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Hawaii’s only two medical marijuana dispensaries plan to reopen on Wednesday with more inventory.
Oahu’s Aloha Green and Maui Grown Therapies both opened earlier this month to rush of customers and soon found it hard to keep up with demand. They both closed within a few days as they faced running out of stock.
Christopher Cole, director of product management for Maui Grown Therapies, said another batch of marijuana has been cleared by Hawaii’s only testing lab and that it should be on the shelf by Wednesday.
Tai Cheng, Aloha Green’s chief operating officer, said Aloha Green sold about 15 to 20 pounds of marijuana in the three days it was open and has roughly 100 pounds ready to be sold Wednesday.
Cheng isn’t worried about having the doors closed again. Aloha Green is about to open a new facility capable of making seven times the product the dispensary has been making so far.
Though the law allows the purchase of four ounces of marijuana every 15 days, customers have been buying smaller amounts to test out what strains work best to alleviate their symptoms.
Two Oahu dispensaries are expected to open soon, and Cheng said the dispensaries should be able to supply any customer who comes in.
Even though Cheng and Cole are optimistic that their new businesses will soon be back on track, they’re still not happy with the way the state has handled the mandatory certification of the product by state-certified labs.
Both dispensaries lost hundreds of thousands of dollars while waiting for the state to get the program going. And now the operators are frustrated the Department of Health kept them in the dark about the certification of marijuana-testing laboratories.
It wasn’t until the last minute that the dispensaries learned Oahu-based Steep Hill Hawaii was only granted a provisional certification for testing dried marijuana flowers, not concentrates, like oils, or other products.
Dana Ciccone, CEO of Steep Hill Hawaii, said he expects the DOH to fully certify the lab in two weeks. Steep Hill can be testing much more marijuana than it’s currently getting.
“We feel that it’s a disservice to the patients that we’re forcing them to smoke and we would like to see the dispensaries offer other forms of ingestion,” Ciccone said.
Maui Grown Therapies and Aloha Green are optimistic another testing lab will open, at least with the ability to test dried flowers, in the next month or two.
An emailed statement attributed to Chris Whelen, laboratory director of the DOH State Laboratories Division, said the department wants to “make medical cannabis accessible for as many certified patients as possible without compromising product safety.”
Though the statement didn’t name any specific laboratories, Whelen confirmed DOH is working with three private labs that are at different stages of submitting information that proves they can test medical marijuana. One has met some criteria necessary to prove it can test the potency of cannabinoids, a chemical compound in marijuana, in “tinctures and topicals.”
The DOH “can’t predict” when any of the labs will be fully certified to test manufactured marijuana products because they’re still submitting studies necessary for certification, according to the statement.
But even though the Oahu and Maui pot shops plan to re-open with a good stock of product made from dried marijuana, patients won’t be able to get manufactured products like edibles, oils or lotions that customer surveys have shown many people prefer.
A survey done by Maui Grown Therapies indicates that some 40 percent of shoppers prefer a form of marijuana other than dried flowers, according to Cole, the dispensary’s director of product management. Some of the neediest patients, like children, can’t smoke and many simply don’t want to smoke.
Cole said several hundred patients have registered with the dispensary and most have made a purchase. Walk-in patients will not be taken until Maui Grown Therapies has a better idea of when manufactured products can be tested, but customers must schedule an appointment to purchase marijuana.
Cheng, Aloha Green’s chief operating officer, doesn’t think there will be too much demand for manufactured product because it tends to be more expensive.
Highly concentrated oil is useful for cancer patients and epileptics, but Hawaii’s law has specific standards for the packaging for marijuana concentrate. A patient might buy 10 plastic syringes with just a few drops of product that would need to be placed in a child-proof container.
All that packaging drives up the cost of the product. In other markets that don’t have packaging limitations, concentrates make up about half of sales, Cheng said.
Customers have expressed interest in manufactured marijuana products, Cheng said, and Aloha Green sells machines that allow customers to make their own oil. The more basic stovetop oil-maker costs $75, while an automated one-button machine costs $220.
Most Hawaii medical marijuana cardholders are in the 56- to 65-year-old age range, according to DOH statistics released June 30. There are just over 30 patients under the age of 18.
Sixty-five percent of medical marijuana users are male.
Severe pain is by far the most common condition cited by medical marijuana patients. Muscle spasms, PTSD, severe nausea and cancer are also common ailments.
Here’s a breakdown of patients by county:
|County||No. of Patients||No. of Caregivers|