Hawaii News Now
HNN has learned of more troubling complaints about a Waikiki hemp shop selling THC edibles to general public, including that three former employees say they have proof a teen had to be hospitalized after eating their product.
The employees say they took safety and labor complaints about Pinky’s Hempire to the state months ago.
Meanwhile, the owner says he’s running a legitimate business and being attacked by disgruntled workers.
The employees ― Chris Cease, Braylin Simmons and Tiara Ramos ― say one of the reasons they started working at Pinky’s Hempire was because they thought it was a business that could be of benefit to the community.
Now they claim it’s anything but.
“I thought we were doing a good service,” Cease said.
Ramos added, “They don’t care about anybody’s well being. It’s all about the flow of money.”
The ex-employees said took their concerns to the state Department of Health back in April. They’ve also filed claims with the state Labor Board, saying they’re owned thousands of dollars for work they were never paid for.
They say they’re not sure exactly why they were let go. None of them worked more than two months for the company when they were terminated.
Simmons says red flags appeared not long after he started work in March ― “when the kid got sick.”
Ramos added, “We have a group chat where we discuss everything that happens within the company.”
They say that What’s App chat was apparently the way managers and employees communicated a message on April 16 that said a teen was hospitalized after taking a Pinky’s edible.
HNN was provided with the message that read:
“Parents came by mentioning the other day their 16-year-olds got sold most likely gummys and they had to go to the hospital. And they had a big bill.”
It went on to remind employees to card anyone they suspect is underage.
The company owner told HNN they never sold their product to minors.
Simmons’ response: “I’m just confused what they’re putting in these things.”
The products are advertised to contain Delta-8 THC, a hemp derivative that when is ingested is only supposed to cause mild psychoactive effects. Ramos says many of the edible products were made by owner Mark White’s wife.
“They would be like, ‘hey do you want to test this edible,’” Ramos said. “I’m from California so this is a normal thing for me.”
But she says a batch she and three other employees sampled made them sick.
Ramos said, “We all threw up. The whole day. The next day I felt like I was still high.”
Tests ordered by Hawaii News Now at a state-certified lab revealed gummies and cereal bars purchased from two of the shop’s locations contained Delta-8 THC along with very high levels of Delta-9 THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.
A strawberry “Rice Kripyz Treat” purchased from Pinky’s contained 12 times more Delta-9 THC than what’s allowed to be sold at a licensed medical marijuana dispensary.
Keep in mind, the state says these items aren’t even supposed to be sold in hemp stores. The sale of edible hemp products to the general public is banned in Hawaii.
That’s something employees say they weren’t aware of.
“We were just doing what they were telling us to do basically,” Cease said.
In an email, the owner said the ex-employees are lying. He also claims the Health Department has inspected and found nothing wrong saying. His email continued:
“Hawaii has changed the hemp rules over 20 different times in the last 6 months. One such rule took effect 30 days ago. All of these changes wreak (sic) of malicious corruption as they solely target my business which a lawsuit is being prepared.”
He also said all of his products are DEA lab-tested.
That claim is disputed by his employees.
“The misleading packing,” Cease said, adding he was told to put the same products in bags with different labels.
Cease asked the owner, “How am I going to take this same product and put it into a Nerds container or an Airheads container? And he like ‘yeah, whatever. It’s just packaging.’”
Ramos added, “COA is a certification of authentication which means each and every single product that we sell has to have a lab test what they made us do was scan every barcode that was on each products and go get the lab test from their web site.
“They never had a legitimate test at all.”
HNN asked White to provide us with recent test results so we can compare them to the results of our lab tests.
He sent us one report for a different product from anything we had tested.