Kauai’s first medical pakalolo dispensary may open soon — two years after the state approved its application.
Green Aloha has just one more Department of Health inspection left and hopes to begin serving some of the 1,800 Garden Island patients within the month. The Kapaa dispensary will be the sixth to open in Hawaii, joining three on Oahu and two on Maui.
The eight dispensaries granted licenses by the health department have been gradually opening since August, when Maui Grown Therapies made the state’s first medical marijuana sale. The number of registered patients statewide continues to gradually increase.
But Big Island patients still don’t have a place to purchase their medicine because of bureaucratic red tape at the county level. A third of all patients reside there and two Big Island applicants are trying to open shop.
The health department has met with both Big Island dispensary license-holders in recent weeks, said Keith Ridley, head of the DOH Office of Health Care Assurance that oversees the cannabis dispensary system.
“We’re ready to conduct inspections when they’re ready,” Ridley said. “I know they’ve had probably a little bit more delays than they’d like.”
Justin Britt, CEO of Kauai-based Green Aloha, said he faced a six- to nine-month wait for certain necessary county permits while some other dispensaries got theirs in a matter of weeks. He chalked it up to county officials wanting to ensure they did everything correctly and by the book.
“I feel very fortunate because with our counties, we’re actually getting to open,” Britt said. “They’re (Big Island dispensaries) not even growing yet.”
The circumstances leading up to the opening of dispensaries is unprecedented in Hawaii, said Zachary Taffany, COO of Kona-based Hawaiian Ethos. Details are getting extra scrutiny and it’s a lengthy process.
“I can’t just blame it all on the county … It’s getting compliance with (county and state agencies) and they don’t necessarily talk to each other,” he said. “It’s our kuleana, we have to go to all of them.”
Though Hawaiian Ethos has yet to open its first store, Taffany said the company is in talks with the health department to open second and third locations. Most patients live in Kona or Hilo, where the dispensary wants to launch its second location. But that leaves the north and south corners of the island underserved.
A separate Hilo-based dispensary, Lau Ola, aims to open in August.
Taffany declined to estimate when Hawaiian Ethos would open to patients — at one point, he thought the store would be ready at the end of 2016.
“My crystal ball is faulty,” he joked.