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.