Hawaii Cannabis Laws

Is Cannabis Legal In Hawaii?
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Hawaii Law: 

StateRecreationalMedical MarijuanaCBD
HawaiiNo YesYes

Federal Law:

Recreational Medical MarijuanaCBD

Is recreational cannabis legal in Hawaii?

No. While recreational-use is illegal in Hawaii, possession of small amounts of cannabis was decriminalized by the state enacted in January 2020. This bill made it so that possession of 3 grams of cannabis or less will only result in a fine, a crime resulting in jail time. 

Is Medical Marijuana legal in Hawaii?

Yes. Medical marijuana has been legal to grow for approved patients or their caretakers since 2000. Still, the law did not establish any legal MMJ market or dispensaries for the state until 2015.

Recently, Hawaii expanded its medical marijuana program, passing HB 2097, which allows edibles to be sold at licensed medical dispensaries within the state. Lawmakers pointed to the pandemic as “prompting more patients to seek ingestible forms of cannabis to replace inhalation due to concerns about lung health.”

Are CBD products legal in Hawaii? 

Yes. Since the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, hemp-derived CBD products are legal under federal law in the United States; as long as they contain at most 0.3% THC. 

But, Hawaii’s industrial hemp market was years ahead of the federal law. In July of 2016, the governor signed Act 228, which oversaw a pilot program for the Department of Agriculture to cultivate hemp for academic research. That program then leads to legislation in 2017 removing the criminal penalty for the growing, possessing, harvesting, and selling of industrial hemp. 

Any and all CBD in food and drink is still federally illegal.

Hawaii’s Cannabis Timeline:

1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.

1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, This act set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession. 

1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act on the ground that the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth”.) The unanimous opinion of the court was penned by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.

1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. 

This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions are based on its potential for abuse, accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and international treaties.

Classification of Controlled Substances:

Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use

Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use

Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws created including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the promotion of the death penalty to be used against “drug kingpins”.

1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs.  

2000: Hawaii Act 228, governor Cayetano signed into law patients with medical marijuana cards the ability to grow their cannabis plants at their private residence. This law, however, did not establish a medical marijuana legal dispensary market

2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

2015: The Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program of Hawaii was passed stating the Department of Health would administer a legal MMJ Dispensary program by 2016 and grant approvals for facilities. In August 2017, the first legal medical cannabis dispensary finally came to market in Maui for patients granted registration cards. 

2016: Act 228, the governor approved a pilot program for the Department of Agriculture to cultivate hemp for academic research. This program lead to legislation in the next year.

2017: Decriminalization of Hemp in Hawaii. Hawaii House of Representatives Agricultural Committee passed legislation to remove the criminal penalty for growing, possessing, harvesting, and selling industrial hemp. 

2017: In Hawaii this year, the first legal medical cannabis dispensary finally came to market in Maui for patients granted registration cards.

2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act.

2019: Hawaii decriminalized small amounts of cannabis. Governor Ige announced a passed bill making possession of three grams or less of marijuana punishable by a $130 fine. The former law enforced possessing any amount of cannabis to be punishable up to 30 days in jail with a hefty fine. 

2020: HB 2097 passed, permitting patients’ access to medical marijuana edibles.

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