Hawaiʻi visitors can now buy medical marijuana while on vacation in the islands. The state Health Department announced it is offering temporary cannabis cards to qualified out-of-state patients.
The state Department of Health demonstrated an online tutorial for out-of-state patients during its program rollout yesterday. This extends the state’s medical cannabis program to patients from 32 other states across the country where medical cannabis is legal.
“Hundreds of thousands and potentially millions of patients, medical cannabis patients, in those jurisdictions, if they come to Hawaiʻi, they currently do not have access to medical cannabis,” says Peter Whiticar, chair of the department's Harm Reduction Services Branch.
He and his team spent the last six months developing the program to mirror the in-state program. Like Hawaiʻi patients, visitors must have one of Hawaiʻi’s 14 qualifying medical conditions, purchases are limited to four ounces every 15 days; and consumption and possession are restricted by law.
“Patient access is the number one frequently asked question that every dispensary has. Dozens of calls per dispensary per day,” says Michael Takano, chairman of HEALTH, a trade association representing Hawaiʻi medical cannabis licensees.
Brian Goldstein, CEO of Noa Botanicals, says his company is ramping up production of cannabis options such as lotions and lozenges in anticipation of tourists' interest.
“Most hotels and Airbnbs or other lodgings don’t allow smoking, so we anticipate visitors will be choosing non-smoking versions of our products,” says Goldstein.
Another dispensary, Cure Oʻahu, chose its Kapahulu Avenue location specifically for its proximity to Waikīkī. Tori Staples, the dispensary’s assistant director, says the dispensary created a website to help out-of-state patients navigate the approval process.
“It allows folks that are anticipating a vacation here to really come to this island without having to really deal with the red tape of planning and getting their card,” says Staples. “They can hop on the Hawaiʻi Cannabis Concierge website and be able to gain access.”
Hawaiʻi is one of just three medical cannabis states that allow out-of-state patients to purchase from dispensaries. Rhode Island and Michigan are the other two.
And there’s a change in the program that will affect state residents, too. Medical cannabis cards are now available electronically and can be downloaded from the health department’s website 24/7.