In 2000, Hawai‘i enacted groundbreaking public policy legislation recognizing the medicinal benefits of marijuana. That early legislation provided details outlining the number of plants and available weight values that would be deemed appropriate for patients to legally possess. Yet, that was that last time that our legislative body was able to deliver policy that propelled the medical marijuana program forward… Until now!

In the 2015 session, Hawai‘i’s legislators collectively constructed a bill providing for access to better care for patients in the medical marijuana registry program. Governor Ige’s signature on House Bill 321 echoed the precedent of innovation set fifteen years ago, and clearly highlights the need and importance of a state regulated medical marijuana dispensary system. Perhaps one of the greatest triumphs in the language of the bill, providing a sincere nod toward the credibility of Hawai‘i’s medical marijuana program, is the transition of oversight from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health. This shift is one of the key elements that should allow for the gradual, and successful removal of the social stigma that currently taints the patients, doctors, and advocates of medicinal cannabis.

HB 321 is the vehicle that will allow for the development of legitimate, safe, practical, and easily accessible care for those patients eligible for medical marijuana treatments. Relevant highlights of the legislation include:

  • Provision for 8 dispensary licenses, statewide.
    • 3 for City and County of Honolulu
    • 2 for Maui County
    • 2 for Hawai’i County
    • 1 on Kauai County
  • Each of the available licenses allows for 2 (two) retail dispensaries and 2 (two) grow/production facilities. A look at the bigger picture provides the potential for 32 total facilities that could be operational within the next year and a half – providing medicinal access for patients and creating jobs and economic growth across the state.
  • The legislation requires that all of the plants must be integrated into a “seed to sale” tracking program.  This system will ensure that all of the medical marijuana produced goes directly to medicinal patients – and that no material can be diverted for illicit use.
  • While the number of licenses is limited to 8, in the first year, the law provides that there may be reassessment of this number in October 2017. The reassessment criteria has yet to be determined, but it should be recognized that this legislative Act is modeled for growth and will not be allowed to lay dormant or quietly shelved. This sentiment is further echoed in the inclusion of language authorizing medicinal marijuana reciprocation with other states in 2018.
  • The new legislation provides the same protections for medical marijuana users expressed in the 2000 legislation: patients and or caregivers are allowed to have up to seven plants, three mature and four immature plants for personal use; material and paraphernalia that is seized must be return immediately upon the presentation of a state approved certification; physicians cannot be reprimanded for participation in and providing access and certification to patients. These guarantees are protected at the city and county levels, too.
  • Much of the rest of the legislative text consists of increased safeguards drafted by our legislators to ensure that the interests of local ownership and enterprise remain paramount in the delivery of access to quality care and patient services.

As history continues to be made in Hawai‘i, there are several dates that should be noted:

  • DoH should have the administrative rules for the merit based application selection process established by early January, 2016.
  • Applications must be submitted between January 12 and January 29, 2016.
  • Selected Licensees will be announced no later than April 15, 2016.
  • Licensees may then begin providing medical marijuana to qualified patients no earlier than July 15, 2016.

Please feel free to contact the Alliance if you have any questions about this legislation or how you can become involved in the industry – whether as a patient, dispensary advocate, interested individual, or related business. We are always available to talk!


Back on Track – HB 321, Act 241