First medical cannabis dispensaries now open

Christopher Garcia
Larry L. Medina

Two dispensaries in Hawai’i were approved in the first week of August to sell medical cannabis to qualified patients, 17 years after Hawaiʻi first OK’d the use of it for medicinal purposes.

The dispensaries that were approved were Maui Grown Therapies on Maui, and Aloha Green on O’ahu. Six more cannabis dispensaries are awaiting approval.

Hawaiʻi was one of the first states to approve the use of medical cannabis, 17 years ago. Until now, Hawaiʻi residents registered as medical marijuana patients have had no legal way to buy the drug.

For everyone else, however, the use of cannabis (the preferred professional and cultural term for marijuana), remains illegal in Hawaiʻi on the federal level.

Hawaiʻi law requires all qualified patients to be registered with the Medical Cannabis Registry Program before they begin to use cannabis for medicinal purposes. The registration process begins when an appropriately licensed physician certifies that the patient has a health condition that can benefit from medical cannabis. The patient is registered when the Department of Health issues a “329 Registration Card.” The department’s goal is to issue the patient’s 329 Registration Card in a timely manner so that patients can begin or continue to legally use medical cannabis.

To qualify for a 329 Card, one must either have a “debilitating medical condition” or “a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition” recognized under the law. This is done via screening from a certified medical cannabis consultant. The process can take an average of 32 days, but there are several welcoming consultants that help applicants through it.

One such person is Paul Klink, founder and certified medical cannabis consultant for the Honolulu Wellness Center. His clinic provides screening for patients and helps them fill out the necessary forms. He can also “legally give you recommendations about variety to mitigate your symptoms or ailment, to what you can expect.”

The Department of Health is also required to provide law enforcement officials with limited access to the Medical Cannabis Registry Program’s database as a tool to safeguard the community against illegal cannabis use and/or illegal cannabis grow sites.

Until now, it was legal for people with a medical cannabis card to have and use it, but they werenʻt able to buy it legally until the state changed the law in 2015.

The Hawaiʻi Department of Health’s Office of Health Care Assurance oversees the dispensary licensure program to monitor the quality of the cannabis products from seed to sale. This includes statewide oversight of the laboratories that test the safety and quality of the cannabis and manufactured cannabis products, and monitoring of the dispensaries that will grow, manufacture, and sell the products to qualified patients.

Advocates of medical cannabis have hailed the dispensary program as a major breakthrough. The goal of the dispensary licensure program is to make medicinal products readily available to registered patients while balancing the health and safety of patients and the public.

Hawaiʻi approved its first laboratory in August to begin testing samples of medical cannabis.
Steep Hill Hawaiʻi, a Honolulu-based firm, was granted a provisional certificate after successfully demonstrating a “capacity and proficiency to test cannabis” and make sure marketed products are in compliance with state law.

“Certification follows a rigorous scientific process that requires meticulous attention to detail and constant refining to ensure product and patient safety,” said Chris Whelen, chief of DOH’s state Laboratories Division.

The change in the law holds significant impacts to its supporters — the patients, the medical professionals, and the dispensaries.

Klink does not just send patients on their way after they complete their application. He says, “you’re part of our ohana.”

He is extremely passionate about his work, saying that “seeing you smile and seeing you happy is what [he is] doing this for.”

One of his patients was a “23-year-old, confused autistic child, [who] never said a word of English in his life,” Klink says, “Two days later, [the patient] looks at his dad and calls him ‘dad.’ ”

He recounted another moment when he went to one of his patient’s funerals. At the funeral’s end, the patient’s son said to Paul, “Uncle Paul, thank you for getting my mom out of the opiate cloud and giving her back to us with giggles and conversations for the last three weeks.”

Klink is a patient, as well. He has hypoxia (low oxygen), “many” cardiac implants, and had his thyroid removed due to cancer. Klink says, “The only reason I’m sitting in front of you, I believe, is because of Cannabis.” He also says that “…it’s not as good as as the proponents want you to believe it is, it’s not as bad as the detractors want you to believe it is, but it’s really good for what it’s good for…”

When legalized in 2000, Klink got his 329 Card to try Cannabis. He says, “A few years later, I was able to stop all opiates and use cannabis exclusively to mitigate Level Ten pain all the time.”

