Licensees explain delays behind opening of medical pot dispensaries

Licensees explain delays behind opening of medical pot dispensaries
Published: Jul. 11, 2016 at 8:35 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 11, 2016 at 8:58 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Friday is the first day Hawaii's 16 medical marijuana dispensaries can legally open their doors. But realistically, opening day is months away.

"It's probably at the start of the year sometime. Exactly when we'll see," Richard Ha said.

Ha is chief operating officer of Lau Ola LLC, one of two groups granted dispensary licenses on the Big Island. He said his group is close to building its facilities.

"What we're looking for is safety. Safety for the patients. As we make the decision. That's number one," he said.

Dean Okimoto and Michael Takano are with Maui's Pono LIfe Sciences. They're concerned with how the cannabis can be grown in both the short and long term. For now state law only permits indoor growth.

"You might have wasted a lot of time and money. So you got to plan for both things, basically, at the same time," Okimoto said.

"We are trying our best to open as soon as possible. But it's going to take a little bit of time to get it just right," Takano said.

Some of the state's eight license holders are closer than others to securing growing sites, hiring staff, and choosing a farming method.

Ha said "whether it's organic or if it's conventional, all these different things needs to be sorted out."

Maui Wellness Group aims to open before the year ends. The licensee recently cleared certification by the state's Narcotics Enforcement Division.

"The Department of Health will have to come out and approve our cultivation site. Once that's done we can start growing. We're looking forward to doing that hopefully by the end of this month," Teri Freitas Gorman said.

License holders said they're methodically working through the steps to meet state requirements for growing and dispensing medical cannabis.

"We got to take this in stages. The first thing is to secure the sites," Okimoto said.

"It's a matter of whether you want to compromise and go quickly or stay to your basic principals of safety," Ha said.

The groups with dispensary licenses on Maui are trying to attract laid off plantation workers from HC&S and displaced staff from the Makena Beach resort.

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