Way cleared for cannabis dispensaries to begin selling products without smoke

Lab approved to test concentrates, tinctures

In a little over a week, Maui Grown Therapies plans to expand its line of medical marijuana products to ones that do not require smoking, a company spokeswoman said.

The development came this week after the state Department of Health approved Hawaii’s only cannabis lab to begin testing concentrates and tinctures.

With the lab’s approval Tuesday, medical marijuana dispensaries in the state may sell derivatives like oils, tinctures and lotions to customers rather than only flowers, usually consumed by smoking.

“That’s very good news for our patients,” said Teri Freitas Gorman, spokeswoman for Maui Grown Therapies. “Many of them have been waiting exactly for this.”

Steep Hill Hawaii Lab on Oahu is the only provisionally certified lab in the state that can conduct pesticide and microbial contaminant testing, Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said Wednesday. The lab has been cleared since July to test flowers, but not other products.

“They are still working on studies for topicals and lozenges,” Okubo said via email.

About 40 percent of the dispensary’s patients prefer non-smokable products that they can take orally or apply to their skin, Freitas Gorman said.

Maui Grown Therapies became the first dispensary to open in Hawaii last month. In less than a week, it sold out of its supply of flowers at its Maui Lani store. The company reported that it closed temporarily and changed its business hours “due to uncertain product availability.”

Supply issues stemmed from the dispensary’s inability to sell derivative products, forcing patients to buy flowers and burn through stock.

“We’ve had products available waiting to be tested for quite some time,” Freitas Gorman said. “Those derivative products are very much what our patients want.”

Pono Life Maui, the island’s other dispensary, has requested a final pre-opening retail inspection next week, Okubo said. She said its opening is “dependent on products being tested, results obtained and products inventoried to the retail location” in the former Hawaiian Island Surf & Sport store on Dairy Road in Kahului.

Pono Life Maui began cultivation in February.

Michael Takano, chief executive officer of Pono Life, said on Wednesday that state health officials were set to visit Pono Life’s dispensary next week Tuesday.

He said he hoped officials would approve the dispensary on that day, followed soon by Pono Life selling flowers, oils and tinctures by appointment only. Full retail sales would start later, he said.

“We’re certainly optimistic, but we remain focused on providing high-quality products to our patients,” he said. “It’s still a process. We still don’t have a lab on Maui, but it looks like that will be happening soon as well.”

Two other labs, including Kahului-based PharmLabs Hawaii, have submitted applications for state certification to conduct medical cannabis testing for dispensaries, Okubo said. In late May, Pono Life Maui had worked with PharmLabs on a test transport of 2 grams and three strains of cannabis from its production facility to the Kahului lab for testing.

“Both labs have made good progress with additional submissions and updates, but they are not quite finished with their requirements to complete the application process,” Okubo said.

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