Medical Marijuana Dispensary to Open SoonAugust 13, 2018, 8:00 AM HST (Updated August 13, 2018, 8:07 PM)
Big Island Now on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, had the opportunity to speak with long-time farmer Richard Ha about his plans to open a medical marijuana dispensary in East Hawai‘i.
Ha was asked what inspired him to get into the medical marijuana business.
“Well, you know, there was a group of folks on the Hāmākua Coast who wanted to apply for one of the medical cannabis licenses and they asked me if I’d be interested in being an applicant. At that same time, I was talking to my workers about shutting down the banana farm—so the timing was good. I went back to the workers and told them, listen there is another option besides us closing. There is an option of possibly getting into medical cannabis. How many of you would be interested in working there? Everybody raised their hands.”
Ha continued, “I’m willing to do this under three conditions: 1. My workers get first shot at the jobs; 2. My neighbors up and below us feel more secure after we are in operation than before; 3. I wanted a meaningful job that gave me influence over decision making. That is why I am the CEO.”
Growing hydroponic tomatoes about 10 to 12 years ago, Ha realized that with price of high-end hydroponic tomatoes being $.20 per ounce, he could not afford to build the controlled environment agricultural facility that he learned about at the University of Arizona at Tucson.
“With cannabis, we now can afford to build the proper facility,” Ha said.
Ha mentioned his growing facility on the Hāmākua Coast is nearly completely built and he is just waiting for some approvals before his crew can start to plant crops. It should be within the next few weeks, he said.
When Ha was asked when the actual dispensary will open, he said he was pretty sure it would open toward the end of this year and that it would be located in the Lehua Center located at 750 Kanoelehua Highway in Hilo.
Ha said said he understands that his prices will have to be competitive with the black market, otherwise, he won’t be successful. His objective is to price the medicine at a level folks can afford—especially the folks who need it.
Ha will employ 50 to 60 employees, he said.
He is not too worried about federal laws.
“We are a medical cannabis dispensary under the state laws of Hawai‘i and we have some of the most stringent laws in the nation,” said Ha. “So I don’t think we will be at the top of the list to be shut down or anything like that.”
When Ha was asked if he thinks the State of Hawai‘i will legalize the sale of cannabis use for recreational use, he said, “If cannabis is commoditized, it would become like lettuce and we would be buying it from wherever was cheapest, resulting in exporting our economy.
The State of Hawai‘i has the opportunity to brand itself as the “aloha medical cannabis center of the whole Pacific,” Ha said. “What can be more aloha than taking care of the health of our people as well as the health of our guests.”