LIHUE — As the date for the Department of Health to announce licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries nears, one Kauai applicant has taken strides to set itself apart.
Green Aloha Ltd., a Kauai-based group of business leaders, health care providers and agriculture experts, announced Thursday an agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 480, which will ensure a safe environment for dispensary employees, as well as provide medicine for marijuana patients, according to a press release.
Green Aloha Ltd. was formed with the intent to pursue a medical marijuana dispensary license, said Casey Rothstein, operating manager.
“This is a new industry in Hawaii, and anybody who is going into it needs help from industry experts,” Rothstein said.
As a way to better prepare for the unknown, the company reached out to the UFCW Local 480 to serve as consultants.
UFCW Local 480 represents over 2,500 retail and grocery workers on Hawaii. Additionally, under the Cannabis Workers Rising Program, the organization represents cannabis workers across the U.S., according to the press release.
The partnership is a “natural fit,” said Patrick Loo, UFCW Local 480 president.
“We have a lot of stuff in common,” Loo said. “Their view of people over profit and dispensing safe medicine to the community —those things resonated with us.”
The two organizations can work together to set a standard in the medical marijuana dispensary industry on Hawaii, Loo said.
“They’re the real deal,” he said.
Green Aloha Ltd. is the first dispensary applicant in Hawaii to seek help from a union, Rothstein said.
“It’s an honor and responsibility to run a medical marijuana dispensary, so we want to do it right,” he said. “So we thought this partnership would provide training and production standards.”
Green Aloha, Ltd. has already secured a space for the dispensary. If selected as Kauai’s dispensary, the organization is expected to hire between 40 and 60 people, Rothstein said.
“We’re talking about medicine, not recreational use,” he said. “Our patients have compromised immune systems, so it’s up to us to make medicine that is clean and free from containments.”
In order to grow organic marijuana, strict procedures need to be in place. That’s why the UFCW standards are important, Rothstein said.
“The last thing patients need is to be smoking mold and herbicides,” he said.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Hawaii since 2000, but because patients or caregivers could grow it only within certain parameters, access was a challenge, according to the DOH.
In July 2015, the Legislature passed a Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program, which will make medicinal products available to registered patients.
In February, the DOH released the names of 66 applicants for medical marijuana dispensaries. Kauai applicants are: Benjamin Partyka, 11th Street Partners LLC; Justin Britt, Green Aloha, Ltd; James York, Hawaii Equity Partners; Charles Kawakami, HK Medicinal LLC; and Thayne Taylor, Kauai Green KoKua, LLC.
Only one dispensary license will be approved for Kauai.
The DOH, which selected a panel of five experts to review the applications, is expected to announce the licensees by April 15. Dispensary operations will start no sooner than July 15.