How to Get a Rec in Hawaii and Cultivate Medical Marijuana (up to 7 plants)

Before we get onto getting a rec and medical marijuana card in Hawaii, let’s first discuss the general laws and context surrounding the cannabis scene in this sunny state.

It is worth mentioning that medical marijuana cards in Hawaii are known as “329 cards”. There seems to be a lot of onus placed on the wording around marijuana legislation. When we caught up with Hawaii News Now anchor and reporter Mahealani Richardson, to get her thoughts for this article she told us, “Just yesterday (07/27) the department of health changed the wording on their website from Medical Marijuana to Medical Cannabis. This is after 2017 Act 170 signed by the Governor changing the language in all laws and rules.”

Whilst medical cannabis has been legal in Hawaii since 2000, Marijuana is still considered a Schedule I Hallucinogenic Drug in Hawaii and is by no means recreational. Here are the penalties you could face for non-medical marijuana:

  • Carrying less than 1 oz. for personal use can land a person up to 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000
  • Carrying any more than 1 oz. can mean 1 year in prison and a $2,000 fine
  • Holding anything more than 1 lb. of marijuana is considered a felony, and can bring 5 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
  • Cultivation of between 25-50 plants brings similar sentencing as carrying 1 lb of marijuana, although growing any amount of marijuana on another’s property can bring with it 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

With strict penalties around non-medical use it’s no wonder that, as Richardson told us,

“Patients are eager to have the dispensaries up and running so they won’t have to obtain their medicine from the black market or at least have the dispensaries as a back up to their own plants.”

So who is looking after these patients in need of medicine? “The department of health released figures that there are 118 physicians and advanced nurse practitioners who have certified more than 17,000 patients in Hawaii.” That might at first seem like a lot of patients, however, Richardson goes on to say that, “There are about 3,000 licensed physicians and APRNs so that’s a small percent of medical professionals who are certifying patients.” But why are so few medical professionals certifying patients for this legal medicine? “Through my reporting, I’ve learned most of these certifying doctors are likely in private practice since physicians associated with medical facilities aren’t allowed to certify medical cannabis.”

It seems that Hawaii still has some serious administrative and legal issues to resolve before access to medical cannabis is streamlined for patients, but in the meantime here is how to get your hands on a MMJ card in Hawaii.

What Conditions Qualify Me for a MMJ Card in Hawaii?

Suffering from one or more of the following conditions will likely make you eligible for a medical marijuana card in Hawaii:

  • Cachexia (wasting syndrome)
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Pain
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Epilepsy – from July 29, 2017 onwards
  • Glaucoma
  • Lupus – from July 29, 2017 onwards
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – from July 29, 2017 onwards
  • Nausea
  • Persistent muscle spasms
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – from July 29, 2017 onwards
  • Seizures

How Do I Get a MMJ Card in Hawaii?

Much in the same way you would in many other states. First of all, you find yourself a marijuana-friendly, state-licensed doctor whom you trust and book an appointment with them. Using telemedicine to see a medical marijuana doctor in Hawaii is acceptable to establish a physician-patient relationship, although a telepresenter may need to be present, except in cases concerning behavioral health services.

To see the precise details, check the Hawaii Department of Health website. To break it down, you need to take with you to your appointment and provide:

  • Valid, Hawaii state-issued photographic identity card (e.g. driver’s license, passport)
  • Documentation proving your condition (e.g. test results, doctor’s notes, X-rays etc.)
  • A valid email address that you use
  • A correct, complete telephone number
  • $38.50 ($35 application fee + $3.50 portal administration fee)

Your physician will then sign a recommendation letter stating that you are eligible for the Hawaii Medical Cannabis Program, and then send it with the application form, supporting documentation and identity. You will also be asked on the form whether you intend to grow your own cannabis plants, which we recommend checking.

Registration to the Hawaii Medical Cannabis Registry Program is mandatory. You are not eligible to use medical marijuana in Hawaii until you receive your card and your application is processed, which can take up to 30 days. Hawaii does not accept another state’s registry cards, and there are no reciprocity laws in place there at the moment. You must be at least 18 years of age in order to qualify for the Hawaii Medical Cannabis Program, unless they have a primary caregiver aged 18 or older.

