### UPDATE March 8, 2016 ###
“Pot Tourism” is a real travel industry niche, and Hawaii laws have yet to catch up with the statistically verifiable benefits of allowing marijuana to be available to responsible, non-medical proponents. In Colorado, for example, tax revenue from the legal sale of marijuana far exceeds that of the revenue generated by the tax on alcohol.
But Hawaii’s legislature isn’t entirely behind the times regarding marijuana use. Remember, Hawaii is among the first US states to legalize the use of medical marijuana. It’s never been easy for patients, as there are no legal dispensaries here. And legal, recreational use of marijuana in Hawaii doesn’t seem likely any time soon. People have been jailed over Hawaii’s medical marijuana laws.
There are, however, close to 60 bills relating to medical marijuana use in Hawaii that have been submitted to the 2016 Hawaii legislature. Many of these bills involve bureaucratic measures that would loosen regulations on the use of greenhouse, shade house, and open air growing practices, and other more esoteric legal aspects of the cultivation and sale of pot in the Aloha State. Other bills would decriminalize the transport of delivery devices such as pipes and other vessels for medical marijuana patients in Hawaii. Still other bills are related to the production and regulation of industrial hemp. Many of these bills have been carried over from the 2015 legislative session.
Simply put, we’re still trying to figure it out.
In 2015, the Hawaii legislature passed a bill that allows for a limited number of licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries. There has been quite a stir here in Hawaii about those that have applied for those licenses, which amounts to 66 business entities. Actor Woody Harrelson has been noted in national and international media as among them. Fewer than 20 will be granted.
There are no individuals actually named in the official Department of Health list of applicants other than the head of the applying entities. And there won’t be, by statute. But there is a handful of prominent Hawaii business figures associated with those enterprises that have applied for a medical marijuana dispensary license. There’s money in it, so it seems. Legitimate corporations are betting on it in stakes in the multi-millions of dollars. The first marijuana dispensary could conceivably open, by law, in July of this year.
Considering the success of recreational marijuana use legislation in US states like Colorado and Washington and Oregon, and the remarkable, confirmed increase in tax revenue and decrease in certain drug-related hospital admissions, it’s clear that Hawaii’s legislature could do well to embrace a more enlightened perspective on the merits of legal marijuana.
But let’s not ignore the fact that statistics prove that “pot tourist” marijuana overdose admission rates to Colorado hospitals have also increased significantly since legalization there.
Maui Wowie. Kona Gold. These terms are familiar to probably anyone who smokes pot in the US. Hawaii, its officials, and its residents have long wrestled with pot’s place in our community. Operation Green Harvest, which was a joint county, state, and federal effort at marijuana eradication decades ago is often blamed for the social blight of crystal methamphetamine abuse and property and violent crimes that spiked alarmingly in the operation’s wake. Regardless of all of that remains the fact that a lot of Hawaii’s residents and visitors are pot-users.
Hawaii has yet to become a “Pot Tourism” destination, and it’s still to be seen that it ever will. Marijuana users, visiting or resident, are subject to prosecution for simple possession. A visiting medical marijuana patient can’t procure their medicine legally. Yet.
Remember that, visiting stoners.
We get the question a lot: Is there really a lot of marijuana in Hawaii?
Well, yes and no. Marijuana is pretty accessible throughout Hawaii, which is considered a “national leader” among states in the production of high-grade marijuana. Homegrown marijuana, either harvested from sophisticated indoor grows or from outdoor grows, remains a staple for the local demand and for export to the mainland.
Medical marijuana certificates are distributed on the islands, where local users are permitted to grow plants at their residences for personal consumption. That’s actually the only way medical marijuana can be used legally. (Selling marijuana — even for approved medical use — is illegal under any circumstances.) Hawaii’s medical marijuana law allows certified patients to keep three mature plants, four young plants and an ounce of marijuana for each mature plant.
The availability of marijuana is perceived by our local population as normal. Small, mail-order marijuana operations from the islands to the mainland apparently exist and survive by shipping small quantities through air parcel providers. Marijuana may be shipped to the west coast in shipping containers marked “household goods,” as growers allegedly move to the mainland, although this has not been confirmed. While marijuana and crime are not related with great concern in the state, marijuana is frequently encountered in the public schools among students as young as sixth grade. A recent survey of high school students indicated that 70% of the respondents have easy access to marijuana.
Five states (California, Tennessee, Kentucky, Hawaii and Washington) had marijuana crops worth over $1 billion last year.
From time to time, controversy arises because local police bust people who are “distributing” marijuana to seemingly needy recipients. Earlier this month, a man was arrested because he was found in possession of more than the permitted number of marijuana plants and was allegedly selling marijuana for profit. The man, who holds a state-issued medical marijuana permit, was released, but the case will be referred to the county prosecutor’s office for possible prosecution on charges of commercial promotion of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and promotion of harmful drugs.
Back in November, seven men involved in a medical marijuana advocacy group were arrested on suspicion of running a drug-trafficking ring. The group admits selling or giving away marijuana to patients who might not otherwise be able to obtain it. Police have said they are not targeting patients who comply with the medical marijuana law.
You may have heard the term “Green Harvest.” About 30 years ago, an effort, both state- and federally-funded, targeted growers with the use of low-flying helicopters searching for marijuana. The choppers disrupted rural life and invaded the privacy of residents. Some claimed that the program did little to eradicate marijuana and even promoted the use of other, more dangerous drugs. Green Harvest is no longer funded.
If you’d like to know anything more about marijuana – medical or otherwise – don’t come to Hawaii-Aloha Travel. That’s about the extent of our knowledge, and interest.