First dispensary slated to open

Hawaii Island’s first medical marijuana dispensary may open as early as this week.

Big Island Grown, one of only two businesses licensed to sell medical marijuana products on the Big Island, aims to open three market locations on the island within the next month, with the first one possibly opening this week.

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The first location to open will be Big Island Grown’s Hilo location at 750 Kanoelehua Avenue. Shropshire said the other two locations, in Waimea and Kailua-Kona, will hopefully open by the end of the month, although the latter location may open in early February.

The road to opening has been a long one for Big Island Grown. The business, under the name Lau Ola LLC, was one of the eight companies statewide selected to open the state’s first dispensaries in 2016. Since then, the company’s opening date was repeatedly pushed back, from 2017 to 2018 and then to 2019, with initial plans to convert a banana packing plant into a growing facility scrapped in favor of a new location in Pepeekeo.

Richard Ha, former CEO of Lau Ola, retired in late 2018, and the business rebranded shortly thereafter. Current CEO Dylan Shropshire, who replaced Ha earlier this month, said the new brand is easier to market and will reflect well upon the island as a whole.

“The idea was to showcase the island in a way that represents what the island can offer,” Shropshire said.

While Shropshire said the Hilo location’s grand opening might take place on Wednesday, it depends on when the state Department of Health completes a final inspection of the facilities.

“It’s all pending circumstances out of our control,” Shropshire said.

Janice Okubo, communications officer for the state Department of Health, said the department places extremely stringent requirements on dispensaries before being permitted to open. All of a dispensary’s products — which cannot include edible products — must be subjected for testing, and the business’ growing facility and retail locations must conform to a litany of security requirements.

Shropshire said Big Island Grown’s locations are equipped with “military grade” security equipment, including 24-hour surveillance at all locations. Meanwhile, all customers are prohibited from taking photographs inside the retail locations.

Because of the extensive time it has taken to open the Big Island’s first dispensary, Shropshire said Big Island Grown hopes to open with “patient appreciation pricing.” While supplies last, patients can purchase an eighth of an ounce of marijuana for $30, and an ounce for $200.

“We want to give back to our patients for waiting so long,” Shropshire said.

Shropshire added that he hopes to expand the Big Island Grown brand into cannabis oils and ointments in the future.

Only one other business on the Big Island is authorized to sell marijuana products. That business, Hawaiian Ethos, announced late last year its plan to open in the first quarter of 2019. No other businesses have applied for licenses on the Big Island, Okubo said.

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Like all Hawaii dispensaries, Big Island Grown requires all patients to be 18 years or older and have a valid government-issued photo ID and a valid medical cannabis registration card from the Department of Health.

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

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