The ethos of health, well­ness

Pot dis­pen­sary lead­ers ‘ex­cited’ for state to be­come des­ti­na­tion for eco-med­i­cal tourism

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By KIRSTEN JOHN­SON

Hawai­ian Ethos, one of the first com­pa­nies se­lected to op­er­ate med­i­cal mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries on Hawaii Is­land, wants to open stores in Hilo and Kona — lo­ca­tions it says are close to the ma­jor­ity of is­land pa­tients and will pro­vide easy ac­cess to cruise ship ports once law al­lows dis­pen­saries to ser­vice out-of-state card­hold­ers.

That’s what lead­ers from the six-per­son team headed by ven­ture capitalist Bill Richard­son told the Tri­bune-Her­ald this week, adding they hope to hire about 30 peo­ple to staff stores and its grow cen­ter.

“We’re re­ally ex­cited for Hawaii to be­come an eco-med­i­cal tourism des­ti­na­tion,” said Hawai­ian Ethos’ Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer Zachary Taf­fany. “It’s al­ready got that ap­peal of be­ing a beau­ti­ful va­ca­tion re­lax­ation des­ti­na­tion and a rep­u­ta­tion for health and well­ness. And when you add in the al­ter­na­tive medicine, this could be a prime health and well­ness des­ti­na­tion.”

Hawai­ian Ethos is among eight com­pa­nies awarded li­censes last year to open the state’s first med­i­cal mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries. Mar­i­juana has been le­gal in Hawaii for med­i­cal pur­poses since 2000, but state law never pro­vided a way for pa­tients to legally buy it.

Two li­censes were awarded ini­tially in Hawaii County, each of which al­lows li­censees to open up to two pro­duc­tion cen­ters and two re­tail stores. Lau Ola, a com­pany led by for­mer ba­nana farmer Richard Ha, re­ceived the is­land’s other li­cense.

Un­like Lau Ola — which hosted a pub­li­cized ground­break­ing and bless­ing last year at Ha’s Pepeekeo grow site — Hawai­ian Ethos has largely shied away from the press. It hosted a small bless­ing last year for its fu­ture grow site in Waimea but opted to keep

it pri­vate. The com­pany wanted to wait un­til “it had some­thing re­ally tan­gi­ble to show,” said Taf­fany, who is a for­mer ex­ec­u­tive of an or­ganic en­ergy drink com­pany called Hawai­ian Ola.

Shelby Floyd, a re­tired Waimea at­tor­ney whose name has been tied to Hawai­ian Ethos thus far, has a con­sult­ing role, Taf­fany said. Richard­son was re­cruited in July as CEO — “a big win,” Taf­fany said. “He’s done a lot for the com­mu­nity, and he helps bring some cred­i­bil­ity to the in­dus­try.”

Hawai­ian Ethos is backed by in­vestor Ver­non Oi, a re­tired Stan­ford Univer­sity re­search sci­en­tist who lives on the Big Is­land, Taf­fany said.

The com­pany thinks the state’s med­i­cal cannabis in­dus­try is “at its in­fancy,” Taf­fany said, and there are “many po­ten­tial ap­pli­ca­tions of (mar­i­juana) and its cousin, hemp, in terms of ag that are re­ally un­known.” The com­pany plans to con­duct its own re­search and hopes to part­ner with in­sti­tu­tions such as the Univer­sity of Hawaii in fu­ture stud­ies.

“It’s a wide open mar­ket right now,” Taf­fany said. “We’re re­ally com­mit­ted to just ex­plor­ing the sci­ence and fur­ther­ing the plant and the pa­tient care and the medicine.”

Like other soon-toopen dis­pen­sary op­er­a­tors, Hawai­ian Ethos is wad­ing through gray ar­eas of law, in­clud­ing how to ac­quire its ini­tial mar­i­juana and where to bank.

Dis­pen­saries on the main­land have had trou­ble us­ing fed­er­ally in­sured banks be­cause mar­i­juana re­mains il­le­gal un­der fed­eral law.

Taf­fany said the com­pany hopes to work out a part­ner­ship with a Hawaii bank but also has “de­tailed plans for se­cu­rity, cash han­dling and al­ter­na­tive bank­ing meth­ods which could in­clude any­thing from work­ing with main­land banks to cre­ative part­ner­ships with other fi­nan­cial net­works.”

Taf­fany did not share an open­ing date, but said the com­pany ex­pects to open “within a few months” of other dis­pen­saries.

“The goal is to do it right and to get ev­ery­thing in com­pli­ance so that it’s a win-win for pa­tients and the com­mu­nity,” Taf­fany said. “It was an honor to get this li­cense, but it’s also a big re­spon­si­bil­ity. The whole world is go­ing to be pay­ing at­ten­tion to what Hawaii does with the in­dus­try.”

Lau Ola pre­vi­ously was tar­get­ing an early 2017 open­ing, but Ha told the Tri­bune-Her­ald on Fri­day that the process has “taken longer than ex­pected.” Lau Ola now is eye­ing a sum­mer or early fall open­ing. Ha said con­struc­tion of its grow cen­ter will be­gin in the next few weeks.

TAF­FANY

RICHARD­SON

HOLLYN JOHN­SON/Tri­bune-Her­ald

From left, Hawai­ian Ethos Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer Zachary Taf­fany, Dis­pen­sary Op­er­a­tions Man­ager Diana Hahn and Chief Com­pli­ance Of­fi­cer Noah Phillips.

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