Hawaiian Ethos offers early look at new Kona dispensary

  • Attendees listen to Kea Keolanui at the Hawaiian Ethos dispensary open house Tuesday evening. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Dr. Stacey Kerr talks about medical cannabis at the Hawaiian Ethos open house Tuesday evening. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Hawaiian Ethos CEO Luis Mejia talks to attendees of the dispensary open house Tuesday evening. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Hawaiian Ethos Community Relations Coordinator Kea Keolanui welcomes attendees at the dispensary open house Tuesday evening. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — West Hawaii will soon grow even greener.

Future patients and the public on Tuesday evening got a chance to glance inside Kona’s first ever medical marijuana dispensary, owned and operated by Hawaiian Ethos. Visitors took leisurely tours of the space, which was followed by a wide-ranging presentation in the new facility’s waiting room from Hawaiian Ethos Medical Advisor Stacey Kerr, MD.


CEO Luis Mejia said the presentation was the first step in an educational campaign to outline for the community the approach Hawaiian Ethos will take to cannabis as a medicine, as he believes product will hit the company’s shelves inside of four months.

“What we’re telling people now is that we’re going to open in the first quarter of 2019,” Mejia said. “Our wish is … to be open as soon as we possibly can, so we’re doing everything we possibly can to be open.”

Remaining obstacles to that hope revolve mostly around county permitting at production facilities. Cannabis is currently growing in the greenhouse, after which it will be shipped to production facilities and readied for transport and sale at the dispensary located on Olowalu Street near Costco.

The Hawaii Department of Health must also fully clear Steep Hill, an independent cannabis testing facility, for a variety of assessments. Janice Okubo, spokesperson for DOH, told West Hawaii Today Steep Hill was still waiting on certain testing clearances as of Nov. 11.

Testing and transparency of exactly what products Hawaiian Ethos plans to offer, those products’ contents and the various forms of delivery methods were central to Tuesday night’s presentation.

The dispensary will offer cannabis products in tablets for use both above and beneath the tongue, capsules, oil-based tinctures developed without the use of solvents, rosin concentrates, cartridge concentrates for vaporizing and finally flowers, also known as buds, which can be smoked or vaporized.

Kerr raised only one concern with one method.

“It’s no longer cool to smoke pot,” she said. “Smoking is not good for your lungs but it also destroys the terpenes, destroys some of the cannabinoids, and you lose a lot to side-stream smoke.”

Mejia explained Hawaiian Ethos will not be offering edibles, as DOH hasn’t cleared the delivery method to this point.

Marijuana is a potentially effective medicine for a range of ailments, from epilepsy to anxiety to chronic pain. There are several active ingredients in cannabis and different delivery modes and product compositions will be more or less suited for particular conditions. As such, the contents of each product will be visibly available to patients once the dispensary opens its doors.

Hawaiian Ethos also plans to launch its “Talk Medicine” app as soon as product is ready and cleared for sale. The idea is to track medication sessions by asking users to confidentially input the type of product they used, how much and for what reason. After consumption, patients will be asked to check back in at certain time intervals to report on the effectiveness of various medicines.

“When we have all that data, then I can stand up here with more intelligence and tell people what seems to be working,” Kerr said. “And we at Ethos can make better medicine for you.”

The waiting room was mostly full and attendees were generally impressed with the information provided as well as the facility itself.

Andrew, a future patient in his 30s who asked his last name be withheld for privacy reasons, received his medical marijuana card due to muscle-related issues. He described the presentation as “excellent” and “well grounded in fact,” while referring to the facility “a clean and simple layout.”

The dispensary is characterized by high ceilings and hardwood floors. White walls are lined with colorful photographic art, including some images of cannabis flowers themselves. Potted plants are situated in various nooks and corners, adding a spring of life to the facility’s overall ambiance.

More square footage is allocated to the waiting room than the sales floor, as law mandates a ratio of one employee for every two customers in spaces where marijuana is displayed and sold. Communications Director Diana Hahn said payment options other than cash will be made available.

The sales floor itself has several wooden-topped display islands where products will be featured. The waiting room is also equipped with wooden-topped display tables connected to the walls, which Hahn said would be utilized as education stations to familiarize patients with products before purchase.

Andrew said he was eager for the dispensary to start conducting business.

“It’ll be cool once they do because I think the advantage of having a place like this versus getting marijuana from a friend or something is you have a lot more options, and the options can be better suited for what your particular medical issue is,” he said.


A patient education booklet was distributed to the audience and will also be available at the offices of medical practitioners who make recommendations for patients to receive medical marijuana cards.

The same information is also available on the company’s website, hawaiianethos.com, as are job applications. Hahn said openings remain for sales consultants, intake specialists and some managerial positions. Background checks for these jobs will be mandatory and a felony conviction automatically disqualifies any applicant.

  1. Kaipo Wall December 12, 2018 1:28 am

    Such a scam . Auwe auwe

  2. Sara Steiner-jackson December 12, 2018 8:25 am

    It’s no longer cool to smoke pot says this very rich person who gets to be one of only 8 rich people to open a Hawaii dispensary. If you wanna be cool, you need to buy it from us at exorbitant prices.

    Organized State-Sponsored Racketeering is what it is. State persecutes medical cannabis patients for the last 18+ years for attempting or acquiring their legal medicine of choice. All of a sudden it’s okay, as long as we get it from an overpriced dispensary?

    Keeping sick people at cannabis gunpoint really sucks.
    All you Hawaii legislators know exactly that the patients have been trying to use their medicine of choice and YOU ALL HAVE PREVENTED THEM FROM IT FOR THE LAST 18 YEARS UNTIL YOU SET IT UP TO REWARD 8 INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE ALREADY RICH.


    1. KonaLife December 12, 2018 3:00 pm

      Oh, c’mon if you believe anyone who has wanted marijuana on Hawaii Island hasn’t been able to get it easily, you live in an alternate universe.

      The market will determine if these places survive or thrive. I see these dispensaries, at least while it’s “medicinal” marijuana instead of “recreational”, serving a small group of people, many who perhaps don’t want to buy/use illegally or haven’t lived here very long.

      If people want to go to a doctor, get a prescription and then register on a state database, they will be able to go to a place like this, and, as you say, buy overpriced weed. I’m guessing most will not; instead they will continue as they are now, not getting a prescription, not becoming part of a state-run database, and buying weed from their local dealer at a price that is certain to be less than a dispensary. I don’t smoke pot, but if I did, I wouldn’t want to register my use with the government without exhausting other means, of which there are plenty on this island, of getting it outside of the system.

      Your assertion that the government has prevented people from getting weed is simply preposterous. I believe anyone can still grow, if they are doing it as a “caretaker” for someone who has a license. Your diatribe about the “already rich” is just sour grapes, isn’t it?

  3. Buds4All December 12, 2018 9:52 am

    A Friend with Weed is a friend indeed!

  4. Hoozhawaiian December 12, 2018 6:27 pm

    The dispensary is not to blame for the regulations. those that lament the opening of this dispensary are ignorant of….well, just ignorant. Those people on here who have already passed judgement are ignorant.

  5. KrustyKola December 13, 2018 7:39 am

    In the next four months? Hopefully one day the true story of why the dispensaries have taken far to long to open here on the Big Island will be told. Every day of delay is another day the two companies with dispensaries are putting out money without having made a cent in years! They will compensate themselves by charging as much as possible for their products and who would blame them. Meanwhile states that are much less progressive than Hawaii professes to be have managed to have operations up in running through out their states in a reasonable span of time.

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