HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Cannabis card holders lined up in Hilo on Wednesday morning as a long-awaited medical marijuana dispensary opened for business.
Big Island Grown is the island's first retail store.
Hours before doors opened, customers started arriving outside the dispensary.
Some traveled from as far as Hawi to purchase the island’s first medical cannabis.
“I’m very excited. We’ve been following this for many years,” said resident Clarence Baber.
Baber drove 82 miles to be there. He says he’s happy that patients can finally have access to a regular supply of top-quality medical cannabis.
"People can get the relief they need and that's a great thing," said Baber.
There are 6,659 medical cannabis card-holders on Hawaii Island.
Although the state legalized the sale of marijuana from licensed dispensaries two and a half years ago, the head of Big Island Grown says the process to open has been a challenge.
“It’s been a great learning experience,” said Dylan Shropshire. “With getting the license and really understanding what’s necessary to roll out the proper infrastructure and production and retail locations so you can follow the law and get properly controlled and tested medication to patients.”
The dispensary currently offers four strains of flower.
But over the next two months, the operation plans to increase that number to 50. They also offer a variety of oils, tinctures, lozenges and topicals.
Outside, many card holders said being here gives them a sense of relief.
“It’s important for us to have some place to go where you can get in safely,” said Jeffrey Mello. “Without dealing with police and the black market and always looking behind your back.”
An Army vet says she's excited to have access to a treatment that works for her.
“I have PTSD and I’ve been on all the medications. They don’t work,” said Christine Krieger. “I was in a really dark place (and) it’s really opened up my life immensely.”
Big Island Grown is planning to open two more dispensaries in the next month. One will be located in Kona. The other will be in Kamuela.