HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Before any of Hawaii's medical marijuana dispensaries can start selling their products, the plants will have to go through several rounds of testing.
And the lab that will likely inspect some of the state's first medical marijuana sits in the penthouse suite of a downtown Honolulu highrise.
Step Hill Hawaii hopes to begin officially testing medical marijuana Dec. 1, once it gets the OK from the state.
"You basically just push a button. It's all automated," senior chemist Michael Covington said, during a tour of the lab Tuesday.
In April, eight businesses were awarded medical marijuana dispensary licenses.
Each one is allowed to operate two grow centers and two dispensaries. The law allowed them to start selling medical marijuana a month ago, but the first retail centers likely won't be open until the end of the year.
"We are working in conjunction with the dispensaries to try and be ready when they are ready," said Covington.
All products including edibles and oils are required to undergo testing. An estimated 48,000 plants will need to be tested every three months.
On top of being able to determine if the cannabis is contaminated, the instruments inside the lab also provide patients with details on the potency of the product.
"The ratio of the cannibinoids. How much THC is in there. For the dispensaries to label their product medical grade, there has to be some assurances that what they are putting on the shelf is medical quality," Covington said.
State Sen. Will Espero, chairman of the vice chairman of the Senate Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee, said having labs like this one in Hawaii is the key to keeping the price of medical marijuana in check. The lab will mean dispensaries likely won't be forced to send samples to the mainland.
"When you talk about sending things away for testing there's added cost. We need to make certain that this medicine they are purchasing is something they can afford," Espero said.
Before Steep Hill Hawaii is cleared to open, an outside auditor must come in to make sure they are doing everything correctly.
The company also needs to be signed off by the state Department of Health.