day- Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota were the most recent states to legalize the drug for medical use in 2017. Obviously, total country-wide conformity would be the ultimate objective for normalizing cannabis within the medical sector, but for now, I am excited by whatever progress I can get.

Medical cannabis has been legal in Hawaii since 2000, so Hawaiians have long been proponents of the therapeutic properties of cannabinoids. However, despite a broad acceptance of the drug, medical dispensaries did not become legalized in the state until 2015. Even then, it took another two years for the first dispensaries to begin operations this summer and there was still one final roadblock to getting medical marijuana out to the general populus: without an approved laboratory to develop cannabinoid-based drugs, they could not sell their products and had to conduct outreach instead.

At the end of July, the first laboratory dedicated specifically to the research and development of medical marijuana, Steep Hill Hawaii, received approval to begin testing samples. As of that date, dispensaries were still not completely cleared to begin selling their products.

Finally, earlier this week, the medical cannabis distributor Maui Grown Therapies got official approval from the state’s Department of Health to begin selling medical cannabis. Another distributor in the state, Aloha Green, was inspected by the Department of Health and granted certification to begin operations this week as well.

In addition to making medical cannabis much more accessible to the states 18,000 patients in need of relief for pain, mental health disorders, and other ailments who previously had to grow or obtain the drug on their own, patients can now rest assured that the medical cannabis they purchase is thoroughly tested and safe to us.

“Clearly this is a historic day not just for Maui but for the state of Hawaii,” said director of community relations and patient affairs, Freitas Gorman. “This is the first time in Hawaii that patients will be able to buy lab tested, quality-assured medical cannabis from a state-licensed dispensary.”

It’s important to note that Hawaii’s approval to begin testing and distributing medical cannabis is not a sudden development. Dispensaries have been ready to sell their products for months, frustrated with the moratorium caused by the lack of a state-approved lab. Steep Hill had been pushing tirelessly for certification over the past in order to finally give patients to easy, legal access to medical cannabis they deserve.

Hawaii’s medical cannabis community is excited by this recent news and the country at large can look forward to the legalization developments that are surely on their way.