Me Fuimaono-Poe, founder of the Malie Cannabis Clinic, also certifies patients for medical cannabis use. She says that she wants to create a “comfortable and safe environment” for her patients as they go through their applications. This is to ensure that patients are relaxed and comfortable enough to talk about sensitive issues.

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Majestic mantas of the Kona coast

Eddie Meza
“Diver Eddie”

This past summer, I received a call early one evening from former divemaster-student-turned-ohana, Michelle Nicotre. She informed me that there was a dive that has been on her bucket list for years, and that it was time to see it through. Michelle, a wild card, is the type of person that dives head first to achieve her dreams and I for one was not about to miss out on one of her classic shenanigan-laced adventures.

Her dream was the famed Manta Ray night dive on the Big Island of Hawai’i.

Manta rays in their current form have been around for 20-25 million years. Humans, on the other hand, have been in their current form for just 200,000 years. It seems that as far as mantas go, there is no need to fix what isn’t broken. They also happen to be one of the more mysterious ocean dwellers as further research is being conducted on these amazing rays.

Night dives are by far my favorite kind of dive, ominous, perplexing and a true test of one’s ability to keep calm, as I personally have found myself face to face with some of the ocean’s more “grumpy” characters in their prime hunting hours (admittedly my fault in, ahem, most of those cases). If you have never been on a night dive, do yourself a favor and make it happen. Done safely, it’s mind blowing – diving a spot that you have dove multiple times during the day suddenly seems new and unexplored at night. The only visible area is the conical illumination of your torch (dive light). You never really know how vulnerable you are in the ocean since you have no idea what may be swimming next to you (cue “Jaws” theme music).

The Big Island, one of the more unpredictable Islands of Hawai’i, has much to offer through its lands and ecosystems. With active volcanoes, flowing lava, black sand beaches and the sides of volcanoes that you can ski or board-! this island has something for everyone. But I want to take a second to say this: landing on the Big Island was a big wake up call for me to understanding what Hawaii truly feels like. It’s hard to explain, but it’s what’s the locals call “aloha” – go there, and you’ll know what I mean the second your slippers hit the ground.

The manta ray dive is on the Kona Coast of the Big Island, and there are plenty of well-established dive operations ready to accommodate you, so do some research before making the trip and decide what’s right for you. I went with Kona Honu Divers, for no reason in particular, other than it’s the only company that wasn’t completely booked. Let me tell you from the perspective of a Master Instructor, though, this operation was top notch. I was very impressed with the knowledgeable, friendly and professional staff. I am one to scrutinize an operation, especially one that I drop big bucks on (including the total cost of the trip).

The boat they used to ferry us to the dive site was immaculately clean and the captain ran a tight operation (and killer fast!). Small things that one might not notice (unless you have worked in the industry) like the organization and storage of the lead weights were a welcome observation and shows an attention to detail that many other operations would have otherwise allow to fall though the grates. For those with their own gear and advanced training as myself you may notice that some operations will be less then accommodating to your level of diving, as we tend to enjoy instruction at a distance (Advanced Divers and above in my experience are like vegans; they can wait to tell you). This was not the case here. I was left to my own devices as I travel with my own gear; the staff were aware of my status as an instructor, but were more than happy to answer any questions I had. All in all, I was very impressed with this dive operation. Don’t forget to tip the crew and captain, because it’s no easy job and no one’s getting rich any time soon. It’s truly a labor of love, this industry.

The dive preceding the mantas was underwhelming, but this is from the eyes of someone that dives clear Hawaiian waters on the regular, so this was a routine dive for Michelle and I. If you are traveling from a land-locked area, this dive is a relaxing opportunity to get back into gear with buoyancy and controlling your breathing rate. You have the option for a one tank dive that is focused on the manta dive, but if your bones have dried out, I recommend the 2 tank dive starting at in the evening and extending into the night, to reacquaint yourself with the ocean.

