Any qualified out-of-state medical cannabis patient traveling to Hawaii can now buy medical cannabis legally after applying for a temporary medical card up to 60 days before their visit.
On March 5, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) began allowing out-of-state residents to purchase a medical cannabis card—called the 329 card—for $49.50 online only. Travelers with cards can purchase up to four ounces of cannabis at any licensed dispensary in the state. Cards are good for 60 days, and can be downloaded or stored on a visitor’s smartphone or tablet Applications for the medical card are often approved on the same day, according to a DOH news release (1).
“Having the out-of-state program will open the opportunity of coming to Hawaii to many people,” said Pedro Haro, executive director of the Hawaii Educational Association for Therapeutic Healthcare (HEALTH), the trade association for Hawaii’s licensed dispensaries. “It’s really not a choice to have to make … to go without medication, particularly when it’s helping them."
The DOH’s Harm Reduction Services Branch Medical Cannabis Registry Program team expedited the implementation of amended Hawaii administrative rules and developed the IT system enhancements needed to put the out-of-state patient registration system in place in less than eight months. Governor David Ige signed the amended medical cannabis law permitting the program to establish a process for registering out-of-state patients in July 2018 (1).
According to Pete Whiticar, chief of the Harm Reduction Services Branch of the DOH, the electronic registration cards contain the same verifiable information as the hard copy cards that they have issued since 2015. “But we’ve taken a major step forward to modernize the process and improve the patient experience,” said Whiticar. “We can now, for the first time, invite qualified out-of-state patients to apply up to 60 days prior to their visit to Hawai‘i and get their cards online prior to arrival.” (1).
Currently, 32 other states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories allow the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Medical cannabis patients coming to Hawaii and applying for a temporary medical card have to certify that they use cannabis for one of the 11 conditions recognized by the state, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), cancer, glaucoma, lupus, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, HIV, and any chronic diseases or medical conditions that cause pain or nausea (2).
While this is good news for visitors, they need to be aware that Hawaii is still working out some of the sticky details of their medical cannabis program. For now, only four of the eight Hawaiian islands—Hawaii, Maui, Kauai, and Oahu—have medical cannabis dispensaries (a total of nine so far) (3).
Federal regulations prohibit transporting any cannabis from island to island, and recreational cannabis is still illegal in the state (4). Additionally, international medical cannabis registration cards are not accepted at this time, and the DOH needs other information from certain states to process the temporary card (New York is one) (5). But there is a light at the end of the tunnel for all cannabis consumers and island visitors— a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis is currently gaining traction in the state’s legislature (6).