Group plans to dispense education along with pot

Pono Life Sciences to take over former sporting goods space

Pono Life Maui announced the opening of its flagship cannabis dispensary at the former Hawaiian Island Surf & Sport store on Dairy Road on Friday. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

Pono Life Maui announced the opening of its flagship cannabis dispensary at the former Hawaiian Island Surf & Sport store on Dairy Road on Friday. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo

KAHULUI — One of the two Maui groups that received a medical marijuana dispensary license showcased its flagship dispensary Friday in Kahului, including its public cannabis education center and retail space.

Pono Life Maui unveiled its “patient- and physician-driven outlook” to politicians, community leaders and others inside its new building at the former Hawaiian Island Surf & Sport store on Dairy Road. Among those invited were the mayor’s Chief of Staff Herman Andaya and Maui County Managing Director Keith Regan. Pono Life Maui officials did not allow photos of the inside of the facility.

The business is expected to be open seven days a week and is currently open by appointment only to provide information, but not medicinal marijuana.

Michael Takano, chief executive officer of the company, presented the floor plan for the building, which showed a public educational and retail area and a restricted section with a lobby and dispensary accessible only to those with a medical marijuana card.

The public area at the entrance to the facility was crucial to engaging and educating the community as well as providing a waiting area for those who accompany card holders, Takano said.

“If you are the card holder and you are a cancer patient or have a chronic condition, then most likely you’ll be traveling with your caregiver or a family member,” he said. “Where do they go? The state law didn’t account for that, so we made the additional investment to have ancillary space for outside operators where we can truly drive a community solution.”

Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Racquel Bueno said patients will be guided through the process of selecting a product suitable to their needs. She said the company will be offering marijuana and manufactured products but did not outline specifically what they would be.

“For patients that we’ve spoken with, the biggest issue is that they don’t know how to navigate their way from the very beginning,” Bueno said. “Does marijuana help them? How do you find somebody who will help them get a card? How do you get a card? All of those things are very difficult to navigate.”

Under the statewide license, the company doing business as Pono Life Maui may have up to two production centers and two dispensaries. The group declined to disclose the location of its production facility, for security reasons but said that it is indoors and capable of producing a high quality, consistent product.

“Ours is like Fort Knox,” Takano said, adding that plans for a second production center are in the works.

The facility is ready to begin production as soon as the OK is given by the state Department of Health. The department contracted with BioTech Medical Software Inc. last month for a web-based system that will provide 24/7 access to real-time data on inventory, sales and other information required of dispensary licensees statewide.

Pono Life Sciences demonstrated the BioTrackTHC system on Friday, which integrates secure data exchange between  production centers and a Honolulu data center.

The company plans to employ about 30 workers when production begins, Takano said, adding that it has been given no indication when the department will give them the green light.

“We’ve been ready for the most part right out of the gate,” Takano said. “We contracted this (building) last spring, and we’ve been under lease since July 12, so it’s been very expensive for us. We’ve spent a great deal of capital on infrastructure and planning.”

He declined to disclose the amount of money invested.

Along with a possible second production center, the company is looking at several dispensary locations. Takano said they will need to meet with stakeholders and evaluate opening another retail center.

“We all need to get to first harvest and first sale and growth. Once we’re there, we’ll know a lot of the risk factors that are involved,” he said.

The licensee, led by Dr. William Mitchell Jr., plans to host dozens of educational events over the next three months. Mitchell, who is president of Maui Medical Group, leads a team with decades of experience in health care, commercial manufacturing and public service, according to a news release.

“We are definitely duty-bound to this community,” he said in the news release. “Many of us involved with this project have lived and worked here on Maui for over 40 years. We are a coalition of local stakeholders aligned with local issues. It is our responsibility to serve this community well, extending the interests of public safety and public health.”

Maui Grown Therapies, the island’s other licensed medical marijuana dispensary, announced its first dispensary location last week, in the Maui Lani Village Center. It will be located in a 2,112-square-foot space at 44 Paa St., with a series of open houses and educational events planned in the building beginning in February.

For more information on Pono Life Maui and to make an appointment, call 489-9454 or visit ponolife.net.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.

* Medical marijuana dispensary. Pono Life Maui will operate a medical marijuana dispensary on Dairy Road. The company’s business name was incorrectly identified in a story published Tuesday on Page A1.

The Maui News apologizes for the error.

* The Maui News wants to promptly correct errors in fact or make clarifications on information appearing in the newspaper. To report an error or clarification, please call 242-6343 or send email to citydesk@mauinews.com.

COMMENTS