The dive itself starts as the sun disappears and the night sky takes over. The boat was full of anticipation as the staff gave their dive brief. As we geared up, you could see the bright blue LED’s they use to attract the plankton illuminating the water. The feeling of jumping into new, unknown waters at night is a sensation I have come to love. My heart fills with excitement, anticipation and a healthy dose of adrenalin – what a feeling. As I descended, my eyes were drawn to the bright LED’s that made everything they illuminated look like a blue dream; the bubbles take on a blue glow with every breath I took, my dive buddies looked like they’re glowing, Everything’s very Jacques Cousteau meets Electric Forest.

As we settled in, we were led to the LED’s, set up like an underwater campfire, with rocks surrounding the lights. We were directed to take a position around the area. As I settled in, I played with the illimunated bubbles from my regulator, watching the curious fish that swam over to see what all the hubbub was about.

The LED’s are used to attract the plankton that, in turn, attract the hungry mantas (sorry plankton, food chain and all). We waited in anticipation for what seemed like hours as my mind recanted that, while rare, sometimes the mantas don’t show up at all and we certainly did not want this anomaly to occur that night.

But after abut 15-20min the plankton formed a thick cloud around us as the first manta ray appeared from the abyss, like a shadow emerging from the darkness. The feeling is of seeing one of these amazing creatures for the first time is indescribable and truly must be experienced for oneself.

The first manta ray that appeared was enormous, about 12-13ft in “wingspan” and was incredibly graceful. The ray didn’t seem to mind us or our bubbles as it glided and dove overhead. As we kneeled there mesmerized by this sight, another one joined us for the night.

They say that at times, 10 to 13 can show up but that even two mantas is truly a treat. The way they glide together almost seems choreographed, impossibly complex yet graceful, something that only be appreciated with just two mantas.

I remember looking over to Michelle and wondering why she wasn’t moving, as she was frozen next to me for some time like a statue. I eventually got her attention and exchanged a smile and nod, letting me know she was just fine (a great feeling that two friends can share without words). I later found out that she had been crying tears of joy, and was frozen in amazement. So add crying to the list of things that are possible to do underwater along with sneezing and…..other things ; )

As the dive came to an end it was hard to accept that I was running out of air and couldn’t stay with my new manta buddies, but the ocean is not our world, and we are only allowed to visit.

As we left the dive site packing our gear, the boat was full of laughter and divers talking about how incredible the dive was, filled with the “afterglow” of a great dive. I took the opportunity to hang out at the bow of the ship looking out at the pitch-black ocean in front of me. As I gazed at the stars I recalled the words of Nietzsche, “If thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” When would I come back, and to what lengths would I go to achieve this level of dive again?

As for the rest of the trip I recommend the helicopter tour, ever seen lava, me neither until that day, shiz is crazy. The black sand beach is a treat and don’t miss the great scenery at the parks. Make the most of it, get out of the hotel and chain store shopping areas and go enjoy the real Hawaii. Hit up the small shops and local artists, you know, support the people that make Hawaii great.

Special thanks to my good friend and Divemaster Michelle for making this possible and to the team at Kona Honu Divers for their great dive operation. And why not U-Haul as well – there were no more cars to rent so my divemaster Michelle had the genius idea to rent a U-Haul van – a great move!

Now check out this link:

SCUBA with Diver Eddie

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Student ACCESS provides equal access for all

Larry L. Medina

Jonz Stoneroad

For a student with a disability who might find college life difficult to approach, support from Student ACCESS makes the college transition easier.

Student ACCESS (Academic Accommodations, Confidentiality, Case-by-Case, Equity, Standards, Services) is run by Cassandra Y.I. Kam, Disability Specialist, and Beth Nishimura, Instructional and Student Support Specialist, up on the third floor of Kaukahoku (Building 7) and “is charged with ensuring that all the students have equal access to the same educational facilities and programs that any other student would have on the campus,” said Kam.

