Aloha Green Apothecary is Growing Beautiful Legal Medical Bud in Hawaii

Aloha Green Apothecary is Growing Beautiful Legal Medical Bud at Hawaii

At the center of the Pacific Ocean, America’s 50th nation has begun producing medicinal marijuana in this Polynesian archipelago. Take a trip inside Aloha Green Apothecary, the first state-licensed facility cultivating and promoting medical marijuana for the patients of Hawaii.

Nobody knows when bud first appeared in Hawaii, but the distant islands have been inextricably linked to the legend of the pakalolo, or numbing leaf, for centuries. The combination of rich volcanic soil, plentiful sunshine, tropical breezes and abundant rain proved irresistible to resourceful locals seeking to produce their own tropical cannabis. Guerrilla weed growers thrived in their camouflaged hilltop plots, growing cannabis plants yearlong for the insatiable appetites of the laid-back island people.

Over time, strains brought to the islands from across the oceans adapted and acclimated to Hawaii’s unique surroundings and have been passed down from generation to generation. These exotic varieties, such as Kona Gold, Puna Budder and, of course, the legendary Maui Wowie, inspired generations of surfers and hippies searching for the signature “electrical ” buzz. Old-timers still rave about the uplifting aspects of those sativa-dominant breeds, eagerly reminiscing about their somewhat hallucinogenic high with no “ceiling”–a toker could keep puffing and puffing and yet still attain new heights of blissful euphoria.

Recent studies have found that these kinds are especially full of THCV, dubbed the “sports car of cannabinoids” by Steep Hill Labs, due to the quick onset and relatively short length of psychoactive effects. Strains with high levels of THC come on quite robust and can induce panic and anxiety in some users if they aren’t cautious. Some patients also report that THCV works as an appetite suppressant, which, if accurate, frees this compound with enormous potential from a pharmaceutical perspective.

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Hawaiian Punch

Hawaii’s bud history, however, took a turn for the worse in the 1980s with Operation Green Harvest, a decades-long campaign that saw federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies using assault helicopters, masked officers with AK-47s and much more in an attempt to eliminate domestic cannabis cultivation and lock farmers. This aggressive effort devastated the islands’ cultivation community in addition to pot consumers, and many say the misguided fiasco helped lead to an epidemic of hard-drug use and a methamphetamine crisis that continues to this day. The dark days for Hawaiian dankness would last for years before the Republicans finally decided to make a change.

Though Hawaii legalized medical marijuana for qualified patients and caregivers in 2000, it wasn’t until nearly 20 years later, in 2016, the state finalized the rules governing its dispensary program. The one I’m seeing, Aloha Green Apothecary, opened in 2016 with a traditional Hawaiian blessing ceremony in downtown Honolulu on the gorgeous island of Oahu.

The stringent guidelines also require an FBI background check for all employees or people, which means that for the first time in my cannabis-cultivation reporting career, I have to apply for permission from the government to see a legal grow. As Aloha Green’s director, Helen Cho, assists me through the process, I joke about how the times have changed: When I first started covering clandestine indoor pot farms for High Times nearly 20 years ago, I sometimes had to ride in the trunk of a car or wear a blindfold. Now I was politely asking the feds to allow me to pay a visit to a certified facility!

Aloha Green Apothecary produces its flowers and extracts on the island of Oahu on land that was formerly a part of the enormous Dole Plantation. I drove out to meet this dedicated group of locals to find out more about their commitment to creating quality medicine using locally sourced materials. Upon approach, the tropical landscape gave way to a well-protected seven-acre plot surrounded by ample security fencing and cameras. The rich, dark-red volcanic soil and bright sunshine reveal this as a place where agriculture has flourished for ages and will continue to do so.

My tour begins with Aloha Green’s head grower, Daniel Richardson, excitedly describing his philosophy for developing artisanal cannabis for the community of patients in Hawaii. The purpose is to tread lightly, using as much local material as possible while taking advantage of the natural surroundings using greenhouses to grow some of Aloha Green’s flowers. By reusing whatever they could, the Aloha team strives to treat the community and their patients with the respect they deserve.

In actuality, Aloha Green is the first state licensee to utilize several greenhouses to grow its flowers, which has cut the cost of manufacturing by a third–all the more significant as Hawaii has the most expensive electricity in the United States. The business also has plans to convert solar for a lot of its power usage in the future also. Aloha’s growers are experimenting with cover crops like clover to offer nitrogen while also acting as a mulch to conserve water potentially lost to evaporation. Wood chips on top of the growing medium acts as insulation from water loss too.

