First medical marijuana dispensary on Big Isle open for business

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald A line forms outside of Big Island Grown, one of only two businesses licensed to sell medical marijuana products on the Big Island, Tuesday on its opening day in Hilo.

Thirty patients lined up Wednesday morning to await the opening of the first medical marijuana dispensary on the Big Island.

Big Island Grown’s first location in Hilo opened to little fanfare Wednesday morning. While the business is the first on the Big Island to have passed a final inspection by the state Department of Health, the dispensary was all business during its grand opening.

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The door to the dispensary opened at 11 a.m., with an employee simply inviting the first of the 30 people waiting in line into the waiting room to fill out paperwork.

That patient, Ainaloa resident Arron Townsend, has had a medical marijuana card for seven years in order to treat back pain. Townsend said he had a positive experience during a recent visit to a dispensary on Maui and is glad there is a similar option closer to home.

Townsend said it’s “pretty awesome” to be the first legal buyer of medical cannabis on the Big Island and intends to sample each of the strains Big Island Grown is selling initially and might visit their other locations — to be opened in Waimea and Kailua-Kona by the end of the month — if their selection is attractive.

That selection is expected to grow throughout the year. A statement from Big Island Grown announced the business has more than 100 different strains and phenotypes that will be released during the year.

The number of available strains is a perk for Pahoa resident Ryan Jones, who has had a medical marijuana card for five years. Jones said he suffers from chronic migraines and has relied on cannabis supplied by “a friend.”

“I know my friend’s stuff is cheaper, but sometimes it isn’t as good,” Jones said. The wider variety of options at Big Island Grown might be worth the higher price, he said.

Other patients in line had similar stories: many suffering from chronic pain, with few options available to use their medical marijuana cards. While Jones said he has visited all the dispensaries on Oahu, fellow patient Mike Ruggles said Wednesday was the first time he used his card outside his home.

The line moved slowly, with patients invited in one at a time to fill out paperwork. Part of the DOH inspection required rigorous security measures surrounding the dispensary, including a prohibition on photography within the business.

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The dispensary is offering patient appreciation pricing while supplies last, with eighths of an ounce available for $30 and a full ounce available for $200. The dispensary, located at 750 Kanoelehua Ave. in Hilo, will be open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. seven days a week.

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

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