Pubdate: Sun, 18 Feb 2018
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2018 Star Advertiser
Author: Kristen Consillio


The state Narcotics Enforcement Division is investigating allegations
of illegal activity at last weekend's Hawaii Cannabis Expo, where some
vendors openly distributed cannabis seeds and other products.

Most of the more than 100 vendors, including all three of Oahu's legal
medical marijuana dispensaries, were not distributing products
illegally. But some were straddling the line of recreational use -
including a number of exhibitors "giving away" seeds by donation.

The state Department of Health notified the attorney general's office
and law enforcement about possible illegal sales at the event and is
"concerned about the allegations," DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo said.

By law, pot can be sold only to registered medical cannabis
cardholders and only at dispensaries licensed by the Department of

"It was alarming to witness the brazen display and illicit sale of
cannabis flowers, seeds and other cannabis products over the course of
three days with minors in attendance," said Teri Gorman, spokeswoman
for the Hawaii Educational Association for Licensed Therapeutic
Healthcare, or HEALTH, the trade association that represents the
state's eight licensed dispensaries, in an email to the Honolulu

HEALTH had a booth at the expo to share information about medical
cannabis and the state's dispensary program.

"As state-licensed dispensaries, we are happy to comply with the
letter of the law, but we also question why the same standard doesn't
apply to others," Gorman said. "Our medical cannabis dispensary laws
are designed to ensure licensees adhere to the nation's highest
standards of product, patient and public safety. For these standards
to truly benefit Hawaii's patients, the laws pertaining to illicit
cultivation and sale of cannabis must be enforced."

Organizers of the expo said they "regret to hear some of the Hawaii
dispensary owners are disappointed in our event."

"It has been our goal since 2015 to educate the public on the myriad
of potential benefits offered by the cannabis plant and provide
attendees with accurate information on how to safely access cannabis
in Hawaii as a registered patient," said Al Medeiros, one of the expo
organizers, in a statement.

"We flew in subject matter experts from all over the world to provide
educational seminars to teach our guests about CBD (cannabidiol) oil,
cannabis and cancer, and home-growing techniques," Medeiros said.
"There are over 20,000 registered medical cannabis cardholders in the
state and they are allowed to grow their own medicine at home. We had
over 100 vendors this year, with some providing tools and information
for home-growing purposes. We are satisfied with the security work
plan that was implemented and complied with the rules and regulations
of the venue, while delivering an event free of fights, thefts or
major issues. As planning begins for future events, we will work with
all industry stakeholders to ensure any issues are addressed."

Helen Cho, spokeswoman for Aloha Green Apothecary, one of the legal
dispensaries, said any illegal sale of cannabis "completely undermines
the industry."

"It's the reason why the (dispensary) program exists: to not have
untested, potentially unsafe products. This penalizes everyone who's
following the rules," she said. "If this activity is actually going
on, it makes the expo not legitimate. It's actually preposterous if
you think about it because it's blatant black market activity. It
gives our industry this very unfair disadvantage to grow. This
cannabis industry in Hawaii has the potential to become such a strong
economic pillar for the state, and the chances of that are dwindling
when we got situations like this."

Hawaii's first dispensary opened in August, nearly two decades after
the state approved the use of pakalolo for medical purposes. There are
currently four dispensaries - Aloha Green Apothecary and Noa
Botanicals on Oahu, and Maui Grown Therapies and Pono Life Maui on the
Valley Isle. Cure Oahu is expected to open within weeks, while Green
Aloha on Kauai is slated to start marijuana sales this month by
appointment only. Two others, on Hawaii island, are projected to open
by the summer, according to the Health Department. There were 20,279
medical marijuana cardholders as of Jan. 31.

Dispensaries grew 15,345 pounds of cannabis from Aug. 1 through Jan.
31. Of that, 367 pounds of lab-tested pakalolo were sold to patients,
while 14,978 pounds were waste products such as stems, leaves and
roots, according to the Health Department.

Dana Ciccone, CEO of Steep Hill Hawaii, Oahu's only certified
marijuana testing lab, was listed as a partner of the Hawaii Cannabis
Expo on his Facebook page last week. He declined comment.

About 10,000 people attended the expo, the first one since medical
marijuana dispensaries opened last year. Pot experts, advocates and
doctors spoke at the expo about the benefits of the drug and helped
residents become certified patients, while educating them on which
strains are most beneficial for their conditions.

"This is a new industry for Hawaii and there are many and all types of
people who are interested, and we do want to regulate it, and we want
it professional, and we want it done properly and right," said Sen.
Will Espero (D, Ewa Beach) in an interview. "We put together the
medical cannabis program to completely and ultimately eliminate or
minimize the black market. (The dispensaries) are a new industry
created by the state of Hawaii, and we want to see them succeed. It's
a legit concern."
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MAP posted-by: Matt