Medical marijuana laws have been making news headlines in Hawaii for over a decade. Challenges and proposed changes to the laws can cause some confusion. And cases such as Rev. Roger Christie’s have some residents asking questions about Hawaii medical marijuana laws. What exactly are Hawaii medical marijuana laws? Who qualifies for medical marijuana? What does the process of becoming a medical marijuana patient involve?
On June 14, 2000, Hawaii became the first state to pass a medical marijuana law through the legislature, rather than by voter initiative. The Hawaii Medical Marijuana Act allows medical marijuana patients and their caregiver to possess a total of three mature marijuana plants, four immature plants, and once ounce of usable marijuana per each mature plant.
In order to become a legal medical marijuana patient in the state of Hawaii, one must complete the application process. A licensed physician’s recommendation is required before any additional application steps can be taken. Physicians may recommend medical marijuana to patients whom have a serious medical condition such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, severe pain, seizures, and other medical conditions designated as “debilitating” by the Department of Health. On behalf of the patient and at the discretion of the physician, a certification form from the Narcotics Enforcement Division (NED) can be requested. The completed form must be mailed with a copy of the patient’s photo ID and a check for the registration fee – $35 as of August 1, 2011 – to the NED.
While the application process seems straight forward, qualifying patients must abide by some fairly strict rules in order to avoid trouble with law enforcement. Physicians are not required by law to recommend medical marijuana. As such, there is no guarantee that a patient will even receive application assistance from their physician. In the event that a patient is approved, the physician is not authorized to recommend dispensaries or assist patients with the purchase of medical marijuana. In addition, the medical marijuana identity registration certificate – also known as a medical marijuana card or “Blue Card” in Hawaii – is only valid for one year from the month in which the application is received. During that time, patients are required to report any changes to their information within five business days. Failure to do so can lead to revocation of the certificate. In order to continue using medical marijuana, patients must be re-certified each year. And although qualifying patients are legally allowed to use medical marijuana, they may not use it in a public place or while driving. The Hawaii Medical Marijuana Act states that any use that may endanger the health of another person is prohibited.
Many questions regarding Hawaii medical marijuana still remain unanswered. Why do Hawaii medical marijuana laws and enforcement continue to fall under the NED rather than the Department of Health? Will the state agree to a reciprocity relationship with other states that have legalized medical marijuana? Will the law eventually allow for the establishment of a dispensary system to assist patients with their prescription purchases? All of these questions and more are being considered and debated as lawmakers attempt to balance the concerns of residents and the needs of patients.