Kam feels that “education is the key, because a lot of people are afraid of what they don’t know. If they had an understanding of it (disabilities), then it’s not the stereotype that people believe it is. Knowledge dispels stigma.”

“There’s still that stigma that if your disabled, it means that you are blind or in a wheelchair, and (people) don’t know or understand that many disabilities are non-visible. ‘You don’t look like a disabled person’ is what’s said a lot,” said Jonz Stoneroad, HonCC student representative to the Committee on Disability Access (CODA). Student ACCESS is humbly working to turn the tide against that stigma.

Student ACCESS examines barriers in the academic environment and makes available appropriate aids and support services. These include on-campus parking authorization, equipment loans (digital recorders, audio amplification devices), sign language interpreters, class materials in alternative formats (i.e. braille, audio recordings, larger printed format), chairs and adjustable-height desks, notetakers, testing accommodations, scribes, accessible computer workstations, registration assistance/program advising/course selection/credit loads and academic counseling, and note-takers.

Students submit documentation to Student ACCESS of any physical, mental, or other learning disability from licensed medical or testing persons (i.e. physician) to be evaluated for eligibility for services. Students can self-refer to Student ACCESS. College staff and faculty may also suggest a referral to a student. Student identity is kept in confidence and not revealed to instructors, other college staff, or students.

Student ACCESS provides services to students throughout the regular academic year and during the summer session as well. As Student ACCESS prepares for the Fall 2017 semester, Kam said they would be working with the new incoming students who apply and qualify for services to determine what their individual needs are. Nishimura takes on additional responsibilities, where notetakers are needed in particular classes; if sign language interpreters need to be contracted; if creating captions for videos or transcripts are needed.

Nishimura said that “no one department demands more services from ACCESS than another. It all depends on the semester. It is individualized for each person.” The number of students vary by semester, from anywhere between 60 – 160.

College staff and faculty are regularly updated by Student ACCESS on what services the department provides, and provided specialized workshops, ex. working with different learners and introduction to disabilities. Student ACCESS provides such workshops to other student support departments including CARE, TRiO-SSS, and the various campus tutoring centers.

Student ACCESS works with CODA, made up of different departments and student representatives, who meet regularly to discuss disability access issues at the college, staff/faculty/student concerns, and how to resolve them.

One example is the current renovation of the Science Building (Building 5). “How people are going to have access to the classrooms (during ongoing construction)” said Kam. “[Students] need second floor access – elevators? During construction [there’s] dust, vibration, etc.” that could affect the learning of students.

Student ACCESS was originally located in the Science Building, and was asked if they wanted to return once the renovations are complete. “It’s better if we stay here [in Building 7, 3rd Floor] because most of the services and interactions we do here are on the same floor (as) testing and tutoring, CARE, TRiO-SSS, so it’s convenient for the students” to have centralized services on a single floor.

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The MELE magician behind the magic

Janica Marie Pascua

Many music listeners pay attention to the voice, lyrics, or beat structure of a song, but few rarely wonder how it all comes together to sound just right.

That’s the job of people like James Ho, a recent audio engineer graduate of HonCCʻs MELE (Music Entertainment and Learning Experience) Program. Audio engineers are the magicians behind the magic of music.

After switching his major from Liberal Arts to the MELE Program, Ho’s love for creating, learning, and recording different music styles was solidified.

He said that he had “good technical understandings,” and found himself genuinely interested in the audio production side, versus the music business side. He was fascinated by the concepts that were being taught to the students, from signal flow to miking techniques that give listeners a sound that truly peaks their interest.

His passion for music and audio go hand in hand, making the MELE program a playground where he can play with and learn various techniques while improving his skills.

“I prioritize school above work, so the days I don’t have school, I work,” Ho said. “But when I get off early enough from work, I go straight to the studio.”

Every chance he gets, he’s in a studio, applying different techniques he’s picked up. When he learns something new, he immediately tries to get his hands on the gear to try it out. After he’s practiced a technique, he likes to experiment with them on different projects.

