Entrepreneurs Predict High Times for Pot Dispensaries

Jun 17, 2015

Credit Flickr / Alexodus

State lawmakers spent most of last session crafting rules for a medical marijuana dispensary system in Hawai‘i. And as HPR’s Molly Solomon reports, it has the potential to provide a growing market for entrepreneurs eager to set up shop.

Medical marijuana in Hawai‘i could rake in 65-million dollars a year. That’s the expectation of ArcView Market Research. And that’s why more than 150 people packed a Waikīkī hotel for a weekend seminar on medical marijuana business 101. “There’s a saying in the marijuana business: you’re not in the marijuana business, you’re in the compliance business,” said Michael Patterson, the CEO of U.S. Cannabis Pharmaceutical Research and Development. “Because if you’re not in the compliance business you’re not going to be in business.”

Patterson’s company consults with marijuana businesses and specializes in legal and regulatory issues. He says when it comes to starting a dispensary, you need to ask yourself a couple questions. “What is this going to cost me? How many people are going to be impacted by this? And can I keep up with that demand?”

If the Governor signs the bill, it would allow for 16 dispensaries across the state. But not just anyone could start up a cannabis shop. You must be a legal Hawaii resident for at least 5 years and have $1.2 million saved up. “People get into this thinking money is going to be coming out of nowhere, that it’s a gold rush type of situation,” said Aaron Smith, the Executive Director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “When in fact it’s a difficult business because of those regulations.”

Since California became the first state to approve medical marijuana in 1996, 22 other states have created legal, open marketplaces for cannabis. And Smith believes that in Hawai‘i, that marketplace will bring a variety of economic opportunities. “Somebody has to make the packaging for the cannabis. Somebody has to make the software that’s used to track the inventory,” said Smith. “There’s attorneys, CPA’s, etc., that are able to provide services to the industry.”

Hawaii currently has 13,000 patients registered to use medical marijuana. But cannabis consultant Michael Patterson expects that number to go way up. “Once it’s up and operational, you’re going to see a lot more patients come forward,” said Patterson. “Because now there’s a system where they can get their medicine.”

If the bill becomes law, dispensaries could open statewide starting July 2016.