Tuesday August 1, 2017
Hawaii has a long, rich history of cannabis consumption. Commonly referred to by its Hawaiian language name, pakalolo (pah-kah-loh-loh), marijuana has permeated the islands for decades and is an essential part of many Hawaiian residents’ lives.
While there is no estimate for how many residents consume marijuana in Hawaii, it has certainly infused into island culture via music, fashion and a robust black market. And although the black market has historically been the only way to obtain cannabis in the Aloha State, medical marijuana dispensaries are on the verge of opening their doors for the first time.
To understand what a big milestone this is for Hawaii, let’s take a look at how cannabis laws have progressed over the years.
Early Cannabis History in Hawaii
No one knows for sure when cannabis was first brought to the islands, but it became wildly popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Around that time, many Hawaiian-born soldiers returning home from the Vietnam War brought seeds with them, as did Californians who flocked to these shores in search of surf and an island lifestyle.
Surf culture and free-love hippies mixed with the famously laidback locals to create a unique and lasting vibe of acceptance and appreciation for cannabis. Not to mention the ideal conditions for growing cannabis in Hawaii. High levels of sunshine and humidity mixed with cool, tropical temperatures make for some truly great cannabis.
Hawaii Marijuana Legislation
In 2000, Hawaii became the first state to pass a medical marijuana law via the legislature—as opposed to a voter initiative—which allows the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes. Under this law, patients with certain ailments must first obtain a doctor’s recommendation and register with the Hawaii Department of Health (formerly administered through the Department of Public Safety) before legally consuming marijuana. If you’re looking to get a medical card in Hawaii but don’t know where to start, check out our guide!
Hawaii’s medical marijuana system is referred to as the Medical Cannabis Registry Program and allows patients to grow up to seven plants for themselves or assign that task to a certified caregiver. Caregivers cannot grow for themselves and may only grow for a single patient at a time.
Patients and caregivers with valid medical marijuana cards may possess up to four ounces of "usable marijuana" but may not use or consume it in a moving vehicle or public place, including schools, parks, beaches or recreation centers.
Recent Medical Marijuana Progress
While the Medical Cannabis Registry Program has opened the door for legal marijuana use, it has also presented challenges for those it intends to help. With no dispensary system in place, as well as the limitations placed on patients and caregivers, legally obtaining medical marijuana proved difficult for many. This gaping omission in the law undoubtedly forced many patients to rely on the black market to access their medicine.
Hawaii addressed this issue in 2015, creating Act 241 to establish a medical marijuana dispensary system. However, no medical marijuana dispensaries have opened just yet. After a strenuous application process, eight licenses have been awarded statewide and dispensaries are projected to open later on this year.
Each licensee is allowed up to two cultivation sites and up to two dispensary sites. There were three licenses awarded to the island of Oʻahu, two licenses each on Maui and Hawaii Island and one license on Kauaʻi. Be sure to check back frequently on PotGuide for news, information and updates about Hawaii’s fledgling medical marijuana industry.
The future of cannabis looks very bright for Hawaii. Once dispensaries open up to the public, there’s no telling how much cannabis will influence island culture. One thing is for certain though; safe, legal access to medical marijuana will help patients in need and help make Hawaii a better place!
What do YOU think about Hawaii’s medical marijuana program? Comment below!