In Hawaii, marijuana is legal for medical use by residents and visitors to the state. However, the recreational use of marijuana is still illegal. Consequently, qualified patients with valid 329 registration identification cards can possess medical marijuana for personal use in their private residences. To receive a 329 registration ID card in the state, a patient must register with the Medical Cannabis Patient Registry Program. Patients registered in the program must be diagnosed with any of the qualifying debilitating conditions enumerated by the state marijuana laws. The 329 cards are so-called because of the sections in the Hawaii Revised Statutes, which were amended for medical marijuana legalization.
Medical marijuana was legalized in the state in 2000 when Act 228 was signed into law by Governor Ben Cayetano. Hawaii was the first state to approve medical marijuana by legislation instead of ballot initiatives. The Act created the patient registry under the Department of Public Safety (DPS) supervision and enabled valid registry ID cardholders to possess cannabis. With valid medical marijuana cards, patients and caregivers in Hawaii can possess up to 4 ounces of usable marijuana between themselves. The Act also amended the existing Hawaiian Revised Statutes on cannabis and offered protection from prosecution to patients, caregivers, and participating physicians. It set limits for the cultivation and possession of cannabis by patients but did not establish a legal market for its sale. There have been several revisions made to the law over the years.
Administration of the medical marijuana program in the state was switched to the Department of Health (DOH) from the DPS in 2015 under Act 177. In 2015, Act 241 was passed, establishing the Medical Cannabis Dispensary Program and creating a legal market for medical marijuana in the state. These Acts expanded possession limits for patients, increased the number of qualifying conditions, and created dispensary regulation and licensing in the state. They facilitated the creation of a system for the legal sale of medical cannabis in the state and established eight medical marijuana dispensaries statewide.
Hawaii decriminalized the possession of small quantities of cannabis in 2019. The penalty for the unlawful possession of up to 3 grams of cannabis was reduced to a violation, with a maximum fine of $130. However, unlawful possession of more than 3 grams will be a misdemeanor or felony with up to a $10,000 fine and a 5-year jail term.
The Medical Cannabis Program releases monthly reports on the statistics of the program. As of November 2022, more than 33,000 patients have valid medical cannabis registration cards in Hawaii. There were also 2,785 caregivers registered to assist patients and 380 physicians/APRNs with online accounts. Currently, there are 28 licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in the state, and 2.4% of residents aged 18 and above, are registered as medical cannabis patients. Despite the presence of a standard medical cannabis program, it is projected that most Hawaiians still purchase their cannabis from illicit markets. According to a 2022 report by the Tax Working Group, the size of Hawaii medical marijuana market is worth more than $240 million. However, licensed dispensaries in the state recorded legal marijuana sales amounting to more than $50 million.
Revenue: Hawaii has no special tax on medical cannabis sales, and purchases are only subject to the standard 4% general excise tax (4.5% in Oahu). Medical cannabis dispensaries in Hawaii officially commenced sales in August of 2017. Pre-tax revenue for dispensaries was $12.6 million in 2018 and $26.5 million in 2019, and the excise taxes accruable totaled $1.4 million. In January 2022, the Medical Cannabis Dispensary Licensing System (MCDLP) in Hawaii published a report showing all the revenues generated from medical marijuana since its legalization in 2016.
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Information on the direct effect of medical cannabis on the Hawaiian economy is not readily available. This is mostly because the federal prohibition of cannabis has proven an obstacle in collating accurate data, and businesses are not always forthcoming with information. However, in 2019, the Hawaii Cannabis Industry Association commissioned Aperture Research to prepare a report on the Hawaii medical cannabis sector. It was estimated that Hawaii had 126,804 cannabis users consuming 63,700 lbs of products, valued at $210 to $300 million. Approximately one out of five cannabis users in Hawaii are registered in the medical cannabis program. This puts the estimated demand for medical cannabis in the state at about 13,500 lbs, valued at $45 to $63 million.
Statistics from a 2019 review of Uniform Crime Reports over ten years (2008 to 2017) suggest a consistent drop in cannabis-related arrests in Hawaii. The most cannabis-related arrests during this period occurred in 2009. There were 1,645 arrests - 192 for sales/manufacture and 1,453 for possession. Arrest figures dropped steadily over the following seven-year period, culminating in a ten-year low in 2016 (1,076). Arrests for cannabis-related crimes increased between 2008 and 2009 (+11.5%) and between 2016 and 2017 (+5.9%). There was a steady drop in cannabis-related arrests between 2009 and 2016, with the most decline occurring between 2015 and 2016 (-12.3%). This corresponded with the passing of new legislative measures in 2015 that amended and improved medical cannabis access in the state.