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Moms and Clones

Mother plants in Aloha Green are nurtured under fluorescent and HID (high-intensity discharge) lighting and hand-fed using a nutrient solution to keep them flourishing. Mother-plant vegging rooms are climate-controlled with lovers, making sure that air is circulating rather than stagnant. The moms are grown in large containers so that their origins can find lots of space and expand. This guarantees that the plant up top stays healthy and continues to make new growing shoots from which to take and root clones.

Clones root in plugs in thoroughly labeled plastic trays with clear lids under fluorescent lighting tubes to keep heat and humidity for ultimate rooting success. Theyrsquo;re cut from healthy mother plants, dipped into rooting-hormone gel and then gently secured in their individual rooting cubes. The larger fan leaves are then trimmed down to alleviate the strain on the cutting to maintain life. Once they’re showing healthy white roots in the base of their plugs, they’re ready to plant into larger pots filled with premixed growing medium and move into the vegetative stage of growth. Lower branches and leaf growth are eliminated to improve airflow under the canopy to prevent possible humidity buildup.

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Light, Soil and Water

In all, there are four indoor flowering rooms and four greenhouse sections in Aloha Green for a total of eight separate growing chambers. The indoor plants are grown under Gavita double-ended HPS (high-pressure sodium) 1,000-watt lights on a staggered flowering program and harvested every two weeks. Plants at the greenhouses are supplemented with lighting as well when sun isn’t adequate.

For the growing medium, the group at Aloha Green make their own “supersoil” mix. It’s a mix of rich regional soil and compost from a nearby school. Volcanic pumice is added instead of perlite to loosen up the soil. The business has experimented with turning macadamia-nut shells into biochar.

Aloha Green’s purpose is to use no additional nutrients, and it utilizes drip emitters to provide mostly plain water directly to the root zone. Local mulch from the timber of the monkeypod tree retains the soil surface cool and reduces water waste from evaporation. Ideally, Aloha Green will reuse its soil over and over in a closed-loop system that improves the growing medium with each growing cycle. Each plant is tagged from seed to harvest with its breed name and germination date, and wooden stakes are utilised to maintain up branches that become weighed down with heavy flowers.

The water itself stems from a 1,000-foot-deep well tapped on the premises. The water is filtered naturally through lava stone and comes out with very low levels of any minerals or contaminants. Numerous drippers in each developing container also provide redundancy in case of a clogged tube or emitter. Plants sit trays that allow airflow underneath the canopy to reduce the probability of mold or mildew collecting in moist air pockets. Excess water and nutrient solution easily drain out of the bottom of the containers to prevent the pots from sitting in stagnant liquid.

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Insect Controls

Chief operating officer Tai Cheng and director of integrated strategy Helen Cho clarify the strict governmental regulations to me, including requirements to grow all plants indoors, lab-testing each of the goods and using only state-approved pesticides on the crops. In actuality, since Cheng tells me, “We can’t have testing show more than 1 ppm [part per million] from the finished product of any banned pesticides, which is basically the same as none. We’re also not permitted to use beneficial bugs since they’re not available in abundance on the island. So we have the rigorous pesticide regime of Oregon with no support of beneficials.

Aloha Green growers use beans as index, or trap, plants, and rosemary and other deterrent plants to repel insects also. Employees and visitors alike wear full-body protective suits such as booties and hoods to prevent any possible contamination, and yellow sticky pest strips are everywhere so as to get an early warning regarding any possible pest invasions. A rigorous integrated pest-management system helps to ensure that the flowers and concentrates produced here are clean and pass their tests with flying colors.

Faded Flush

As the plants in Aloha Green approach maturity, they’re aggressively emptied with plain pH-balanced water. Head grower Daniel Richardson highlights the importance of a proper flush in order to produce flowers that could be considered appropriate medicine for patients.

As I walk around the growing chamber next to be chosen, I will see the autumn colors of the fan leaves on screen. These fading colors are a sure sign of a successful flush, and the final result will be buds that burn to a wispy white ash–perfect for connoisseurs and patients alike. The properly flushed plants are presently in the final stretch, during which their trichome gland heads will swell with essential oils in preparation for harvest.

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When the time to take down a roomful of plant has been determined, the plants are pre-trimmed while still living. Then branches are independently hung to dry in rooms environmentally controlled by Argus climate systems. Sensors maintain specific temperature and humidity while UV light kills off any potential pests or mould spores, and Airocide filters purify the atmosphere.

The indoor harvests are all hand-trimmed dry prior to curing, while the return from the greenhouses is machine-trimmed using industrial Twister units and then dried individual racks. Trim and leaf leftovers are put aside for ethanol extraction to generate RSO (Rick Simpson Oil) for oral ingestion. The business also produces oil, shatter, rosin wax, balms and tinctures, so there’s something for every patient on the shelves of Aloha Green Apothecary.

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