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Medical Cannabis: Panel Discussion Sponsored By Hawai'i Venture Capital Association

Department of Health

Two medical marijuana dispensaries opened last month and was the subject of a Hawai’i Venture Capital Association panel discussion. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Hawai’i are regulated by the Department of Health.  Licensees must prove local residency and have 1.2 million dollars in financial resources available.  But that’s not all.  Kalani Ho-Nikaido is the director of finance and administration for Maui Grown Therapies.

“You need the product precision and safety of a pharmaceutical company, combined with the safety standards of Fort Knox.  We must also pass rigorous testing standards down to one-part per million for a long list of toxins and contaminants.  So these standards are impossible to achieve growing outdoors.  So we have to bring everything indoors, which requires massive climate control measures to keep our plants and our people healthy.”

Medical marijuana was originally approved for sale in July 2016 but was delayed due to the certification process.   Dispensaries grow, pay for testing and package their own products.   Add to that, labor and electricity, and the cost per ounce increases exponentially.  Tai Cheng is co-founder and COO of Aloha Green Holdings on O’ahu.

(L-R) Me Fumaono-Poe, Senator Will Espero and Tai Cheng

“In Colorado, you can buy pounds for 12-hundred to 15-hundred dollars a pound.  There is no way we can grow a under $15-hundred a pound cost here in Hawai’i, if we’re growing indoor with no pesticides, no fungicides in a completely sealed environment with air filtration, with all the UV and thousand watt lights.  You know, when we did our estimates it was between 17 to two thousand dollars a pound cost.”

Cheng says 24-hour security and cash-only sales are also challenging.  But increasing revenue by exporting product to foreign countries is not an option.  Brian Goldstein is founder and CEO of Manoa Botanicals, which will soon be open for sales.

“The first exports have started from Canada to South America and to Australia.  There is a international treaty – a single convention – that prohibits the legal cultivation or international transport of illegal drugs like cannabis.”

There are an estimated 18-thousand medical marijuana patients statewide.  Senator Will Espero says the goal is to one day legalize recreational marijuana use for residents and tourists to increase state revenue.  But he says incremental changes are okay for the near future.

“I’m hoping in the next 12 months that we will tackle edibles as well as the expansion of the ailments.  Examples are expanding it for depression, stress, anxiety and insomnia.   And if we can do those four, we could increase that patient base tremendously.”

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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