Medical marijuana dispensary approved to create products

Maui Grown Therapies aims to open in July; third-party lab still needed for testing

A cultivator holds a cannabis flower on a Maui Grown Therapies cultivar, or strain, inside the company’s Kula production center. Maui Grown Therapies photo

Maui Grown Therapies is aiming to open as early as July, selling lotions, tinctures, oils, capsules and concentrates at its first dispensary in the Maui Lani Village Center, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

However, the state Department of Health still needs to approve a third-party laboratory to test the products, which one Kahului-based lab owner said could be by mid-June.

“Hopefully we’re only a couple weeks away,” said Greg Magdoff, co-owner and operator of Pharm Labs Hawaii LLC. “What separates us from other labs is our software and state-of-the-art robotics system that ensures high accuracy and consistency, and better turnaround time.”

Approval of the lab is the final hurdle to selling cannabis products for Maui Grown Therapies and the island’s other licensed medical marijuana dispenser, Pono Life Maui. Both companies have already begun harvesting their flowers — recently releasing the first images publicly.

“We’re proud to share the photos with our community so they can see the quality of the plants Maui Grown Therapies is raising,” said Teri Freitas Gorman, director of community relations and patient affairs. “I think it’s educational because the photos show the materials that will go into the therapeutic products the company is producing — in particular the cultivars designed to treat specific symptoms that have been identified in Hawaii’s dispensary law.”

A cannabis flower is shown on a Maui Grown Therapies cultivar, or strain, inside the company’s Kula production center. Maui Grown Therapies photo

On Wednesday, the Health Department issued the company a “notice to proceed” with manufacturing cannabis-derivative products at its production center in Kula. The department also approved the company’s second production center, which allows it to “vastly expand its perpetual harvest system” that has been in operation at its first center since February, the company said in a news release.

“As soon as the state certifies at least one lab, we will start booking patient appointments for intake and education,” co-founder and chief compliance officer Dr. Gregory Park said in the news release. “During our first several weeks of dispensary operations we will sell product by appointment only. First preference will go to certified patients who have signed up on our website.”

Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo confirmed that Pharm Labs Hawaii as well as Oahu-based Steep Hill Hawaii and Clinical Labs have not been approved for testing. She said all are at different stages in the review process.

Department officials have approved of some of the roughly 70 analytes the testing labs are required to adequately measure, which include pesticides, heavy metals and residual solvents, Okubo said. She said the labs must also submit data packages including validation studies and other documentation for analysis.

“We’re encouraged that we have seen a lot of progress in the last few months, and that we are anticipating the laboratory certification this summer,” she said. “I think once they (dispensaries) complete inspection of retail facilities, it is possible they could be open this year.”

Maui Grown Therapies received a “notice to proceed” with manufacturing cannabis derivative products at its Kula production center (pictured) on Wednesday. Maui Grown Therapies photo

Maui Grown Therapies passed its pre-retail inspection by the department last week, and it hopes to be among the first marijuana dispensaries to open in the state, Freitas Gorman said. She said the company’s first harvest was “precisely as we expected it to be” and features six cultivars, or strains, with “more to come.”

Products are developed under the guidance of the company’s Science & Medical Advisory Board chaired by Dr. Andrew Weil, who is considered by some to be the “father of integrative medicine.” The board developed a system that uses carbon dioxide, rather than chemicals, to extract plant oils, a method considered safer and cleaner.

The company is actively recruiting and will fill over 25 positions at its production center and dispensary by the time doors open, Freitas Gorman said. For more information and how to apply, visit www.mauigrowntherapies.com.

Attempts to reach Pono Life Maui were unsuccessful Wednesday. The company opened its dispensary in the former Hawaiian Island Surf & Sport store on Dairy Road in December and began cultivation in February.

Magdoff said his lab will cater to licensed dispensaries across the state, but could not identify them by name. He said delays in receiving approval have been due to miscommunication, but he is working with the Health Department.

“I need a license before they pick a lab,” he said.

Okubo said the Medical Marijuana Patient Registry Program has been a “careful and rigorous process,” considering marijuana is still considered illegal by federal law, which makes no distinction for medicinal use.

She said the department is working to ensure that products, patients and the public are safe with the opening of a dispensary.

“But the other priority is to make it accessible to patients,” she said. “We know many patients are waiting and need it as part of their treatment, so we want to make it as accessible and safe as possible.”

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

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