Medical marijuana dispensaries to open in Hawaii; session in recess until 2016


Last update: October 4, 2015


In 2000, Hawaii became the first state to legalize medical marijuana through the legislative process. The law permitted patients to grow their own plants but did not allow for dispensaries. On July 14, 2015, Gov. David Ige signed two important medical marijuana laws. HB 321 allows medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in Hawaii, and SB 1291 strengthens civil protections for patients.

HB 321 initially allows eight dispensaries (three on Oahu, two each on Big Island and Maui, and one on Kauai) with two locations each. Starting in 2017, the state health department will be allowed to issue more licenses as needed. Each dispensary license will allow the license holder to have two cultivation sites with up to 3,000 plants, as well as the two dispensing locations that must be separate from the cultivation locations.

SB 1291 strengthens existing civil protections for medical marijuana patients and adds new protections that prevent landlords, schools, and courts from discriminating against medical marijuana patients.

Decriminalization and prohibition


The Hawaii Legislature has before it legislation that would replace criminal penalties for possession of marijuana with a civil violation and proposals to end the Aloha State’s marijuana prohibition by taxing and regulating adult marijuana sales similarly to Colorado. Hawaii has a two-year session, so lawmakers can take up these issues when they reconvene in Honolulu in January 2016.

A QMark Research poll, commissioned by the Drug Policy Action Group and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, found that 78% of Hawaii voters support a dispensary system for medical marijuana, 69% think that jail time for marijuana offenses is inappropriate, and an overwhelming 57% favor legalizing marijuana for adults and regulating it like alcohol. This last number is 20% higher than the last poll conducted in 2005.

In addition to polling, an economic analysis was commissioned from University of Hawaii economist David Nixon. Dr. Nixon estimates that Hawaii could redirect $9 million annually if it stopped arresting individuals for marijuana possession. Additionally, Hawaii could generate tax revenues of up to $11 million annually if the state legalized, regulated, and taxed the sale of marijuana to adults.

Multiple bills have been filed that will end Hawaii’s marijuana prohibition this session, giving legislators the opportunity to take a fiscally sound approach to marijuana policy when they reconvene in 2016.

Take action!

Speak out:
Please ask your legislators to support ending the costly and futile prohibition of marijuana.

Contact us: If you are a law enforcement official, a clergy member, a member of the legal community, or if you were arrested for simple possession of marijuana, please email [email protected] to see how you can be of special help. Be sure to include your zip code so we can determine who your legislators are.

Stay connected: To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Hawaii, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service.