HONOLULU – The Hawaii Department of Health is preparing for an upswing of patients signing up for the state’s medical cannabis registry, as the only two medical marijuana dispensaries in the state are officially open for business. Resident of Hawaii hope they can soon get medical cannabis products like edibles and moon rocks.

More than 18,000 patients have joined the state’s medical cannabis registry. This comes after the legislature passed their own cannabis bill that allows patients to purchase up to 8 ounces or nearly a quarter kilo.

About 38 percent of the patients reside on the Big Island, while 29 percent live on Oahu, Hawaii News Now reported.

“We do see the beginning of a possible trend that shows more growth happening on Oahu,” said Scottina Ruis, coordinator for the state’s medical cannabis registry program.

The state has managed to bring the turnaround time for applicants down to three to five business days.

“At the high end, when we got the program initially, the process was an entirely paper application process, so a lot of different functions for staff,” Ruis said. “I think high end of turnaround time was six to eight weeks.”

There are four full-time employees and three more will be added by the end of the year.

“We’ve only got so many live bodies and we’re doing our best to keep up with the demand and hopefully, we can stay ahead of that,” Ruis said.

There has been some swirling criticism that the state system is suffering from cronyism, with the licenses being aware to the politically connected and inexperienced. This has been a problem with many of the states implementing medical cannabis. After speaking with people in Ohio, Florida, and Michigan, there have been the same concerns about who is being awarded the license to grow cannabis.

The concern is just, as these cannabis markets are projected to grow substantially over the next half decade. Being awarded the license can be like being handed golden opportunity.

We believe that as these systems mature and the topic gets exposure, the people will let their voice be heard and ask for accountability of the system.