Few know that the island state of Hawaii has had a medical cannabis program since 2000. But the first legal, medical cannabis dispensary sale didn’t happen until 2017, on the island of Maui. Even more surprising is that despite Hawaii’s rich tradition of cannabis cultivation, there are no licensed production facilities on its largest island. Until yesterday, that is, when the Hawaii State Department of Health issued a cultivation license to Hawaiian Ethos LLC, making it the first licensed medical marijuana producer on the island of Hawai’i.
Hawai’i Just Got Its First Medical Cannabis Grow
With the receipt of its license to acquire and cultivate cannabis, there’s nothing standing between Hawaiian Ethos LLC and the 5,000 plants Hawaii’s medical cannabis law allows a single production facility to grow. The license allows Ethos to begin growing cannabis immediately. The company can also start manufacturing cannabis products for medical use at the same facility.
The licensing process in Hawaii is fairly standard, with nothing that sets it significantly apart from other states. Cultivation facilities have to meet certain security requirements. They have to keep plants indoors and hidden from public view. And a “seed-to-sale” computer tracking system has to be in place to submit data on seed and plant inventory and manufactured products to the state’s database. Finally, production centers need authorization from the Narcotics Enforcement Division with Hawaii’s State Department of Public Safety.
Keith Ridley, chief of the DOH Office of Health Care Assurance, said his office was looking forward to continuing to work with Hawaiian Ethos. Ethos is completing construction on a second production center which will also need approval. After that, the company plans to pursue licenses for two retail sites.
What Took Hawaii So Long To Build Production Facilities?
When Hawaii legalized medical cannabis in 2000, it didn’t establish any framework for a legal production industry or retail market. Instead, patients who had medical cannabis recommendations from a qualifying physician could grow their own cannabis. So the supply of medical cannabis in Hawaii was somewhat informal, as was the process of obtaining it.
Then, in 2015, Hawaii established a Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program to formalize the entire system. It required patients who qualified for medical cannabis to register with the state and submit a letter from a licensed, certifying physician. Patients received official registration cards. And of course, cultivators, manufacturers and dispensaries all had to seek approval from the Department of Health.
In 2016, a Senate Bill (SB-321) set up Hawaii’s official dispensary system. The bill allows for eight dispensaries, one for each major island. And each approved dispensary can operate two production centers and two retail sites, for a total of 16 each, statewide. Production centers can grow up to 5,000 plants. Eight dispensaries received licenses in April of 2016.