The state Department of Health has announced the five members of a committee that will review applications to grow and sell medical marijuana in Hawaii.

They include University of Hawaii Manoa professor David Bess; retired state Supreme Court justice James Duffy; John Fisher, scientific director of Keystone Laboratories; Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, deputy to the chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture; and Keith Ridley, chief of the Office of Health Care Assurance.

Hawaii legalized medical cannabis in 2000 but patients had to grow their own or rely on a caretaker to grow it. The state approved a dispensary system last year. Companies are competing for eight licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana and can open dispensaries in July.

Dept of Health Keith Ridley listens as Sen Thielen questions him in Capitol Room 16 on care home reports being made public with up to 2 month delay.
Keith Ridley, head of the Office of Health Care Assurance, is one of five people who will be reviewing 66 applications to grow and sell medical marijuana in Hawaii. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Panel members were chosen based upon “relevant experience and knowledge to review the applications and assist DOH in selecting the most qualified applicants,” the department’s press release said. The agency screened members for potential conflicts of interest involving the applicants and their associates.

Members aren’t allowed to discuss the selection process with anyone until licensees are announced. State law requires that licensees be announced by April 15, giving panel members just four weeks to review 66 applications.

With a 50-page limit per applications, that means up to 3,300 pages of information to go through, in addition to attachments.

The agency is requesting that no one contact the selection committee members until the licensees are announced, warning that contacting them may disqualify them and delay the process while a new member is chosen.

“If an applicant, representative of an applying entity, member of the media, legislator or other government official, member of the public, or any other person contacts a selection panel member to discuss an applicant or the selection process, or tries to influence their decisions in any way, the panel member is required to immediately report the contact to DOH,” the press release said.

The state Department of Health initially refused to release the names of the selection committee members, but relented under pressure from the news media and the public.

Read the selection committee members’ biographies below from the press release:

H. David Bess
As a professor of Management and Transportation at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Bess currently teaches courses in organizational behavior, the external environment of business, and human resources management. Bess has more than 40 years of experience in administrative positions at the University of Hawaii in the Office of the Chancellor and the Office of the Vice President of Academic Affairs as well as the College of Business Administration where he served as Dean from 1981-1998. He has had visiting appointments at Kings Point and UCLA, Oregon State University, and the University of Colorado at Denver.

Bess earned his BS degree in Nautical Science from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and his MBA and Ph.D. in transportation management from the University of California, Los Angeles.

He has authored two books, numerous articles and chapters and has served as a member of both the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation teams. He has served on the Board of Directors of over ten public and private organizations and currently serves on the boards of AlohaCare, the Hawaii Chapter of the American Red Cross, and the Japan-America Institute of Management Science Foundation.

James E. Duffy, Jr.
James E. Duffy, Jr. is a retired associate justice of the Hawaii State Supreme Court. Duffy earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of St. Thomas and a doctorate of jurisprudence from Marquette University. He was a member of the Board of Editors of the Marquette Law Review. A founding member of the firm Fujiyama Duffy and Fujiyama and a trial lawyer for 35 years, Duffy represented both plaintiffs and defendants in diverse matters, including professional liability, products liability, personal injury, commercial, business and general civil matters.

Duffy has served as a mediator, arbitrator and special master for matters involving business, commercial, real estate, insurance, employment, labor, trust, probate, tort, products liability, personal injury, and professional liability. He is a past President of the Hawaii State Bar Association, and is a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, and the American Board of Trial Advocates.

John Fisher III, Pharm. D.
Fisher is the scientific director of Keystone Laboratories and a lab inspector for the College of American Pathologists. He was a founding incorporator of the Alabama Poison Center in 1981 and served as its director until 2013. Fisher earned a BS in Pharmacy from Samford University and a PharmD degree from the University of Tennessee Center for Health Sciences.

Fisher has served on the faculty of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, Capstone College of Nursing, Samford University School of Pharmacy, and Auburn University School of Pharmacy.

Fisher is a diplomate of the American Board of Applied Toxicology and a Fellow of the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology. He has been the scientific director at a College of American Pathologists certified Forensic Urine Drug Testing Laboratory, and has served as a laboratory inspector for certifying organizations.

Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser
Shimabukuro-Geiser is the Deputy to the Chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. A long time agriculture advocate, she served as president of Mikilua Poultry Farm in Waianae and vice president of the Associated Producers Corp. in Honolulu. Shimabukuro-Geiser has a BS degree with distinction in Animal Science from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and an MS degree in Avian Sciences from the University of California, Davis. She is a member of the World Poultry Science Association, and Gamma Sigma Delta Agricultural Honor Society.

Keith R. Ridley
As the chief of the Office of Health Care Assurance with the Hawaii State Department of Health, Ridley has overall management and operational responsibility for the state licensure of all health care facilities and federal certification survey program for all Medicare facilities throughout the state. Prior to joining the state in 2008, he was an independent healthcare consultant specializing in long-range planning and project management. His more than 30 years of management experience includes being the chief executive officer of a rural acute care hospital, hospital department business manager, and leading the reimbursement contract negotiations with all healthcare facilities for Hawaii’s Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer. Ridley has a Master’s degree in Business Administration and a Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Administration from Hawaii Pacific University. He is a member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) and the American College of Healthcare Executives and served in voluntary management leadership roles with HFMA locally and regionally.

About the Author