Hawaii Marijuana Guide
While marijuana possession is somewhat decriminalized in Hawaii, recreational use is still illegal and carries penalties ranging from a petty misdemeanor to a Class A felony if caught with 25+ pounds of pot. However, medical marijuana is legal in Hawaii for individuals suffering from chronic diseases such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, cachexia and disorders causing severe pain, nausea and muscle spasms.
Hawaii passed an ordinance called the Lowest Law Enforcement Priority of Cannabis in 2008 which made pot the “lowest priority” on the list of enforcements initiated by Hawaiian police. This means that if you are caught with one ounce or less, you will be charged with a petty misdemeanor and possibly receive a maximum of 30 days in jail with a fine of up to $1000. However, the amount of jail time someone receives with a petty misdemeanor charge depends on prior convictions and contextual factors surrounding the charge. Possession of between one ounce and one pound of marijuana remains a misdemeanor with a possibility of one year in the county jail and fines of $2000. Individuals found possessing 25 pounds or more is a felony in Hawaii and will result in up to 20 years in prison and hefty fines.
Cultivating under 25 pot plants for recreational purposes is a misdemeanor carrying charges similar to those of possessing processed pot. Growing 25 to 50 plants is a Class C felony and could get you five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Be prepared to receive a Class A felony charge in Hawaii if you are caught growing 100+ plants, with a $50,000 fine thrown in for good measure.
If a Hawaiian police officer catches you selling less than an ounce of pot, you will receive a misdemeanor charge with the possibility of spending a year in jail. Selling between one ounce and one pound of marijuana? That is a Class C felony in Hawaii involving five years in state prison and a $10,000 fine. Sellers possessing five pounds of pot can expect to spend many years in prison, be order to pay enormous fines and have a Class A or B felony blackening their record.
Be aware that if you are caught with even one gram of pot within 750 feet of a public park or school or within 10 feet of a school bus is a Class C felony, not a petty misdemeanor. You could get five years in prison for this type of offense. In addition, selling, using or possessing drug paraphernalia in Hawaii is not even slightly decriminalized. It is a Class C felony to be found in possession of items associated with the use and cultivation of pot.
Hawaii Medical Marijuana Laws
Medical marijuana was legalized in 2008 in Hawaii but the establishment of dispensaries was not. Patients authorized to use pot for medical purposes must grow their own or have a designated caregiver grow it for them. Caregivers must be older than 18 and have a clean criminal record before they can be a licensed caregiver.
If a physician thinks a patient’s medical condition can be helped by using medicinal marijuana, he or she will give the patient a signed document that the patient will have to submit to the Hawaii’s state health department. Upon receipt of a Hawaii “Blue Card”, medical marijuana patients or their caregivers can legally begin growing pot.
Carriers of the Blue Card are permitted to have no more than three ounces of pot at one time (seven plants—four immature and three mature). It is against the law for physicians to provide medicinal marijuana to their patients or even recommend ways they could obtain pot. In addition, only doctors that have been certified by Hawaii’s Narcotics Enforcement Division can dispense applications to patients seeking medicinal marijuana.
Patients and their doctors need to submit an application each year to receive updated Blue Cards, along with an application fee of $35. Currently, medical marijuana is not covered by any insurance company operating in Hawaii so all card fees and any items necessary for cultivating medicinal pot must be paid by the patient.
The Status of Legalizing Pot for Recreational Purposes in Hawaii
Earlier this year, House Bill 669 was introduced into the state house that proposed legalizing possession of one ounce or less of marijuana in Hawaii. Karl Rhoads, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, chose to kill the bill because a head count discovered that the bill was already dead before initiating a vote on it.
HB 699 would have permitted Hawaii residents over 21 years old to possess a small amount of pot or grow plants in secured locations without penalty. In addition, the bill would have established a system of regulations similar to those already implemented in Washington and Colorado. Arguments against legalizing recreational pot came from county law enforcement, Hawaii’s attorney general and the CDFH (Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii), who all claimed that pot was a dangerous drug that would only serve to worsen the social problems already existing in Hawaii.
Alternately, an organization called the Hawaii Drug Policy Action Group led by Pam Lichty is continuing to fight for the legalization of recreational marijuana in Hawaii as well as the broadening of the state’s medical marijuana laws, specifically the right to open dispensaries.
Recently Signed Bills by Governor Abercrombie
In June, 2013, Hawaii’s governor Neil Abercrombie signed bills amending medical marijuana laws to include a guarantee that only health professionals will be in charge of the program instead of state and local law enforcement. The other amendment increases the amount of marijuana that card-holding patients are allowed to possess but now only permits a patient’s primary care physician to submit applications for Blue Cards. Proponents of the latter amendment say that this will prevent many patients suffering from chronic diseases (such as individuals seeing Veteran’s Administration doctors who generally to not recommend medicinal pot use) from accessing the pain-relieving benefits offered by marijuana.
PBS Hawaii Debate on Medical Marijuana
http://dpfhi.org/?id=81 (Hawaii Drug Policy Action Group)
http://www.mpp.org/states/hawaii (Hawaii Marijuana Policy Project)
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