Is marijuana legal in Hawaii? Yes, Kind of...and, also, no.

Hawaii marijuana laws are kind of, well, “growing”, or “evolving”. Hawaii marijuana is renowned for its quality, and has had a major impact on the national psyche (think “Maui Wowee” and “Kona Gold”), yet many people in Hawaii and around the world do not know what the Hawaii marijuana laws are all about. To the questions as follows:

Is weed legal in Hawaii?

Is marijuana legal in Hawaii?

Is Cannabis legal in Hawaii?

The answer is that cannabis is legal for medical use in Hawaii as long as the patient is properly registered with the Dept. of Health and abides by a whole lot of rules. Essentially, a patient can grow no more than 10 plants, and possess no more than 4 ounces of “usable” cannabis. “Usable cannabis” means buds or leaf or shake but does not include stems, seeds or roots.

Concentrates are also allowed. Hawaii cannabis laws allow for concentrates to be possessed and made by patients for themselves, and also the dispensaries are allowed to make and sell concentrates. In the rare case that concentrates would end up in a trial, the general rule (but consult with an attorney) is that concentrates are measured in terms of their percentage of THC and then compared to bus with an average of 20% THC, so the court can determine if the sample exceeds the allowable amount. For instance, if a person is found to have an ounce of honey oil the is 50% THC, then that would be counted as the same as 2.5 ounces of bud.

There are restrictions on the use of cannabis. It can not be consumed in public areas, and it must be in a childproof container if it is in a household with children.

There are protections for certain civil situations as well: Child welfare services can not restrict parental right based only on a parent having a 329 card. Medical services can’t be denied. Housing and school discrimination is prohibited.

Overall, the Hawaii Marijuana situation is getting so much better all the time. Each year, the Hawaii legislature improves the 329 law a little bit more, but it sure seems like a very long time to get to where other states have been for years!

Hawaii marijuana laws started to relax in the year 2000, when it was first legalized for medical use here. Originally, the law said that patients could grow up to 7 plants (only 3 mature and 4 immature), possess up to 3 ounces of usable marijuana, and there were no dispensaries allowed. The program was initially run by the Narcotics Enforcement Division, but then administration of the Hawaii Marijuana program transitioned to the Department of Health. During this time, the number of plants was increased to 10 (and they could be of any size), and the number of ounces increased to 4. In addition, dispensaries were approved, and now dispensaries are found on Maui, Oahu, and Kauai (Hawaii Island dispensaries will open in 2019). In addition to these changes, a few other changes have been added. PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) gained status as qualifying for the 329 card, for instance, and also the civil protections have broadened over the years.

Interested people often ask me some variable on the question “What is going to happen with the Hawaii marijuana laws?” My educated guess is that there will be a relatively slow progression of changes to the current system, that will include the licensure of more dispensaries, adding more qualifying conditions, adding more civil protections (such as for employment, see the prior blog), and perhaps adding in the availability of patients creating private cooperatives. I believe that Hawaii marijuana will be legal for recreational use/sale in 3 to 5 years (2021 to 2023).

I highly encourage you to create a profile at so that you can add your own testimony to upcoming legislation.

Worker Protections ARE STILL IN PROCESS

Hawaii now is moving towards additional civil protections for employed cannabis patients. We almost got passed a law, held as language in Act 116, stating that employees who are not in safety-sensitive jobs may not be legally fired just for having a positive THC drug test. The actual language was not added, though, and this item must be fought for in future legislative bills.

DUI and Weed: Is it, really, a DUI?

Answer: It depends.

A quick summary is that there is no definitive measure of impairment, and if a person hires a good attorney in a cannabis-only DUI case then the defendant will likely win. The following is a detailed description of the logic: 

