Hawaii’s Medical Cannabis Access and Anti-Discrimination Laws

On July 15, 2015, Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed into law two medical marijuana bills that amended Hawaii’s original medical marijuana program by creating a state regulated medical marijuana dispensary program and by strengthening civil protections for medical marijuana patients. The dispensary bill, which also added PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions, allowed for a limited program initially, but includes provisions for expansion as necessary. In the meantime, the legislation enacted in 2015 will create patient access to safe and regulated medical marijuana without fear of discrimination.

The Department of Health is still working to implement the dispensary program. Below is a summary of the two laws enacted in 2015, which have been subsequently amended by HB 2707.

  • This legislation allows holders of a “medical marijuana dispensary license” to produce, manufacture, and dispense medical marijuana and manufactured marijuana products. The sale and manufacture of edibles will not be allowed — permitted medical marijuana products include limited capsules, lozenges, pills, oils and oil extracts, tinctures, ointments, and skin lotions.
    • Each license allows the holder to operate up to two production centers and up to two retail dispensing locations, for a total of up to 16 production and 16 dispensing locations across the state. Each production center may possess no more than 3,000 plants. Retail locations may not be located at the same place as the production center.
    • The department issued eight medical marijuana dispensary licenses on May 19, 2016, distributed throughout Hawaii as follows:
      • three for the city and county of Honolulu
      • two each for the counties of Hawaii and Maui
      • one for Kauai
    • After October 1, 2017, the department must decide if the eight license holders are meeting patient need. If they are not, it may accept applications for additional licenses.
    • Beginning on January 1, 2018, visiting qualified medical marijuana patients will be allowed to purchase medicine at Hawaii dispensaries provided that they register with the department through a yet-to-be-determined process.
  • The new law includes various requirements for being granted a license.
    • Individuals applying for a license must:
      • have been a legal resident in Hawaii for at least five years;
      • be 21 or older; and
      • have no felony convictions.
    • Entities must establish that they:
      • are organized under the laws of Hawaii;
      • have a Hawaii tax ID number;
      • have a Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Business Registration Division number and suffix;
      • are majority owned (51% or more) by Hawaii residents;
      • have financial resources available to them totaling at least $1 million for each license applied for plus an additional $100,000 per dispensary allowed under the license; and
      • are controlled by individuals without felony convictions.
    • The legislation also establishes application and licensure fees. In addition to the required materials, each application must include a nonrefundable application fee of $5,000. If approved, the applicant must pay the department a $75,000 fee per license awarded. Licenses will be renewed annually as long as the holder continues to meet the requirements and pays a $50,000 renewal fee to the department.
    • The legislation tasks the Department of Health with creating the dispensary license application, and it requires certain information, including criminal background checks, be included in the application.
    • The legislation also includes specific requirements on how dispensaries can operate. Among other requirements, dispensaries can only be open from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Dispensaries may not operate on Sundays.
    • The legislation sets out several new prohibitions, penalties, and crimes related to dispensing medical marijuana, such as unauthorized access to production centers, improper diversion, and alteration or falsification of dispensary records.
    • In addition to enacting legislation creating medical marijuana dispensaries, the legislature passed and the governor signed legislation adding important civil protections for patients and caregivers. As of July 15, 2015, the following legal protections became available to medical cannabis patients:
      • Schools, employers, and landlords. No school is allowed to refuse enrollment to an individual solely because of that person’s status as a medical marijuana patient or caregiver. Likewise, landlords are prohibited from refusing rental solely because of medical marijuana enrollment status. Employers who would lose a financial or licensing related benefit under federal law or regulations if they hire or rent to a medical marijuana patient are exempt from this provision.
      • Organ transplants and other medical care. The proper use of medical marijuana is no longer considered the use of an illicit substance, nor can it otherwise disqualify a patient for the purposes of medical care, including organ transplants. The use of medical marijuana will be considered like the use of any other kind of medicine.
      • Child custody. Qualified patients and caregivers can no longer be denied custody, visitation, or parenting time with a child. In addition, status as a medical marijuana patient or caregiver, on its own, cannot lead to a presumption of neglect or abuse.
      • Housing associations. Provisions in homeowners association or condominium bylaws, articles of incorporation, administrative rules, or similar documents that allow patient and caregiver discrimination are invalid . However, these types of entities may still prohibit the smoking of medical marijuana if they also prohibit tobacco smoking. In these cases, patients would still be free to administer their medicine in other ways, like vaporization.