By Derrick DePledge
The state House Finance Committee on Friday moved a bill that would transfer the administration of the state's medical marijuana program to the state Department of Health.
The state Department of Public Safety's narcotics enforcement division has been administering the program, but marijuana advocates believe medical marijuana is a public health issue, not a law enforcement matter.
Hawaii is one of 18 states and the District of Columbia that have medical marijuana programs. Marijuana, however, remains illegal under federal law.
An estimated 12,000 people in Hawaii participate in the medical marijuana program.
Officials at the Department of Health told lawmakers that if the department takes over the program, they want the authority to raise the annual fee on patients to up to $50. Right now, patients pay $25 a year, although the state can charge up to $35.