“I want to be remembered as that insane guy who was experimental in his learning, doing crazy things that were not normally done,” he says. Once he learns techniques, he also helps other students understand the concepts as well, and this, in turn, gets other students more interested and involved with the work, and helps reinforce what he’s been practicing.

As much as he loves the studio and audio concepts, he says it’s the relationships he’s made in the program that made this experience more worthwhile.

“Whatever I did with my friends in the program is what made it memorable and special. That is what it all boils down to,” he said. “I could do all this cool stuff in MELE, but without my peers, it would be just another class, [and I would] just be going through the motions for a degree.”

After graduation he would like to work in a larger studio and possibly do audio work for movies. He would like to own a studio of his own, titling it “Crown,” where he would be recording worship music and more. He hopes “to be able to work with [his] friends and have a top artist come in [his] studio and rent it out.”

One day, when you’re listening to a hit track, look at the credit list of those who made the magic happen – and you may just stumble over his name, James Ho.

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Domestic Violence Action Center helps victims of abuse

Photo: Chelsey Stewart is HonCC’s campus survivor advocate.

Chris Garcia

Students and faculty can now seek help with domestic violence issues through the Domestic Violence Action Center on campus.

The center is an Oahu-based non-profit, advocacy and legal agency that provides long- and short-term assistance on domestic violence.

The center helps the college community via the Survivor Advocate Program, which provides “advocacy services for gender-based violence impacting the campus community,” said Chelsey Stewart, HonCC’s campus survivor advocate.

A “campus survivor,” she explains, is someone who is currently experiencing or has experienced domestic violence in the past. Stewart, who works at HonCC and Windward CC, helps “anyone from the university system,” including students, faculty, staff, and administration.

Stewart graduated Chaminade University, obtaining her BS degree in criminology and Criminal Justice and MS degree in Criminal Justice Administration. “I’m a proud feminist, so feminism and crime, women’s issues…DVAC combined all of my passions into one,” she said.

Stewart defines domestic violence as “when one person tries to take control over another person or persons.” She emphasizes that domestic violence does not just involve physical abuse; emotional, financial, and sexual Violence, as well as Isolation, all play a part in violence and abuse.

The center has observed various possible controlling/abusive behaviors “on-campus and in college dating relationships.” Some of these behaviors include the forcing of a partner to pick between them and their friends /family (Isolation) and transferring to a partner’s class to watch them (academic abuse).

“I’m a confidential resource…I’m not going to report to anyone on the campus what I talk to you about,” she said. Her phone number is (808) 294-5483. Her office is in Building 6, Room 7. Stewart’s office hours are Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

DVAC can only directly help people on the island of O’ahu. To become a client, one must contact Stewart or call the DVAC helpline at (808) 531-3771 to get a full assessment. This is done to figure out the caller’s situation. DVAC staff then determines whether or not a person is a victim of Domestic Violence.

The centerʻs specific focus is on “domestic violence and intimate partner relationships,” including boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, and same-sex relationships. The relationship must be intimate, though. She also says that DVAC provides “assistance and brief services to people that are in other forms of Domestic Violence situations,” such as familial disputes. Long-term services, however, are only available for “…victims in those intimate relationships.”

Legal service attorneys only assist in family court, known criminal court, and small claims. They help with divorce, paternity, family court temporary restraining orders (TRO), and post decree representation. Stewart also says that DVAC’s case management “is similar to what social workers do…we try to turn victims into survivors.”

DVAC Advocates cannot give legal advice to victims. However, they can explain the legal system and give out pertaining information. Advocates can also accompany victims to court to provide emotional support. DVAC does have legal service attorneys, however.

A major counseling program for DVAC is Ho’oikaika ‘Ohana, a “Native Hawaiian cultural therapy support group.” The program is tailored to help Native Hawaiian families by utilizing “culturally responsive trauma-informed program services.” Stewart says former victims in college who are “still dealing with the emotional side of their abuse” can call the DVAC helpline to meet with a Ho’oikika support group.