Mostly, impairment depends on how sensitive the driver is to cannabis. Some people can drive very well while super-stoned, and some people should not drive if they have just one toke. The overall number of people in and given legal cannabis state (let's say, Colorado) that show up with THC in their system when tested (during auto accidents and police stops) have indeed increased. However, presence of THC does not imply causality. Police don't say if other drugs (like alcohol) were present as well as cannabis in the statistics that they cite. In this case of when law enforcement does not identify this as a confounding variable, the conclusion must be negated by anyone who knows scientific method and proper analysis of data. In fact, studies have shown that fatalities and number of actual accidents have actually declined in states with legal cannabis laws (see this citation ). This finding is despite that the overall NUMBER of drivers with THC in their system has increased. Law enforcement does not make the distinction between these two very important sets of data....and if law enforcement wants to protect society then they would accept the science on the topic. To further this topic, the National District Attorney's Association (the body of lawyers that are assigned to prosecute cases on behalf of local government entities) even states that there is no scientific science that says cannabis per-se causes impairment. Here is the quote, and the citation: While marijuana use has been shown to impair cognitive or executive function, driving performance, and increase crash risk, scientific studies have not yet demonstrated support for marijuana “per se” levels similar to alcohol in impaired driving legislation. As described, marijuana contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), more specifically Delta 9 THC, which is the psychoactive component of marijuana that causes impairment. Delta 9 THC can only be detected in blood. 73-90 percent of this is eliminated in as little as 45 minutes to approximately an hour and a half.50 On the other hand, marijuana metabolites, the byproducts in the blood as a result of the body metabolizing the marijuana, remain in the blood for a much longer period of time. Detection of the metabolites may be the result of marijuana consumption several days or weeks prior to the sample collection and may not scientifically equate to impairment. Some of the issues surrounding the challenges to studies that would scientifically support a marijuana “per se” level include:
 Varying concentrations of THC in marijuana. Generally, the concentrations used in studies are much lower than what is available in real-life settings. Additionally, concentrations vary depending on the form of marijuana ingested.
 Differences between users of marijuana. A chronic, frequent user may develop tolerance to some effects of marijuana but not all effects, including the impairing effect. The effect of THC consumption on impairment of driving performance may be higher for occasional, recreational users than for frequent users.
 Differences in ingestion of marijuana. Smoked marijuana leads to a different absorption rate and release rate of the psychoactive ingredient than does eating marijuana edibles.
 Combined use of marijuana and alcohol or marijuana and other drugs. Various studies have demonstrated that the combined use is associated with significantly greater cognitive impairment and crash risk than the use of one alone.51


All states differ, however. Here is a site that has a list of the state laws:

Essentially, there is no clear definition of impairment, and field sobriety tests are the only way that officers can truly determine level of alleged impairment. This assessment may or may not hold up in court, and is specific to each individual case. 

I hope this helps you to understand this topic a little bit more. 



Cannabis and Gun Ownership

Recent news articles have published the Honolulu Police Chief decision to ask a few selected cannabis patients to voluntarily surrender their guns. This request has since been rescinded. However, this does point up an important item. 

First, the Site of Hawaii has created a system to allow cannabis to be used, produced commercially and sold to legitimate patients as certified by the State of Hawaii Dept. of Health, despite the Federal laws that prohibit such activity. There is no reason that a similar system can't be developed to protect gun ownership rights. There are a number of legal reasons that the various police departments should not discriminate against cannabis patients when it comes to gun ownership. These legal challenges will likely be addressed during the next legislative session. 

I strongly encourage all patients to become active in the political process, so that your rights can be protected. This includes registering and voting in the elections, writing letters to your representatives and members of congress, and following legislation as it moves through the State legislature in support or opposition of those bills that are under consideration. 

Up to now there has been no major challenge to the police departments' policies of prohibiting new gun registration for cannabis patients, and no request to relinquish existing guns. This new development will probably change that in the coming legislative session or two. 


Cannabis Entourage Effect

Cannabis has many compounds besides THC. The most commonly known ones are CBD and CBN, but there are dozens of Cannabinoids, and also Terpenes and Flavonoids. Research is demonstrating that the balance of these different compounds in cannabis products has a profound effect on the therapeutic outcomes that patients experience. This is known as the Entourage Effect, in that the sum of the compounds is greater than any one of them alone. 

The most interesting of the Entourage Effects that I have come across is the science supporting the finding that CBD tends to reduce the paranoia that some people experience from high THC strains. As a psychotherapist, I find this to be very interesting, as in my vast experience with thousands of cannabis patients as well as recreational users, about 7% of the overall population experiences some level of anxiety or paranoia when using cannabis. 

Here is a good article from the United Kingdom that describes, in scientific terms, the Entourage Effect:

Science is just beginning to investigate the uses that individual cannabinoids have on humans, let alone what these many compounds do when used in various combinations.

I look forward to learning more on this topic, and I hope you do, too.