The Hawai‘i state health department has named the first eight licensees who will grow and sell medical marijuana. The winning companies now face the challenge of cultivating the product in time for dispensaries to open as early as July 15.
There were nearly 60 applicants for the eight licenses to produce medical marijuana for Hawai‘i. State Health Director Virginia Pressler said it was a big day for those who have been anxiously awaiting a state-wide dispensary system. "We look forward to improving access to qualified patients so that they have access to a safe product very soon," said Pressler.
One of the eight selected was Hawaiian Ethos LLC that will operate on the Big Island. The company manager Shelby Floyd was a former partner with the law firm Alston, Hunt, Floyd & Ing. "I was very excited," she said. "Our group is very interested in working with the medical community and developing a good dispensary system for patients on the Big Island."
"The reaction we had was shock and 'holy smokes, I think our lives are going to change,' said Richard Ha, a longtime Big Island farmer who was also selected to operate a dispensary on Hawai‘i Island under the name Lau Ola LLC.
"The reality is that it's a huge responsibility," said Ha. "But also a huge opportunity." Ha plans to construct grow facilities on his former farmland. He hopes to cut back on electricity costs by installing PV panels and using hydroelectric power.
Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2000, but without a system to dispense it, patients have either had to grow it themselves or purchase it illegally.
"We're really gratified that finally it looks like dispensaries are going to come to fruition in Hawaii after 15 years," said Pamela Lichty, the founder and president of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai‘i. "Some 13,000 patients have been waiting a long, long time for this."
Lichty says the biggest challenge now is for applicants to meet the deadline of opening day, July 15th.
"Just speaking from a botanical point of view, can they really get the products, the plants, grown by then? I understand it takes three or four months," said Lichty. "So that seems like it's going to be a logistical challenge."
That challenge is a reality for several of the awarded companies, including TCG Retro Market 1, LLC, or Cure O‘ahu. The company was one of three licensees picked to create dispensaries on O‘ahu. It’s funded by Tradewind Capital Group, a company led by Honolulu businessman Colbert Matsumoto and former DBEDT director Richard Lim. Tan Yan Chen, the executive director of Cure O‘ahu, doesn’t expect to be operational by July 15th.
"Right now we're just at the beginning, we just got selected," said Chen. "We still have a lot of permitting and approval that will have to be obtained from both state and county agencies before we actually get to operations."
Among the companies not selected is one headed by actor Woody Harrelson. The next step for the eight companies who were chosen is to pay a $75,000 licensing fee. The health department plans to post a list of the total scores received by all applicants in the coming weeks.
The applicants that have been selected for dispensary licenses are:
City and County of Honolulu
- Aloha Green Holdings Inc., Thomas Wong
- Manoa Botanicals LLC, Brian Goldstein
- TCG Retro Market 1, LLC dba Cure Oahu, Tan Yan Chen
County of Hawaii
- Hawaiian Ethos LLC, Shelby Floyd
- Lau Ola LLC, Richard Ha
County of Maui
- Maui Wellness Group, LLC, Gregory Park
- Pono Life Sciences Maui, LLC, William Mitchell
County of Kauai
- Green Aloha, Ltd., Justin Britt