After years of hurdles, Hawaii’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened for business Tuesday.
Maui Wellness Group, LLC dba Maui Grown Therapies was the first licensed medical cannabis dispensary in the state to receive the green light from the Hawaii Department of Health to begin selling medical cannabis to registered patients and their caregivers.
The Department of Health issued a formal notice to proceed after the dispensary completed laboratory testing requirements and passed its final onsite inspection.
The licensed retail center for Maui Grown Therapies is located at 44 Paa Street in Kahului. The dispensary is now selling dried medical cannabis flowers to registered patients.
“We have a number of patients coming in today. Prior to this point, we’ve done intakes for about 400 patients and we’re inviting them to come in by appointment this week for sales. It’s our soft opening. We’re trying to ease into operations,” said Teri Freitas Gorman, Maui Grown Therapies director of community relations and patient affairs. “We want to make sure our patients and our staff and also our neighbors here in the Maui Lani Village Center that everybody has a positive experience with us opening.”
Gorman credits the company’s opening to “our science and medical team. We’ve had professional direction from them also our board of directors.”
“This is an important day for qualified patients and caregivers on Maui who now have assurance the medical cannabis they purchase at Maui Grown Therapies has been thoroughly tested and is safe for them to use,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “Implementing a new health program is always challenging, and the dispensary program was no exception. With legal guidance from Department of the Attorney General, the DOH team paved the way for this new industry in Hawaii and has set a new standard for dispensary programs other states can emulate.”
A second dispensary plans to open Wednesday. Aloha Green on Oahu says it expects to start selling medical cannabis to registered patients.
The rigorous dispensary approval processes to open and begin selling medical cannabis are based on the requirements of Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 329D and Hawaii Administrative Rules Chapter 11-850. Dispensaries are required to comply with all state and county, health, safety, and sanitation regulations, and are subject to unannounced inspections by DOH.
Registered patients and their caregivers may purchase up to four ounces of medical cannabis during a 15 consecutive day period and purchase a maximum of eight ounces over a 30 consecutive day period.
All use of medical cannabis must be on private property and may not be used in a car while on the road, at work, at the beach, on hiking trails, or in any other public space. It is illegal to use or possess medical cannabis on any federally owned property such as military installations and national parks.
When bringing medical cannabis home after purchasing it from a dispensary, the medical cannabis must be in a sealed container and not visible to the public.
There are eight licensed dispensaries in Hawaii. There are three on Oahu: Aloha Green Holdings Inc.; Manoa Botanicals LLC; and TCG Retro Market 1, LLC dba Cure Oahu. There are two in Hawaii County: Hawaiian Ethos LLC and Lau Ola LLC. Two on Maui: Maui Wellness Group, LLC dba Maui Grown Therapies and Pono Life Sciences Maui, LLC; and one on Kauai, Green Aloha, Ltd.
These dispensaries are now at different stages of development by the licensees, and at varying stages of the approval process.
Some haven’t started growing marijuana, while others don’t have a retail space yet.
“They are currently stretched out,” said Keith Ridley, chief of the DOH’s Office of Health Care Assurance. “Based on their schedule of having products available and getting those products to labs or testing, and also finishing their retail locations, some of them are close to finishing their retail locations and we have to conduct on-site inspections.”
Since 2015, more than 6,000 patients have applied to be able to grow their own plants and purchase from a dispensary.
Officials average about 1,200 new card applications and renewals each month.
“From the time the program got transferred to the Department of Health to current, the increase has almost been double, so we know there is interest in the community for having the dispensary program,” said Ridley. “If those numbers are any indication then we’re going to expect continued growth.”
Medical cannabis may not matter to everyone, but the system has an effect on everyone’s tax dollars, due to how taxes are collected.
“In this building, we do have a sheriff that stands by the front and helps with the check-in of people coming into the public building and some of the neighbor Island offices,” said Mallory Fujitani, public information officer for the Hawaii Department of Taxation. “The security is a little more lax, so we’re just going to make sure we have more consistent armored cars service on the premise.”
So just how much money will the state be raking in? The Hawaii Dispensary Alliance estimates it could be anywhere from $12 million to $38 million in just the first year.