In Hawaii, the phrase pakalolo, or ‘crazy tobacco,’ is a local term for cannabis. The state is famous for its unique strains, but medical marijuana users have faced an uphill battle to legally purchase weed for the best part of 20 years. In 2000, Ben Cayetano, the state’s governor at the time, signed Act 228 into law. It permitted MMJ cardholders to grow weed at home or appoint a caretaker to do it instead.
What Act 228 did NOT do was establish, or make provisions for, a legal marijuana market or dispensaries in the state. It was a strange situation, since Hawaii was home to many artisanal home growers which led to famous strains such as Puna Butter and Maui Wowee being created. A 1979 edition of Rolling Stone described weed as the state’s #1 crop, ahead of pineapple and sugar.
The Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program for the state was finally created in 2015. It enabled those who qualified for medical marijuana to register at health.hawaii.gov. You are now unable to register unless you get a licensed physician to certify that the patient will derive benefit from using medical cannabis for their condition.
Act 241 was passed; it stated that the Hawaii Department of Health would implement the program in 2016 and dispensaries were supposed to be open by June of that year. Also, in 2016, Senate Bill 321 finally established a dispensary system and allowed eight dispensaries on the state; designated by island. However, it wasn’t until August 2017 that the first legal medicinal marijuana sale was made by a dispensary in Hawaii.
There are 11 marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii:
- Have a Heart Kauai – Kapaa
- Aloha Green Apothecary – Honolulu
- Noa Botanicals – Honolulu
- Cure Oahu – Honolulu
- Hawaii Medical Marijuana Dispensary – Honolulu
- Maui Grown Therapies– Kahului
- Big Island Grown – Kahului, Kailua Kona, and Kamuela
- Pono Life Maui – Kahului
Here’s the Definitive Guide on How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card in Hawaii
In Hawaii, the MMJ card used to be called the ‘Blue Card’ but is now known as the ‘329 card’. Here is a step-by-step guide to getting your 329 card in Hawaii.
Step 1 – See a Certified Physician
In Hawaii, your first step is to make an appointment with a certified physician, cannabis clinic, or APRN. The physician will complete a pre-screen which involves sending information on your medical condition and details on why you believe medical marijuana would help treat the symptoms.
Step 2 – Registering for the Program
Once you have received pre-screen approval, your next order of business is to go to the official Hawaii government website and register for the medical marijuana program. You MUST be a resident of Hawaii to participate in the program. There are plans to implement a reciprocity program which we will explain later on.
Make sure you double-check everything when completing the application because the systems of most medical practices don’t allow physicians to edit applications. Unfortunately, the State Department of Health expects perfection! The name on the application must be an exact match for the name on your I.D. Card. The DOH wants a front-side picture of your Hawaii I.D. Card.
If your I.D Card has an initial in the middle, and you enter the full middle name, for example, your application will be rejected. It will delay your application by at least a month.
Step 3 – Receive a Physician’s Approval
Once you have submitted the online application, it will go to your certified physician for approval. They will complete their portion of the form and submit the full application to the Department of Health after you have attended a second consultation. In most cases, patients are seen on a ‘first come, first served’ basis, which means you are sent a text message, or else the doctor’s office calls you to arrange an appointment.
Once the doctor is satisfied that your application is full and correct, it is sent to the DOH. All 329 cards are sent directly to your home address. It can take 2-5 weeks for your card to arrive. At this point, you are finally allowed to purchase weed legally from one the dispensaries in Hawaii. Given the fact that the state is a collection of islands, we hope you live on one that has a licensed dispensary!
What are the Qualifying Conditions Required to Receive a Medical Marijuana Card in Hawaii?
When you attend a pre-screen with a physician, make sure you bring any medical documentation such as notes from previous doctor visits, trips to the chiropractor, ER visits, prescriptions, MRIs, scans, or X-rays to help support your diagnosis. You can obtain your medical records by contacting the hospital or physician where you were treated and requesting your records.
The hospital in question should provide you with information on the process and ask you to sign an authorization which you can fax to them. At present, the list of qualifying diseases and conditions have been limited to the following:
- Chronic headaches
- Inflammatory bowel disorders
- Malignant cancer
- Chronic nausea
- Seizure disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
- Fibromyalgia and painful neuropathies
- Illnesses and injuries related to military service, including PTSD
- Profound wasting disorders
- Chronic, disabling pain and muscle spasms
- Asthma under certain conditions
It is important to let you know that many Hawaiian physicians are unwilling to authorize a 329 card for patients under the age of 30 unless they have a ‘compelling’ reason for doing so.
What are the Costs of Getting a Medical Marijuana Card in Hawaii?
You must pay $38.50 to the DOH with your application via EFT or debit/credit card. There is also a $16.50 fee for a replacement card. Doctors’ fees range from $150 to $200, although it is usually only veterans who pay the lower amount. The 329 card lasts for a full year, and the expiry date is always the last day of the month in question.
You are allowed to apply for a renewal 60 days in advance, and we recommend doing so as soon as possible because it takes up to 5 weeks for your renewal to be approved and your new card to be sent to you.
Other Important Information on the Hawaii Medical Marijuana License Process
At present, the application process is a relatively slow one, and all 329 cards are sent via snail mail. The Medical Cannabis Registry Program recently announced that electronic cards would be available ‘soon,’ but did not provide a timeline. It will significantly reduce the average waiting time for a 329 card, which currently stands at 25 days.
If there are any changes to be made regarding information on your application, please get in touch with the DOH within 10 working days to report the alterations.
To join the program, out-of-state medical cannabis users will need to apply online and pay $49.50 for a temporary MMJ card which will last you 60 days.
Full details have yet to be released, but it is also likely that the DOH will only allow out-of-state patients to purchase weed from dispensaries on Maui, Kauai, and Oahu. In other U.S. states, there are ‘reciprocity’ programs where out-of-state MMJ cardholders can use the card from their home state to buy weed in another state. This won’t be the case in Hawaii as out-of-state users must apply for the new special card.
It is estimated that 5,000 visitors will apply for cards during the first year; a number likely to swell to 30,000 within a few years.
Benefits of the 329 Card in Hawaii
You are only allowed to purchase weed from a licensed dispensary in Hawaii if you have a 329 card. If a law enforcement officer stops and searches you, show them the 329 card. It will keep you protected as long as you don’t have more than four ounces of marijuana in your possession. You are allowed to purchase four ounces every 15 days.
You can also grow marijuana at home if you are a medical cannabis patient. You don’t even need to register for the dispensary program, but you MUST register for the medical marijuana program. Hawaiian law enables medical marijuana patients to grow up to seven live plants. Minors are allowed on the program, but only with a statement from a parent/guardian which states that a physician has explained the benefits and risks of cannabis.
If you break the law, you could find yourself in prison depending on the scale of the offense. Hawaii is a state that allows for conditional release or diversion of first-time marijuana offenders. If you complete your probation, your record is purged.
Illegal possession of less than an ounce is classified as a ‘petty misdemeanor’ and usually results in a fine of up to $1,000, although it could result in a 30-day prison sentence. Possession of over an ounce but under a pound is a misdemeanor with a possible prison term of 12 months. Possession of over a pound of cannabis is a Class C felony, and the charge gets more serious with larger amounts.