State of Cannabis: Hawaii Hits Number Ten

This is proving to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. We have finally hit the top ten. The remaining states all have legalized medical marijuana and the criminal penalties in the remaining states range from bad to good, but many have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Today we head to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to cover Hawaii. 

Our previous rankings are as follows: 11. Maryland; 12. Connecticut; 13. Vermont; 14. Rhode Island; 15. Kentucky; 16.Pennsylvania; 17.Delaware; 18. Michigan; 19. New Hampshire; 20. Ohio; 21. New Jersey; 22. Illinois; 23. Minnesota; 24. New York; 25. Wisconsin; 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah;  31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas;  46. Kansas;  47. Alabama;  48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma;  50. South Dakota.


Criminal Penalties. Hawaii punishes possession of less than one ounce of cannabis with a maximum of 30 days imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000. Possession of one ounce to one pound earns up to a year in prison and a maximum $2,000 fine. Possession of 1-2 pounds earns up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. The possession of larger amounts are classified as possession with intent to distribute, with the following penalties:

  •  2-25 pounds earns up to 10 years in prison and a maximum $25,000 fine.
  • Over 25 pounds earns up to 20 years in prison and a maximum $50,000 fine.

The sale or distribution of cannabis in Hawaii is punished based on the amount of cannabis, as follows:

  • Less than 1 ounce earns up to 1 year in prison and a maximum $2,000 fine.
  • 1 ounce to 1 pound earns up to 5 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
  • 1-5 pounds earns up to 10 years in prison and a maximum $25,000 fine.
  • Over 5 pounds earns up to 20 years in prison and a maximum $50,000 fine.

Hawaii lawmakers may soon pass groundbreaking decriminalization legislation. Extract reports that the State recently approved a proposal to study decriminalizing all drugs for personal use. Several states have decriminalized small amounts of cannabis but none have yet decriminalized all drugs.

Medical Marijuana. Hawaii first implemented medical cannabis in 2000, but overhauled the program in 2015 to allow for and to regulate marijuana dispensaries. To participate in Hawaii’s medical cannabis program, Hawaii patients must obtain a written authorization from a physician after being diagnosed with a qualifying condition, include the following:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • PTSD
  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
  • Severe Pain
  • Severe Nausea
  • Seizures, including Epilepsy
  • Severe and Persistent Muscle Spasms, including Multiple Sclerosis
  • Crohn’s Disease

Physicians must register the names, addresses, patient identification numbers, and other identifying information of their cannabis patients with the Department of Public Safety. Hawaii recognizes medical marijuana authorizations from other states, but out-of-state cannabis patients must register with the State before purchasing marijuana.

Hawaii cannabis patients may possess up to four ounces of “usable marijuana,” which does not include the seeds, stalks, and roots of the cannabis plant. Hawaii also allows for home-growing of up to seven cannabis plants.

The Honolulu Civil Beat reports that eight companies were selected “to receive licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana: three on Oahu, two in Hawaii County, two in Maui County and one in Kauai County.”  Hawaii medical cannabis dispensaries were permitted to start dispensing cannabis to patients on July 1, 2016, but Hawaii’s medical marijuana program is not yet operational.

Bottomline. Hawaii has relatively light criminal penalties for marijuana possession and it is researching widespread decriminalization of all drugs, not just cannabis. Hawaii’s medical marijuana program shows promise, and recent changes and proposed changes in its cannabis and its drug laws indicate its lawmakers are learning from other states’ models. For these reasons, we rank the Aloha state number ten in our State of Cannabis series.

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