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Ha steps down as cannabis dispensary CEO

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Richard Ha visits the Tribune-Herald Thursday.

The CEO of Lau Ola LLC, one of only two Big Island medical cannabis dispensaries, announced his retirement Wednesday, before the dispensary has brought any product to market.

Richard Ha joined Lau Ola in 2016 and built the company’s cannabis growing facility on his own land in Pepeekeo, a former banana farm.

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Ha said he had “signed up for four years” as CEO of Lau Ola — one of his conditions for allowing Lau Ola to use his land was that he be given a “meaningful position” in the company — but realized this year that the rest of his team already has the business well in hand.

“My objective was to get through the startup period,” Ha said. “After that, the rest is just boring, you know?”

Ha said Lau Ola currently is leasing the land for the growing facility from him, although he added that he expects the company will purchase the land outright.

Ha will remain available to neighbors of the facility in order to address their concerns about the business, fulfilling a promise Ha said he made to the community when he joined Lau Ola.

“I’m not just going to drop out of sight,” Ha said, adding that “whatever (Lau Ola) want me to do, I’ll do.”

Ha said he chose to retire partly in order to put more energy into his nonprofit efforts, which include advocacy for generating sustainable geothermal energy on the Big Island, as well as a group that supports developing the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea. Ha suggested that his support for these controversial projects might have reflected poorly on Lau Ola if he remained.

A replacement CEO for Ha has not yet been named. However, Ha said he was confident that his departure will not affect the company’s progress toward opening.

Although Lau Ola has not yet begun selling cannabis products, the company was issued a notice to proceed to acquire and cultivate cannabis in October and had subsequently begun growing. In October, Ha said he hoped the company would be able to open dispensaries by the end of 2018.

The only other Big Island dispensary, Hawaiian Ethos LLC, received the same notice to proceed in August, and is currently growing cannabis to be distributed in Kailua-Kona. An opening date for that dispensary has not yet been announced.

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Other representatives of Lau Ola did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.