Hawaii has been given the green light to open up dispensaries for medical marijuana patients, but when will that happen? 
We take a closer look at what still needs to be done before cannabis goes out to customers.

It has been nearly a year since the state granted eight medical marijuana dispensary licenses, but it wasn't until last month that several licensees started pot production.

"We are currently growing medical marijuana, and finishing off our full production facilities. We will soon begin construction of our dispensary," said Manoa Botanicals CEO Brian Goldstein.

A backlog of construction projects isn't the only reason for the delay in ramping up Manoa Botanicals' indoor growing site and building its dispensary.  
"It is hard for anyone to give a starting date because there are 2 major milestones that need to be achieved by the state, before we can open our dispensary," said Goldstein.

One milestone is labs that will test products need to be certified by the state.

"We're not allowed to sell any medicine that has not been tested," said Goldstein.

"We are verifying the labs that will performing potency and contamination testing for medical marijuana so it meets international standards,"
said State Laboratory Director Dr. Chris Whelen.

A number of labs have applied to certify medical marijuana, but that entail purchasing high tech equipment like a mass spectrometer, which can be used to analysis products. 
Using high pressure, marijuana samples can be separated and filtered to find any contaminates like heavy metals or mold.

"Some of the patients using these products are particularly susceptible to certain types of infections. So we want to make sure the types of molds that cause infections in debilitated patients are not there," added Whelen.

Harmful bacteria, including e-coli and salmonella are also a concern in medical marijuana.

"Patients undergoing chemo have depressed immune systems and have a difficult time fighting infections with salmonella. Which we know to be widespread in the environment, it is everywhere," stated Whelen.

Labs not only have to acquire expensive testing equipment, they must hire and train experts along with get 3rd party accreditation. But according to Dr. Whelen they are getting closer to certification, "I think sufficient progress has been made that I'm optimistic the labs will be ready."

The state still needs to connect the patient registry and the seed-to-sale computer monitor system, so that all sales of medical marijuana by registered patients can be monitored.

     The Department of Health will track plants from seed to sale using a Bio-track monitoring system. Each plant is given a unique number and that number stays with the plant its entire life. A system similar to ones being used in a half dozen other states. 

     Because of these requirements, Goldstein says he doesn't know exactly what day his dispensary doors will open, but he has narrowed it down the year to 2017, "We're looking forward to opening our first dispensary later this year."