Hawaii approved its first laboratory to begin testing samples of medical marijuana 17 years after use of the drug was legalized in the state, the AP reports. On Monday, the state Department of Health certified Honolulu-based lab Steep Hill Hawaii. That brings Hawaii closer to the long-awaited date when dispensaries can sell their products. Hawaii was among the first states to legalize medical marijuana in 2000. But the state didn't legalize dispensaries until 2015, leaving about 17,000 patients to grow or obtain the drug on their own. Then medical marijuana dispensaries began opening in Hawaii this summer, but they could not sell their products because the state had not certified any labs to conduct the required testing. So they conducted outreach instead.
"This is a big milestone, and it couldn't have come any sooner, because many people within the industry were getting frustrated and a little angry at the time it has taken to get to this point," said state Sen. Will Espero, a Democrat. "But now that we are here, hopefully the next phase in terms of sales will happen quickly and everything will go smoothly." Once the lab receives samples, it will take about four days to test and return products to dispensaries for sale, said Dana Ciccone, owner of Steep Hill Hawaii. Then the dispensary will undergo one final inspection by the Department of Health with the product present, department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said. That on-site inspection and accompanying paperwork could take 24 to 48 hours, she said. (Read more medical marijuana stories.)