Pono Life starts lab testing of marijuana crop

This photo was released Wednesday by Pono Life Maui, one of two licensed medical marijuana dispensaries on the island. Pono Life transported some of the marijuana it produced to a lab for testing in Kahului. The “safe route” was carefully designed to avoid sensitive areas, like schools. Photo courtesy of Pono Life Maui

Pono Life Sciences Maui, one of two licensed medical marijuana dispensaries on island, said Wednesday that it is the first licensed dispensary in the state to transport cannabis to a lab for testing.

The 2 grams of marijuana were transported from Pono Life’s growing facilities to PharmLabs Hawaii in Kahului on a carefully designed “safe route” on Thursday, said Michael Rollins, the lab’s chief administrative officer, on Friday. Pono Life has not disclosed the location of its production facility.

Three labs, including PharmLabs, are awaiting certification by the Health Department to test medical marijuana for sale to patients, said Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo on Wednesday. The labs are currently completing their data packages and validation studies to prepare for their onsite audit, she said.

The department is anticipating certifying a lab this summer, she added.

“At this time, no lab in the state is certified to conduct quality assurance testing on products for a medical cannabis dispensary,” Okubo said. “Lab tests using cannabis, which are taking place at this time, are solely for the purpose of lab validation studies, which are required to complete certification by the state.”

She also said that “DOH cannot confirm the statements by Pono Life Services” that it is the first in the state to transport and have cannabis tested in a lab.

Pono Life announced that three strains of marijuana are currently at the International Organization for Standardization-certified PharmLabs Hawaii in Kahului. IOS represents “the gold standard” for laboratory testing, the news release said.

The strains will be tested for potency and microbial and pesticide content this week. Pono Life said that the potency of the strains will be announced next week.

The company said it was granted approval for quality assurance testing with PharmLabs “to push the certification process forward.”

“We are extremely pleased by the process and the professionalism of Pono Life Maui and how well we have been able to work with Pono Life Maui to solve administrative issues that are critical for both parties to move forward with the DOH,” Rollins said in the news release.

“The lab is anxious to iron out protocols and requirements with the DOH regarding intra-island and inter-island transport,” he added.

On Friday, Rollins called the transfer of the sample from the production center to the lab on Thursday “pretty monumental.” Besides the Health Department approval, the procedure had to pass state Narcotics Division review, he said.

Transport was no simple matter. The “safe route” had to be approved and designed to avoid sensitive areas, like schools, he said. The weights of marijuana leaving the facility were recorded at departure and confirmed upon arrival.

Pono Life and PharmLabs also had an opportunity to test and log on to seed-to-sale traceability BioTrack software, Rollins said.

The “provisional” tests are for Pono Life to assess its product, he said. Rollins is expecting the Health Department’s final audit in July.

“We are ecstatic to be finally at this pivotal stage in our process of bringing medical marijuana to patients in Hawaii, especially the Maui community,” said Michael Takano, CEO of Pono Life Sciences.

Takano said Pono Life anticipates sales transactions to take place later this month or in July. For more information, go to www.ponolife.net.

Maui’s other licensed marijuana dispensary is Maui Wellness Group, dba Maui Grown Therapies. It’s website is mauigrowntherapies.com.

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