Kona’s first medical marijuana dispensary opens Sunday

  • Hawaiian Ethos Community Relations Coordinator Kea Keolanui welcomes attendees at the dispensary open house held in December. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Hawaiian Ethos, which touts its science-based approach and sustainable growing practices, will offer within its dispensary a variety of Big Island-, sun-grown cannabis products in quick dissolve tablets, capsules, tinctures, salves, rosin concentrates, cartridge concentrates for vaporizing and flowers, also known as buds, which can be smoked or vaporized. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)
  • Medical marijuana grows at a North Kona site in this undated photo. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)
  • Hawaiian Ethos, one of only two businesses licensed to sell medical marijuana products on the Big Island, plans a grand opening celebration Sunday at its dispensary at 73-5613 Olowalu St. in the Kaloko Light Industrial Area. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)
  • Hawaiian Ethos, one of only two businesses licensed to sell medical marijuana products on the Big Island, plans a grand opening celebration Sunday at its dispensary at 73-5613 Olowalu St. in the Kaloko Light Industrial Area. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)
  • A line forms outside of Big Island Grown, one of only two businesses licensed to sell medical marijuana products on the Big Island, on its opening day Jan. 16 in Hilo. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

KAILUA-KONA — Kailua-Kona’s first medical marijuana dispensary opens this weekend, providing patients here a legal avenue for obtaining their medicine.

Hawaiian Ethos, one of only two businesses licensed to sell medical marijuana products on the Big Island, plans a grand opening celebration Sunday at its Olowalu Street dispensary in the Kaloko Light Industrial Area. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Aloha Plaza parking lot will feature music, food trucks, activities and informational booths open to all — not just medical marijuana card holders.

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“It should be a really good time,” Kea Keolanui, community relations coordinator at Hawaiian Ethos, adding later that the company thanks the “community for their patience and support. This has been a long-awaited milestone for so many on the island and we are excited to begin operation.”

The parking lot event will allow interested persons who may not hold a state Department of Health-issued “329 Card,” as the medical cannabis registration card is commonly referred, the chance to learn about the program and what Hawaiian Ethos will offer at its dispensary. Among the individuals and groups providing information and resources are recommending physicians, the Epilepsy Foundation of Hawaii, Hui Malama Cancer Support Group, Hawaii Parkinson’s Association and PTSD support groups and others.

While the parking lot festivities are for all, only adults and caretakers holding valid a medical cannabis registration card from the Department of Health, are permitted to enter Hawaiian Ethos’ dispensary.

“Anybody entering the dispensary needs to have a ‘329 Card,’” Keolanui stressed.

Hawaiian Ethos, which touts its science-based approach and sustainable growing practices, will offer within its dispensary a variety of Big Island-, sun-grown cannabis products in quick dissolve tablets, capsules, tinctures, salves, rosin concentrates, cartridge concentrates for vaporizing and flowers, also known as buds, which can be smoked or vaporized, with varying levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Effervescent tablets will be available “very soon after opening.”

The quick dissolve tablets will be offered in 10 mg, 5 mg and 1 mg dosages, allowing patients to “microdose,” or ingest small amounts of cannabis, Keolanui said. The “true-controlled dose” allows people to “really” know and control just how much cannabis is being consumed.

“If people have anxiety, they can take these in a very discreet way so they don’t have to go outside and smoke a joint or vape pen,” she explained. “They can take a 1 mg quick-dissolve tablet and deal with their anxiety throughout the day without necessarily become intoxicated because there’s a very low amount of THC.”

Hawaiian Ethos CEO Luis Mejia declined to provide ranges of cost for products, but said, “We believe our pricing is going to be such that it will be affordable.”

Hawaiian Ethos on Sunday also launches its “Talk Medicine” app. The app allows the company to anonymously track medication sessions by asking users to confidentially input the type of product they used, how much and for what reason. After consumption, patients are asked to provide information at specific intervals on the effectiveness of various medicines.

That information, over time, will allow for the user to not only see what is working best for them, but also the ability to see anonymously what’s working for others with similar conditions.

“We can help people try to figure out better medications that might work better for them based upon their data submitting. It also helps us understand what works so we can develop new products and launch those,” said Mejia. “The whole idea is using science to continually improve our understandings and get better medicines that are going to work for people.”

Hawaiian Ethos’ Kona dispensary hours will be 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. It will be closed on Monday. Appointments for private consultations are available, but they are not required. For more information about the dispensary, appointments, events, business hours and location, visit www.hawaiianethos.com or call 339-3205.

“We’re just really excited to bring the science-based approach and patient-centric medicine to the island and we’re looking forward to working with patients,” said Keolanui.

The opening of Hawaiian Ethos’ dispensary comes four years after the state legalized medical marijuana dispensaries in 2015. Medical marijuana was legalized in 2000, but patients had no legal way to obtain the drug until 2017 when the first dispensary opened on Maui. Eight hold licenses to operate dispensaries in the state, including Hawaiian Ethos and Big Island Grown Dispensaries, on Hawaii Island.

Big Island Grown opened Hawaii Island’s first dispensary in January in Hilo, and a satellite location in March in Waimea.

Big Island Grown CEO Jaclyn Moore told West Hawaii Today on Monday that the company was still working with the county’s building department to obtain the required permits for its dispensary set to open at Brewers Block in Kailua-Kona. An opening date has yet to be determined, however, Moore said the company is “hoping for an opening this summer.”

Hawaiian Ethos plans to open a Hilo location in the future, but Mejia was not quite ready to provide a timeframe, noting the company’s experience getting the Kona locale open. Bringing the Kona dispensary into operation has been underway since April 2016 when the state awarded the company a license to produce marijuana. In August, the company was given notice to proceed with production of cannabis.

“We’ve had to reach different milestones throughout the process of opening. We are doing things differently than a lot of other dispensaries in the state, as well as ensuring everything is done correctly, and that takes time,” Keolanui said of the delays.

After opening a dispensary of its own in Hilo, Hawaiian Ethos is permitted by the state to open one more dispensary on the island.

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“The exact location has not been decided but it would be based on patient needs,” Keolanui said.

Hawaii dispensaries sold 1,569 pounds of medical marijuana totaling $12.6 million in 2018, state Health Department statistics released in March showed. That figure is likely to rise as more people register to become patients. It also doesn’t include any Hawaii Island sales because no dispensary was open on the island in 2018.

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