Other DVAC programs that give awareness, prevention and help include (but not limited to): DV Action Ready (for employees of a business or company), Safe on Scene (tailored for victims at the scene of a Domestic Violence incident), and the Teen Alert Program (provides workshops to colleges, private high schools, and public high schools).

If clients cannot get direct service from DVAC, they will always refer people to other organizations that can help. Stewart says, “Sometimes our wait list can be really long,” due to their limited number of attorneys. However, she expresses that they do their best to give direct service or refer anyone seeking help to other organizations.

Stewart is currently trying to inform the campus community about DVAC and Domestic Violence Awareness. She has already contacted different campus programs, such as TRIO-Student Support Service and the College Achievement and Retention Experience (C.A.R.E.). She said, “October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so I’m hoping to maybe to do some stuff on the campus during that period.”

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A classroom in the clouds atop Mt. Ka’ala

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Honolulu CC students helped install and monitor an instrument station on Mt. Ka'ala

This story was originally posted January 15, 2015.

Some Honolulu Community College students are getting a rare opportunity to participate in a research project that takes them to the highest, wettest point on O‛ahu for their lessons.
The Ke Ana Waiʻōpua project, led by HonCC geography instructor John Delay, allows students to participate in research and conservation work atop Mount Ka‛ala.

This September, students Angelene King, Kevin Lamb, and John Allen Kahiau Miranda helped get meteorological equipment deployed and running on top of the mountain that will measure variables necessary to estimate forest canopy water balance in the natural area research at top the mountain.

Duane Sula also helped prepare the station to weather Hurricane Ana and download the first data. Students will have the opportunity to use their experiences on the mountain and the data gathered for their semester term projects. As the project develops there will be increasing opportunities for interested students to participate and visit the site including volunteer projects, Delay said.

The tropical mountain cloud forest at the summit of Mt. Ka‛ala represents a unique and sensitive haven for Hawaiian plants and animals, and provides important ecosystem services as a watershed, Delay said. Canopy trees intercept water from passing clouds (fog), providing additional moisture available for groundwater recharge.

Cloud forest ecosystems are threatened by numerous global change factors, including shifts in the height of cloud formation, and temperature changes which may lend competitive advantages to invasive species. But the current canopy water balance conditions of Mt. Ka‘ala are poorly understood, Delay said, in part because it is so remote.

That’s why the research being led by Delay and aided by the students is so important.

“When I first volunteered for I had very little idea on what we were going to do. I just thought we would go up Mt. Ka’ala and just set up some instruments,” said student Kevin Lamb. “Spending the day assisting them was a wonderful experience, and it gave a whole new insight to climatology. This was a real treat, that as a student, and also as a concerned human being can truly appreciate. It has had a profound positive impact on me here at Honolulu Community College.”

Student James Ku Palaualelo, majoring in welding technology also found the experience transforming.

“Mt. Kaala was a experience like no other,” he said. “We had fun hiking and getting dirty. I saw things here I wouldn’t be able to see otherwise, as far as the scenery. I recommend to others to volunteer as well. They won’t regret it.”

Global warning can cause upward migration of invasive lowland species into the area, Delay said. This is a particularly important concern for Hawaiian cloud forests, which represent refuges for many native species surrounded by a suite of exotic species in the lowlands.

The Ke Ana Waiʻōpua Project will provide baseline conditions related to cloud frequency and forest water balance in the summit biological community and will measure the variables necessary to estimate forest canopy water balance atop Mt. Ka’ala.

This is a cooperative project between University of Hawaiʻi faculty and Division of Forestry and Wildlife personnel. The investigative team is led by John DeLay at HonCC with cooperation from James Juvik, Emeritus Professor from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, and Thomas Giambelluca, professor from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Natural Area Reserves Commission Executive Secretary Betsy Gagne and Native Ecosystems and Protection and Management Oʻahu manager Marigold Zoll.

The project name was chosen in consultation with HonCC Professor, Gerald Kimo Keaulana.