More delays in Kona medical marijuana dispensary opening

The opening of the Big Island’s first medical marijuana dispensary has been delayed.

Hawaiian Ethos postponed the opening of its Kailua-Kona dispensary from February to an undetermined date this summer, said Zachary Taffany, Hawaiian Ethos’ chief operating officer.

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According to Ethos’ community relations director Kea Keolanui, the delay primarily is due to longer-than-expected building permit approvals. Regulatory departments are “overwhelmed during a time of increased construction in Hawaii County” and are taking longer to approve Ethos’ construction permits.

However, Keolanui said Ethos will open a second dispensary in Hilo shortly after its Kona location begins operations.

Meanwhile, another medical marijuana company, Lau Ola, plans to open its Hilo dispensary in July.

Lau Ola CEO Richard Ha said construction on Lau Ola’s growing facility in Pepeekeo continues, with the structure to be completed and growing to begin in April.

“The shell of the structure is up now,” Ha said.

Last year, the opening of the Lau Ola dispensary was delayed when the company scrapped plans to convert Ha’s former banana packing location into the growing facility, he said.

Lau Ola also has leased a site on Leilani Street in Hilo for the company’s dispensary retail location, which also will open in July, Ha said.

In the meantime, Lau Ola and Hawaiian Ethos are supporting recently introduced bills in the state Legislature that will, if passed, broaden the scope of business dispensaries can carry out in the state.

Ha and Keolanui said they are in support of House Bill 2729, a lengthy bill which, if passed, would implement a wide-ranging list of changes to the state’s dispensary system.

In particular, Ha said the bill would amend the state’s reciprocity protocol wherein out-of-state medical marijuana patients can have their certification recognized in Hawaii. The proposed changes to reciprocity would require certain confirmation measures for out-of-state visitors, including photo identification and a certification fee.

In addition, the bill also would allow dispensaries to sell marijuana vapes and related products, which Ha said would be more popular among senior customers.

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Keolanui said Ethos also is in support of House Bill 2733, which would enact similar reciprocity- and vape-related laws, but would also no longer require dispensaries to conduct background checks on employees who do not handle marijuana products.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.