Everything you need to know about marijuana in Hawaii

Hawaiians call it many names: Pakalolo, Herb, Budz. Is Marijuana legal in the Hawaiian Islands? The answer is yes, with lots of restrictions.

Yes, marijuana use is legal in Hawaii, with conditions. As of 2016 Hawaii began operating medical dispensaries.  In 2015, some sweeping legislation regarding marijuana was passed in Hawaii and effectively, pot is legal in Hawaii for medical reasons only. Anybody without cancer, HIV, or other “debilitating” conditions, is not supposed to be touching the stuff.

What kind of medical condition do you need to have in order to legally smoke marijuana in Hawaii?

According to the State of Hawaii Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana website, the “Eligible Debilitating Medical Conditions” are:

  1. Cancer
  2. Glaucoma
  3. Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus
  4. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome
  5. Post-traumatic stress disorder (added effective July 1, 2015 as per Act 241), or
  6. “The treatment of these conditions”, or
  7. “A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following:
  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome,
  • Severe pain
  • Severe nausea
  • Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy, or
  • Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis or Crohn’s disease.

So if you take a look at this list, it certainly seems they legalizing marijuana in Hawaii to address genuine medical conditions. Whether you’ll be able legally buy weed for a simple headache or not seems questionable, for now, at best.

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What qualifies you to legally buy marijuana in Hawaii?

If you want to smoke marijuana in Hawaii without breaking the law, you’ll need to be eligible with these three requirements:

  1. You have a debilitating medical condition. (see above)
  2. You have a certified physician that will work with you.
  3. You have a valid ID (driver’s license, state ID or passport).

How does the registration process work to legally use marijuana in Hawaii?

This is a summary and you should refer to the State Dept of Health website link provided above for the authoritative source. Here’s basically how it works:

  1. Make sure you have a qualified debilitating condition.
  2. Make sure your doctor has set up an account on the DOH registration system BEFORE you schedule your appointment.
  3. Create your secure accounts at login.ehawaii.gov and login at medmj.ehawaii.gov.
  4. Fill out the online applications and pay your $38.50 application fee.
  5. Your doctor reviews your application, certifies you have a debilitating condition, and submits electronic paperwork to the state.
  6. DOH (Department of Health) reviews the application and directly sends you your “329 Card”. Interestingly, there is a specific reference as to why the didn’t call it the “420 Card” because 420 is a reference to recreational marijuana and apparently these laws are clearly designed to address medical conditions.

How often to I need to renew my registration in order to use marijuana in Hawaii?

Every 12 months and renew 60 days prior to expiration so you don’t have any lapse of registration.

How do I buy marijuana legally in Hawaii?

First, you’ll need your 329 card. If you don’t have your card, you can’t buy it legally. And I would not test that law.

Once you have your 329 card, you will be able to enter a dispensary and go through a very controlled process that goes something like this (though keep in mind these things may change and this is of mid-2016):

  1. You present your 329 card to gain entry.
  2. Choose the products to purchase. Apparently there will be no “candy” type products designed to appeal to children. Lozenges are legal, however.
  3. Your order is electronically captured and records (presumably) sent to the State of Hawaii DOH.
  4. You will be given an order slip with the total shown.
  5. You walk over to a “reverse ATM” machine where you insert the slip and then either use your credit card or insert cash. Presumably every single cash bill will be scanned and serialized to identify any nefarious purposes like money laundering, etc.
  6. A slip of paper will come out of the reverse ATM indicating payment completion.
  7. You take the slip to another counter and receive the products purchased.
  8. You exit the dispensary from the exit door, not the entrance door.

It certainly seems to me that this process is going to track every single aspect purchase than we can possibly imagine. I don’t think anyone is going to get away with anything. At least for now. Don’t get any ideas of buying tons of pakalolo for your buddies because every single purchase will get logged. Whew.

Should marijuana be legal in Hawaii?

My own stand on legalizing pot, is – sure, why not? Why not give people an alternative to alcohol. To think that alcohol is healthier than pot, is ridiculous. Alcohol causes a high that can totally incapacitate people. I’ve never seen pot do that, or anything remotely close. I wonder if any studies have been done on drivers high on pot vs. drivers high on alcohol.

Here’s a government study that shows the risk of crashing a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana is actually less until the 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter is reached in the bloodstream. So, smoking pot until you reach this point can make you a SAFER driver! Ha! Great stuff. Click here for the chart.

Looking at Colorado and Washington State, it’s hard to believe Hawaii wasn’t the first state to make smoking pot, growing pot, and possessing pot, legal – isn’t it? My god, most of the people I knew on Oahu and Maui were smoking the stuff regularly. You can’t drive down the road – any road – without smelling the sweet stench of burning budz. It really should be the State Plant.

For the record, I’m not a fan of the substance, but I still ‘get’ that I’m probably in the minority of people living in Hawaii. Marijuana, pot, herb, pakalolo, budz, Kona Gold, Maui Wowie, all refer to to same thing. When touring around one of the Hawaiian Islands and you see a local guy standing in the middle of the road on a particularly deserted stretch, he isn’t there to rob you or ask you to jumpstart his vehicle. He will likely be holding up a massive bunch of freshly culled pot and asking you whether you want to buy some buuuuudzzzz.

I can’t tell you how many times this happened to me on Maui. I loved to cruise over around the West side of the island, it’s virtually barren and so beautiful. A great Sunday morning drive. A great place to buy pot too, if that’s what you’re into.

I remember in the 80s walking around Waikiki and being in my 20s at the time, local guys were casually walking close to me and then saying in a low voice “Buds? buds? buds?” hoping that I would respond. Not sure if this is different today because I rarely go to Waikiki but back in the day, it was easier than getting a cigarette.  For the record, I never responded.

Whether pot is legal in Hawaii – or not – really doesn’t make that much difference to most people. I think in eight out of ten traffic stops by police they must smell pot, or know pot is in the car, but you never hear about the epidemic arrests for possession. Everyone has to overlook it because I think it’s a majority of residents smoking – not a small minority.

What about you? You want to weigh-in on the legalization of herb in Hawaii? Is it the right thing to do? Do people in Hawaii need an alternative to alcohol? Is pot a safe alternative? Would you let your teen son or daughter smoke it?

Here’s another article I wrote more recently about legalization of marijuana in Hawaii and what isn’t being done about it! (Fair warning – salty as I’ve ever been.)

July 2019 Update: As of July 1, Governor Ige is letting a bill pass that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Read up on the news here at the Marijuana Policy Project website.

Article originally authored by Vern Lovic and any expressed opinions are his own.