Pot Kingpin? Nope.
Woody Harrelson is well known for smoking and advocating for pot, but he won’t be well known for growing it — at least for now. As of last Friday, April 29, 2016 Harrelson was denied a license to operate a dispensary in Hawaii by the Hawaii Department of Health. Harrelson filed the application on behalf of his company Simple Organic Living LLC, according to Reuters.
Hawaii voted last year to allow eight businesses to operate up to two production centers and two dispensaries for a total of 16 dispensaries across the islands. Applicants were required to have $ 1 million cash and $ 100,000 for each dispensary location to prove their financial stability.The two entities that were awarded the licenses on Maui were Maui Wellness Group and Pono Life Sciences Maui.
Previous to this dispensary system going into place (new dispensary owners may begin operating after July 15), Hawaii state residents in need of medical marijuana used the “blue card” system. Medical Marijuana of Hawaii describes the system:
“A Blue Card allows you to grow up to 7 marijuana plants?with 3 mature plants at any one time?for personal use only. You will be allowed to possess up to 3 ounces of dry material, for personal use only. The Blue Card does not give you the right to overgrow or possess more than 3 ounces of dry material. It also does not give you the right to distribute marijuana.”
All of this may sound a little surprising since Hawaii is such a progressive state — it legalized medical marijuana in 2000, becoming the first US state to do so through the legislative process. Plus, where would we be today without Maui Waui or Pineapple Express? However, nonsensical government is pretty much politics as usual for a state that doesn’t necessarily want to be a state and a system that receives heavy criticism from its residents for being corrupt.
The competition for those licenses was fierce, as only eight were awarded to more than 60 applicants. Factors such as ability to comply with security requirements, proof of financial stability, and ability to meet patient needs were considered by a four-person panel.
US News & World Report notes that “The panel wouldn’t discuss Friday why it selected and rejected particular dispensaries, but the health department said it expects to release the scores of each applicant in the next two weeks.”
One reason for the exclusion may be the insular nature that islanders maintain, with plenty of good reason. Though Harrelson has lived on Maui since at least 2008 when he married his wife at their island home, he is most certainly still a haole (not a native Hawaiian), which could have factored into the decision, whether intentionally or not.
Reddit user Nichijo commented (emphasis his) on a mainlander’s attempt to feel things out in the local industry by saying:
“You should never come to Hawaii with the idea that you, as an outsider, can “show the peons how it’s done”. Especially when it comes to growing mj. The Big Island probably has more people with experience growing pot on a per capita basis than anywhere in the US, and that includes good old Humboldt County, California.”
Financial corruption is also attributed as a factor for the decisions that the panel made, as can be seen in the comments section on any Hawaiian publication writing about the subject.
“Once again the Hawaiian government picks the winners and punishes the public.What a bunch of evil rubes,” one commenter said on West Hawaii Today’s article.
And news that came out today may indicate that the panel did not perform their due diligence while researching and scrutinizing the applicants. Honolulu’s Civil Beat reports that Justin Britt of Green Aloha Ltd. is currently involved in a civil suit that alleges that he stole more than $ 375,000 from his Wasabi Design Inc. business partner last year. Britt was the only person on Kauai to receive the permit.
There is potential for the Department of Health to open up more licenses in the future.
“We look forward to applying for a medical marijuana dispensary license in the future should the Department of Health decide that the granting of additional licenses to operate a medical marijuana dispensary is in the best interest of the people of the state of Hawaii,” Blue Planet Healing said in a statement. Blue Planet Healing, owned by video game entrepreneur Henk Rogers (Rogers is the owner of The Tetris Company which licenses the Tetris trademark-he did not design the game as many reports have claimed) was also denied a dispensary license.