Judy Stanger leaves Maui Grown Therapies in Maui Lani with two jars of medicinal marijuana Thursday afternoon. The Kihei resident, a cancer survivor, uses cannabis to treat her arthritis pain and to help her sleep at night. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
KAHULUI — Nearly every patient who walks into Maui Grown Therapies on Wednesday afternoon has a smile on his or her face. Maybe it’s the familiar staff, or the slices of cake set out for the medical marijuana dispensary’s one-year anniversary. Or, maybe it’s the long-awaited access to medical cannabis — legal in Hawaii since 2000 but only available for purchase in dispensaries since last year.
On Aug. 8, 2017, Maui Grown Therapies made history as the first licensed dispensary to open in the state. Teri Freitas Gorman, director of community relations and patient affairs, said the first year has had some “fits and starts,” but she believes the growing industry is improving and changing public perceptions along the way.
“This isn’t about getting high,” Freitas Gorman said. “This is about helping people manage symptoms and conditions. And I think that we are seeing a sea change in attitudes, not just by the patients but by the medical professionals and also from the caregivers.”
Patients with a prescription have been allowed to use medical marijuana since 2000. However, since the state hadn’t set up a distribution system, patients had to grow their own plants or purchase from others. In July 2015, Gov. David Ige signed a bill that would allow up to 16 dispensaries statewide to distribute medical marijuana.
The first eight dispensaries received their licenses in April 2016, including Maui Grown Therapies, co-founded by Maui oncologist Dr. Gregory Park and former Maui Land & Pine Chief Executive Officer David Cole, and Pono Life