What About Caregivers?

There is a caregiver program in place in Hawaii, and they must also fill out the application form and hold a valid 329 card. Caregivers can only have one patient at a time, and the same restriction on cultivation and possession applies to them as well.

Caregivers must be at least 18 years of age, and must be someone other than the patient or the patient’s physician. A primary caregiver is defined as “a person who has the responsibility for managing the well-being of a qualifying patient with respect to the medical use of marijuana.” Caregivers may cultivate marijuana until 01/01/2018, when medical marijuana dispensaries may start operating.

Are There Any Dispensaries in Hawaii?

marijuana dispensary

Well yes and no. They exist but there are still restrictions on selling. Confused? Us too.  We spoke to Mike Takano, CEO of dispensary PONO LIFE MAUI, to get to grips with what’s going on.

“The medical use of cannabis has been legal since 2000, but patients were left to procure or grow product on their own. We’re ecstatic to finally provide patients with safe access to a quality-assured product.

PONO LIFE MAUI plans to advance the local industry both by tracking patients’ outcomes in order to provide strains best-suited to individual needs, and by helping to establish an education and resource center that provides service to all members of the community.  We applaud
our Governor and lawmakers for recognizing the pain and discomfort many patients face which can be helped by legalizing medical cannabis.”

So up until more lovely places like PONO LIFE MAUI are up and running, patients must grow their own, which is why we recommend checking that box stating you’d like to be able to grow your own marijuana! There have been 8 applications to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Hawaii so far, but when they will become officially operational, nobody knows. MMJ dispensaries in Hawaii must have their products tested by a licensed lab, which is one of the reasons why there is so much delay, as these will also take time to set up!

For more details on dispensaries and licensing systems, check Act 241, HB321 HD1 SD2 CD1, 07/14/2015. Sadly, the establishment of this act prohibits caregivers from cultivating marijuana plants for their patient. Caregivers will also have their criminal record histories checked, and previous drug offences may be held against your application.

How Many Plants Can I Grow and How Much Usable Marijuana Can I Possess in Hawaii?

With a valid Hawaii MMJ card (aka “329 card”), you can grow up to 7 plants – whether mature or immature – and possess up to 4 ounces of usable cannabis flower at any given time. Whether the plants are immature or mature, they will be both counted towards the total of 7 plants you are allowed to grow. Usable marijuana doesn’t include the seeds, stalks and roots of the cannabis plant.

How on Earth Do I Start Growing in Hawaii?

growing your own medical marijuana

Good question! Although we won’t go into the ins-and-outs of cultivation techniques (that’s another blog post of its own, and we are sure that there are more knowledgeable folk out there on this subject matter), we will give you some of the basics. There are no marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii at the moment, so it is up to patients/caregivers to grow their own. To do so effectively in Hawaii, this involves:

  • Registering for Hawaii’s Medical Cannabis Program.
  • Ensuring that you tick the box asking whether or not you intend to grow your own marijuana plants.
  • Ensuring you have an enclosed space away from public view, preferably indoors.
  • For 7 plants, a 3 x 3 “grow room” (i.e. a dark tent or room lined inside with material that refracts. light) should be enough – height of the room depends upon the strain you intend to grow
  • Checking out what the climate of the area you’re intending to grow in is like – this means checking ambient temperature, humidity, water pH and the like. Doing so will help you control your grow room environment better.
  • Guerilla growing in Hawaii is popular, but should be avoided – it is a felony in Hawaii if not grown on your own property, even with a valid MMJ card, and can land you in jail. We recommend enclosed grows on your own private property away from prying eyes to avoid legal headaches.
  • Be careful if you’re growing around minors under 16 or are near a school zoning area – this can carry additional penalties.
  • Getting a hold of seeds can be difficult in Hawaii, as sellers may be able to be arrested under marijuana paraphernalia laws. However, getting to know other medical marijuana patients and getting a hold of cuttings may be the best way of starting to grow your own in Hawaii.

If you’re from Hawaii and have a qualifying condition, and feel you need a MMJ card, we recommend you do so. Save yourself lots of legal headaches and get off the harsh, horrible, addictive medications that are often prescribed without a second thought.


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