Entrepreneurs look to tap into Hawaii's medical marijuana industry

Hawaii's growing marijuana industry already creating new businesses and more jobs
Published: Oct. 20, 2016 at 11:07 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 21, 2016 at 2:32 AM HST
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(image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii's eight medical marijuana dispensaries have yet to open because of state delays in setting up a tracking system.

But that's not stopping entrepreneurs from gearing up to participate in what's being called one of the fasting-growing industries in the nation.

One prominent example: There's been rush of people trying to get medical marijuana cards, and that's spurred at least one new business aimed at helping patients navigate the system to get those cards.

According to the Hawaii Dispensary Alliance, revenue from the dispensaries are estimated between $12 to $38 million in the first year of operations and could grow to as much as $80.5 million by 2018.

Dr. Farzad Pourarian is board certified in sports and internal medicine, and he's one of two physicians at Honolulu Wellness Center in Kakaako helping people obtain their medical marijuana cards in a way that's compliant with state law.

"What I make sure not to use is any heavy narcotic use or anything that just masks the pain. That's what my specialty is here," Pourarian said. "Those who are end-of-life care or have such bad pain that it's so debilitating to their life that their quality of life is completely altered and they're almost down to no hope. So we want to help them and not let them get addicted to the terrible drugs, but help them in a more pure and organic way."

The center opens on Nov. 1, but it is already taking appointments because of high demand.

"As far as I know, we're the only ones coming out in the public saying, 'Hey, if you want your medical marijuana card, and you have a legally qualifying diagnosis, we're gonna help you get your card,'" said Paul Klink, founder of Honolulu Wellness Center.

"The qualifiers are very simple, you have to have HIV/AIDS, you have to have severe pain, seizures, nausea, glaucoma, cancers. These are very specific ailments and our doctors are prepared to help you in those areas.

The opening of Hawaii's medical marijuana dispensaries has been delayed because the state doesn't yet have a system to track the product from seed to sale yet.

And while the delay is concerning industry officials, it's not slowing them down.

In Waikiki on Thursday, marijuana-themed school Clover Leaf University welcomed about 100 people to an event aimed at discussing job openings, investment opportunities, and what could lie ahead for the medical marijuana industry.

"Pardon the pun, it's the largest-growing in the nation right now. And people are just excited to be able to find a career," said Nichole West, vice president of operations at Sweet Leaf, a dispensary with operations in Colorado and Oregon and licensing going on in Massachusetts, Illinois and Nevada.

"I wasn't really aware of some of the economic issues that Hawaii has, the need for some tax money, but it really inspired me to hear recently the opportunities that it's gonna offer as far as employment as well as revenue for the state."

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