The Luau Just Got a Bit More Lit: Hawaii to Allow Out of State MMJ Patients Into Local Dispensaries

Nearly two decades ago, in the year 2000, lawmakers in the state of Hawaii approved Act 228 legalizing medical marijuana albeit in a very limited way.

After that, it took 15 years for the state to approve the establishment of legal medical cannabis dispensaries with Act 241, and it wasn’t until August of 2017 that the first dispensaries actually opened their doors to registered MMJ patients residing in Hawaii.

Registered MMJ patients in Hawaii are allowed to buy up to four ounces of cannabis at once, but only every 15 days. They are also allowed to possess that same amount but if it is broken down into quantities less than 1oz authorities may consider “intent to distribute” charges.

Consistently voted among the top vacation destinations in the U.S., if not the entire world, if you’re planning a trip to these tropical islands and plan to get baked right after you get lei’d, you’ll want to be familiar with the local weed laws.

That is true now more than ever since this week the state Health Department Director Bruce Anderson announced in a written press release that Hawaii will now honor out of state medical marijuana licenses, permits, and recommendations in a tourist-friendly version of reciprocity rarely seen in the rapidly expanding cannabis movement stateside.

“These patients may now legally obtain medical cannabis from any of the local licensed retail dispensaries while visiting the islands," wrote Dir. Anderson in the public release.

Under these new regulations, visitors to the Aloha State who currently have some form of referenceable registration in their home state’s medical marijuana program are eligible to apply for a 60-day permit for their stay in paradise that will allow them access to the same dispensaries and the same rights that the locals have waited so long to receive.

In 2018 – their first full year in operation – the spattering of state-sanctioned medical marijuana dispensaries spread across the chain of islands pushed over 1,500 pounds of legal weed and raked in roughly $12.6 million in MMJ sales.

Consider the fact that medical marijuana has been made legal in 32 other states plus D.C. and you can see how this reciprocity idea could be the best idea since cannabis-infused coconut shrimp.

Ongoing prohibition of the cannabis plant at the federal level has led to a state-by-state patchwork of varying medical marijuana laws, but if you are coming to Hawaii they really don’t care what the MMJ law looks like where you’re from, they only care that you respect their MMJ laws as they are written during your stay.

We already mentioned that you can buy up to four ounces every 15 days, even all at once in one visit to a dispensary, but transporting it can be a sticky situation.

After some challenges in court, inter-island transport of marijuana is now expressly prohibited so if you plan to island hop, you’ll need to ditch your leftover stash each time and hope to re-up at your new destination if you want to follow the law.

It is also important to remember that vast swaths of the Hawaiian Islands are either National Park land or military land, both of which are owned by the feds and shielded from pesky local weed laws. You need to use extreme caution when sparking up in these situations – as high as you might get, the risk will still be higher.

The fact of the matter is, even on public land cannabis consumption is prohibited even for registered MMJ patients. The only legal place to smoke weed or take dabs is indoors in a private residence.

You may feel that the odds will be in your favor a majority of the time but ruining a Hawaiian vacation over a blunt on the beach would be a bummer, bro.

The same goes for if you decide to skip the medical marijuana route and just bring your own from home or hook up with some local pakalolo when you touch down in the tropics… there is no such thing as “recreational” cannabis there and the penalties for possession can be steep.

Getting popped with some illicit buds, up to a full ounce, could get you anything from a warning to a $1000 fine to 30 days in jail. Feeling lucky?

Now get this, all cannabis concentrates are considered “harmful drugs” and having ANY amount in your possession can also draw misdemeanor charges along with $1000 fine and up to a full year in jail. But if they nail you with 3.5 grams or more of cannabis concentrates you’re looking at a felony charge, up to $25k in fines and up to a decade behind bars!

The state loosley defines cannabis concentrates as any compound that "contains THC but does not have the outward appearance of any part of the marijuana plant". Additionally, case law has determined that there is no minimum amount of THC content required to classify a compound as a concentrate, even if the THC content of the compound is lower than the average of the plant material it was made from - think edibles, tinctures, etc. and how quickly their weight would add up if a crooked cop decided to drop the hammer on you.

Just yesterday, state legislators amended an existing cannabis decriminalization proposal that only protects those found in possession of three grams of bud or less and that will still carry a $200 fine. There is language for retroactive expungement of past low level cannabis crimes from locals' records but that process too will only consider those that were busted with a measly 3g or under.

So should you just go cold turkey while in one of the most spectacular places on the planet?

Really it comes down to respect for the locals, their culture, and their day to day lifestyle and laws. With that, some discretion, and a bit of common sense you should be able to find a way to get lit before the luau.

If you are interested in pre-registering for out of state reciprocity, you can find more information to do so HERE.

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