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20Mar/110

Medical marijuana is becoming a lucrative business in Hawaii

Legal users soared to more than 8,000 over the past decade from 255 in 2001, the program's first year.

$38 million a year, with patients consuming an average of 1 ounce per month at a street price of $400.

It's a burgeoning business for doctors, who charge as much as $300 to certify medical marijuana patients. The consultation typically lasts an hour and often is not covered by medical insurance.

There were 175 physicians licensed to certify medical marijuana patients as of June, up from 35 in 2001, according to the Narcotics Enforcement Division of the state Department of Public Safety.

The state charges a $25 processing fee for a medical marijuana certificate. Patients are required to be certified annually.

Hawaii's medical marijuana law allows patients with a debilitating condition — such as cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, severe pain or nausea — to use the drug if they are certified by a physician registered with the state. It is still illegal to buy marijuana, but patients can grow it legally.

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