Maui medical marijuana dispensary opens offices on Oahu

Pono Life Sciences, which manages one of the two Maui medical marijuana dispensaries, has opened up administrative offices in downtown Honolulu to better work with state Health Department officials, legislators, doctors, medical institutions and patients to get the program up and running.

The company, which manages Pono Life Sciences Maui LLC, announced Wednesday that the Honolulu offices in the Topa Tower will house its accounting, communications and administrative teams.

The news release also mentioned “showcasing our strength in education.”

“We will focus our efforts on the Oahu and Maui communities, given the large number of currently certified patients in Hawaii’s Medical Marijuana Registry Program that are concentrated in both counties, along with the number of tourists who share their time between both islands,” said Michael Takano, Pono Life Maui’s chief executive officer.

“Our community health goals are driven by informing the public of the benefits and appropriate use of the product, in addition to navigating patients through the state registration process,” he said.

Takano said that the offices are not really open to the public and that they will not and could not sell medical marijuana out of Honolulu because Pono Life has a Maui license. There are three Oahu medical marijuana licensees.

The Health Department confirmed that licensees only can sell their product on the island where they are licensed. Health Department spokeswoman Anna Koethe on Friday could not confirm whether licensees could have administrative offices and conduct educational activities on other islands “as that is not clear at this point.”

Takano said that the educational component is more about “building long-term relationships” with doctors, patients and others involved in the marijuana dispensary program. Pono Life will offer information and data to doctors and institutions on the use of medical marijuana and its outcomes. The company’s approach will be different depending on the views of the physicians and institutions, noting that there are those who are conservative and resistant to prescribing medical marijuana and those who support its use.

The same approach would be used with patients, with Pono Life offering information on how medical marijuana can help manage their conditions and how to navigate the system, he said. Pono Life also is there for those who make public policy and handle the legal aspects of the program.

As much as Pono Life needs to solve production and retail issues on Maui, the administrative aspect “is a big piece.” There are a lot of lingering requirements that still need to be established before the medical marijuana dispensary program can get off the ground and a lot of that needs to be resolved in Honolulu, Takano said.

The Health Department and the state Legislature are on Oahu. A software vendor has been contracted, but the system needs to integrate with labs, the patient registry and retail dispensaries, he said.

And while the law allowed dispensaries to begin selling their products last July, the state has not provided the infrastructure for that to happen. Another “potential bottleneck” is establishing the lab-testing protocols, which the Health Department has not done yet, Takano said.

The department has not even come up with the license renewal requirements, which are coming up, he said. Pono Life initially paid $75,000 for the license and will need to pay $50,000 for a renewal.

It seems “unfair,” Takano conceded, but added that “it is unrealistic to think there wouldn’t be challenges.”

“Any new industry is challenging for everybody,” he said.

Takano did not want to get into how production is going, except to say that his company hopes to begin selling medical marijuana in early summer. He said that the company is working with labs to get samples to them.

The other licensed Maui medical marijuana company is Maui Grown Therapies.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

* Medical marijuana. Pono Life Sciences has opened administrative offices in downtown Honolulu. In addition to housing the Maui marijuana dispensary’s accounting, communications and administrative teams, the offices will showcase the company’s “strength in education,” a news release last week said.

Michael Takano, chief executive officer of Pono Life Sciences, wanted to clarify the dispensary’s educational goals in a story that appeared on Page A3 on Saturday. In an email Saturday, he said that the company’s educational goals in Honolulu include enhancing “awareness, knowledge and information exchange among patients, physicians, business and community stakeholders.”

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