KAILUA-KONA — After substantial delays, Hawaiian Ethos has begun growing medicinal cannabis for distribution from its Kona location. When card-carrying patients will have access to the company’s products, however, remains an open question.
Kea Keolanui, Hawaiian Ethos spokesperson, in an email to West Hawaii Today, declined to provide an exact date or general timeline for the sale of medical marijuana at the company’s Kona dispensary. She wrote instead that the company has “every intention to open as soon as possible.”
Hawaiian Ethos received its notice to proceed with production of medical marijuana in August.
“We will begin sales once plants are harvested, lab testing is complete, and (Department of Health) final approval of our dispensary location takes place,” Keolanui wrote in the email.
Keolanui also declined to provide specifics on why the notice to proceed took Hawaiian Ethos longer to acquire than for operations on other islands where dispensaries have already opened, or details related to separate production delays up to this point.
“Opening dispensaries is a new process for everyone on Hawaii Island, and as a result there has been a learning curve for us as well as the regulatory agencies involved,” she said. “It takes a whole community to bring cannabis to market and not everyone is able to work within our preferred timelines, but all parties involved are doing their best to serve Hawaii County patients as swiftly as possible.”
Keolanui did say delays were not specifically related to lab testing, but that the Hawaii regulatory system creates unique challenges to the required element of testing before initiating the public sale of cannabis.
Steep Hill Hawaii announced on Oct. 30 via press release the opening of a testing lab in Kailua-Kona. Janice Okubo, spokesperson for the state Department of Health (DOH), confirmed in an email to West Hawaii Today that Steep Hill is the only cannabis testing facility located on Hawaii Island.
While DOH has certified the lab to test for marijuana potency, other hurdles remain before Steep Hill can become fully operational.
“There are a number of other lab tests required for medical cannabis products that will be sold by a dispensary, such as tests for contaminants and toxins,” Okubo wrote. “The Steep Hill Hawaii lab is not certified by the state for these tests.”
When the lab will be fully certified also remains an open question.
But Hawaiian Ethos, optimistic with the progress made in the last three months, announced in a press release Wednesday a sort of open house for its Kona dispensary, which the company has scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 11, from 5-7 p.m.
All the public is invited to get the first look at the facility, which is located at 73-5613 Olowalu Street in Kailua-Kona. Along with access to the dispensary, Stacey Marie Kerr, MD, medical advisor for Hawaiian Ethos, will offer a talk titled “Cannabis is Medicine,” followed by a question and answer session.
Keolanui said the discussion will cover the endocannabinoid system, delivery methods, active compounds in cannabis, dosage in medicinal contexts and sustainable growing strategies, which she added Hawaiian Ethos is practicing in its “state-of-the-art greenhouse.”
Because space is limited, Hawaiian Ethos requests those interested in attending RSVP for the event on the company’s website, www.hawaiianethos.com. The same talk from Kerr will be delivered the previous evening, Monday, Dec. 10, in Hilo at the Hawaii Innovation Center. It will also run from 5-7 p.m. and requires an RSVP to guarantee access.
A medical marijuana card, also known as a 329 Card, is not required to attend either event.
Hawaiian Ethos also plans to open a dispensary in Hilo. According to the company’s website, its location in Hilo is “in the works.”