New center aims to spread the word about medical cannabis

Pono Life Education and Resource Center officially opens today

Elaine Slavinsky, Pono Life Education and Resource Center director of education, holds a terpene sample of Myrcene, the most prevalent essential oil in the cannabis plant. It has a sweet, fruity, earthy scent. -- The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

KAHULUI — Elaine Slavinsky, who gives lectures about medical cannabis at senior clubs throughout Maui County, said there are three groups of seniors when it comes to stigmas about cannabis.

“The ones who have probably been smoking for years and keep doing it, the stoners,” she said. “Then the group of people who tried it in college and never tried it again. And a large group of people who would never touch it because it’s basically illegal on a federal level. So they have no idea that it’s not just to get high, it’s used medicinally, too.”

Slavinsky, a longtime nurse and the educational director at the Pono Life Education and Resource Center, aims to shake the stigmas and teach more people about medical cannabis, especially seniors, who are at a higher risk of dying from opioid overdoses than other age groups.

The educational center, located next to Pono Life’s medical cannabis dispensary, officially launches with a celebration today. Near the corner of Hana Highway and Dairy Road in Kahului, the comfortable, crisp, airy space is home to a hub of information that staff hope will help inform visitors about medical options for the plant. Weekly talks, monthly programs and a wealth of written, video and interactive materials are offered at the facility.

Slavinsky said Friday that medical cannabis is more than just a thing of the past, it’s vital to the future of health and medicine.

Stacy Dykstra, Pono Life product specialist, shows pieces of her kit as she prepares for the official launch of the Pono Life Education and Resource Center today in Kahului. -- The Maui News / KEHAULANI CERIZO photo

“Cannabis for medical purposes is making a major resurgence in the world today,” she said. “It’s very different from the cannabis that people knew about in the ’50s and ’60s.”

Slavinsky, who has four decades as a nurse on Maui, is passionate about helping educate all people about medical cannabis. In her extensive work experience at Maui Memorial Medical Center, Alzheimer’s Association on Maui and Hospice Maui, she said, she’s seen firsthand the devastating impact of opioids on seniors.

Deemed an epidemic in the U.S., prescription opioid overdose claims 46 lives every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most common forms come in ethadone, oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin); the pain relief drugs contributed to more than 35 percent of all opioid overdose deaths in 2017. For people who died from prescription overdoses that year, rates significantly increased among people more than 65 years of age, the CDC said.

“We want to reach those seniors to just educate them that there is another alternative (to opioids),” said Slavinsky. “It doesn’t just have to be smoked of course. There are topical creams and lotions, capsules and tinctures, many, many different products. Our goal is to educate everybody, including the seniors.”

A Pono Life Education and Resource Center leaflet on “Cannabis for Seniors” said the plant helps soothe aches and pains, improve sleep and enhance mood. In Hawaii, medicinal cannabis can be used legally (with state Department of Health certification and 329 Card issuance) for ALS, cachexia, cancer, Crohn’s Disease, epilepsy, GI disorders, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, lupus, persistent muscle spasms, PTSD, seizures, rheumatoid arthritis, severe nausea and severe pain.

“Cannabis has a low addiction potential, cannot be overdosed and has been shown to help ease the symptoms of many ailments, potentially decreasing one’s reliance on traditional therapies,” according to the educational center leaflet.

The educational center also emphasizes the need for safety when using cannabis. Slavinsky encourages people to find and use products from medical dispensaries because they have strict rules and regulations.

“At our center we want to make sure people are using safe products, because now, as you can see, many different drug stores, supermarkets and even gas stations are selling CBD products that aren’t really regulated,” she said. “The medical dispensaries here in Hawaii are very highly regulated so we have safe and pure products.”

Pono Life Sciences is the parent company of Pono Life Education, a resource center open to anyone, and of Pono Life dispensary, designated for 329 cardholders only. Both are located in neighboring units at 415 Dairy Road, the former Hawaiian Island Surf & Sport. Pono Life Sciences also has administrative offices on Oahu. In 2017, its dispensary became the second on Maui and the third in the state to begin selling medical cannabis. The educational center employs three to four staff, Slavinsky said.

Pono Life Education and Resource Center holds Cannabis Conversations every Wednesday at 4 p.m., along with monthly programs featuring guest speakers. “The Ancient History of Cannabis & the Modern Political Paradigm” will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday. “Introduction to Medical Cannabis” is slated for 4 p.m. May 16. Events are free and open to the public.

The center also provides free leaflets on safe and legal practices, such as ways to store medical cannabis and where to consume or use it, along with a variety of other informational materials on registering for a 329 Card, the history of cannabis and the composition of the cannabis plant.

The Pono Life educational center effort, where anyone is welcomed to learn, is all part of changing times for medical cannabis, Slavinsky said.

“We have a major focus on education for medical cannabis,” she said. “It’s the future.”

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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WHAT: Pono Life Education and Resource Center official launch and celebration

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today; Q&A with lead cultivator at noon; blessing with Rev. Laki Kaahumanu at 2 p.m.

WHERE: 415 Dairy Road, Kahului

INFO: www.ponolife.net, www.ponolifemaui.com

COST: Free

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