Over the same period, FBI Arrest Data for Hawaii recorded the most number of DUI arrests in 2016 (9,917). The ten-year low over this period occurred in 2014 (1,957). DUI arrest figures did not follow a particular trend over the ten-year period as they increased or decreased at random. Hence, medical marijuana legalization does not seem to have a direct impact on DUI offenses in Hawaii. The most significant increase occurred in 2015, with DUI arrest figures rising by 70% from the 2014 figures. In 2013, the most notable drop occurred with DUI arrests numbers dropping by 68.5% from 2012. Marijuana-related crimes in Hawaii in recent times appear to be declining as seen from the FBI Crime Data Explorer.
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Hawaii became a U.S. territory in 1898, making it subject to its laws and regulations. Marijuana was brought under federal regulation by the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and effectively criminalized by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. The Marijuana Tax Act was deemed to violate citizen's Fifth Amendment rights by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1969. Consequently, it was repealed and replaced with the Controlled Substances Act in 1970.
Hawaii legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 2000, becoming the first state to do so by legislation rather than through a ballot initiative measure. Over the subsequent years, the Hawaii Legislature has also made several amendments and revisions to the initial law to better serve medical patients' needs.
Act 228 is the initial Medical Use of Cannabis Law passed by the Hawaii Legislature and signed into law by Governor Ben Cayetano in 2000. It made it legal for qualified patients and caregivers to possess specific amounts of cannabis products for medicinal purposes. It also created a register of qualified patients and caregivers and afforded protection against prosecution to them and their physicians. Qualified patients and caregivers were issued medical marijuana identification cards (329 cards) by the Department of Public Safety (DPS), which had oversight over the program.
In 2015, Governor Neil Abercrombie signed Act 177 and Act 178 into law, making numerous changes to the existing medical marijuana laws. Act 177 facilitated the transfer of the administration of the medical marijuana program to the Department of Health (DOH) from the DPS. It increased registration fees and established special funds to offset the costs associated with the program and fund law enforcement and social programs. Act 178 amended and increased the provisions in the law for the limits of possession and cultivation for patients. It also increased existing qualifying medical conditions and created a process of adding more conditions to the list.
Act 241, codified as Chapter 329D HRS, facilitated the establishment of a regulated cultivation and dispensary system statewide. This was to ensure safe and legal access to medical marijuana for patients and caregivers. Act 242 added anti-discriminatory protections for patients and caregivers regarding education, housing, and medical care. Both Acts were signed into law by Governor David Ige on July 14, 2015.
Act 230, approved by Governor Ige in 2016, amended the statutes in Act 241 about the dispensary system in line with the Cole Memorandum. It also sought to further improve patient access to medical marijuana and ensure efficient and responsible dispensary operations.
Act 041 was signed into law by Governor Ige in 2017. It sought to clarify the regulatory framework for the dispensary system use of medical marijuana in the state. It also increased the possession limits for marijuana plants and added new qualifying medical conditions for medical marijuana use. It amended laboratory standards and testing requirements and granted patients and caregivers access to results among other changes to the medical marijuana laws. Also approved in 2017 was Act 170, which amended all references and mentions of "marijuana" in the Hawaiian Revised Statutes to "cannabis".
Act 116 was signed into law on July 5, 2018, and it established the criteria for medical cannabis reciprocity by the state medical cannabis program. This enabled out-of-state patients with valid cards to obtain medical cannabis privileges for themselves and their caregivers (if the patient is a minor). This is provided the patient's medical condition is included in the state's approved list of qualifying conditions. It also legalized the retail of vaporizers in dispensaries and made provisions for the lawful manufacture and sale of edibles.
On January 11, 2020, HB 1383, which effectively decriminalized the unlawful possession of small quantities of cannabis became law. Unlawful possession of up to 3g of cannabis was reduced to a violation with no jail time and a maximum of $130 fine.
Cultivation of marijuana in the United States, the early 17th century.