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First Medical Marijuana Dispensary Opens On Hawai‘i Island

First Medical Marijuana Dispensary Opens On Hawai‘i Island

The two-and-one-half year wait is finally over for medical cannabis patients living on the Big Island of Hawaii, more accurately known as Hawai‘i Island. For the 6,659 registered medical marijuana cardholders, this is a day for the history books.

Big Island Grown opened in Hilo, and is the first medical marijuana dispensary operating on the largest island in the United States.

With the line halfway around the building by the time Big Island Grown Dispensary opened, patients shared in their excitement and relief to finally have safe, reliable access to high-quality medical marijuana. When the doors opened at 11 a.m., only the first 30 patients in line were welcomed inside.

Aaron Townsend, of Ainaloa, was the first customer to purchase medical marijuana in Hilo. Townsend, who suffers from chronic back pain, has held a medical marijuana card for seven years.

First to receive approval to begin operating after a final inspection by the state Department of Health, Big Island Grown is rising to the challenge of providing exceptional product and service to patients.

“It’s been a great learning experience,” said Dylan Shropshire, the company’s new chief executive officer. “With getting the license and really understanding what’s necessary to roll out the proper infrastructure and production and retail locations so you can follow the law and get properly controlled and tested medication to patients.”

https://www.facebook.com/bigislandgrown.co/posts/1980080452287892:0

Variety Is Important

Announcing that there will be 100 strains available to patients throughout the next year, only four different strains were offered at the grand opening. Patients were also able to purchase tinctures and edibles.

Having multiple strains to choose from is important for patients because each strain produces different effects. What works for one person may not be ideal for another, and some strains are better for pain relief where others are more successful at relieving symptoms of PTSD.

Ryan Jones has been a cardholding patient for five years, and until now he has only had access to whatever nameless strain his “friend” is able to supply at the time. “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.”

Two more Big Island Grown locations are expected to open later this month on Hawai‘i Island. One will be in Waimea and the other will be in Kona.

This may be the first retailer on the biggest of the Hawaiian Islands, but dispensaries have already been serving patients on Maui since August of 2018.

Photo Courtesy of Hawaii Tribune

House Passes Bill to Establish Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Hawaii

House Passes Bill to Establish Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Hawaii

Early in 2015, Hawaii State Rep. Della Au Belatti, House Health Committee chairperson, announced plans to introduce legislation that would allow for medical marijuana dispensaries to be established in the Aloha State by 2017.

On February 17, HB 321, was approved by the House Committees on Health and Judiciary. It will now move to the House Committee on Finance for approval.

Lawmakers in Hawaii made history in 2000 as the first legislative body to legalize medical marijuana. Under current law, the 13,000 registered medical marijuana patients are permitted to cultivate at home, but many of them are too sick to grow their own medicine. Therefore, they are forced to acquire strains on the black market. After 15 years of legalized medical marijuana, patients in Hawaii still do not have safe, reliable access to medical marijuana.

Michelle Tippens (photo below) is one of Hawaii’s registered medical marijuana patients. Tippens was injured in a car accident, leaving her with a brain injury and multiple fractures in her spine.

medical marijuana hb321 hawaii

Tippens appeared at the committee meeting to share her story and show support as an example of why medical marijuana patients in Hawaii need distribution facilities. She explained that she was on more than one dozen different pharmaceutical medications after the tragic accident. Medical marijuana allowed her to quite taking the debilitating pills. She wore the bottles around her neck to make a statement.

Tippens told The State,

“In order to qualify for the card, you have to be really sick. And a lot of people who are really sick are not capable of cultivating marijuana.”

House Bill 321 would establish a system for regulating and licensing a total of 26 medical marijuana dispensaries. The bill states that any distribution facility must be located a minimum of 700 feet from schools, playgrounds and public housing. It also implements a seed-to-sale tracking system for all cannabis sold through a dispensary. It still permits patients to cultivate their own plants at home.

Opponents to the bill, like Rep. Bob McDermott (R-Ewa), are fearful that legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries may encourage use by young people, and lead to recreational legalization. However, the 2014 Harvard Public Opinion Project already proved that legalization is not encouraging use.

A similar Senate Bill proposal is also expected to have a joint committee hearing this week.

Find out how to become a registered medical marijuana patient in Hawaii here.

photo credit: marijuanagrowershq, the state

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