Is Marijuana Legal in Hawaii?

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Hawaiians call it many names: Pakalolo, Herb, Budz. Is Marijuana legal in the Hawaiian Islands in 2016? Is whether pot is legal in Hawaii a question that is important to you?

Hawaiians call it many names: Pakalolo, Herb, Budz. Is Marijuana legal in the Hawaiian Islands? In 2017 the answer seems to be yes, with lots of restrictions.

Yes, marijuana use is legal in Hawaii, with conditions. As of 2016 Hawaii began operating medical dispensaries.  In 2015, some sweeping legislation regarding marijuana was passed in Hawaii and effectively, pot is legal in Hawaii for medical reasons only. Anybody without cancer, HIV, or other “debilitating” conditions, is not supposed to be touching the stuff.

For the record, I’m not a fan of the substance, but I still ‘get’ that I’m probably in the minority of people living in Hawaii. Marijuana, pot, herb, pakalolo, budz, Kona Gold, Maui Wowie, all refer to to same thing. When touring around one of the Hawaiian Islands and you see a local guy standing in the middle of the road on a particularly deserted stretch, he isn’t there to rob you or ask you to jumpstart his vehicle. He will likely be holding up a massive bunch of freshly culled pot and asking you whether you want to buy some buuuuudzzzz.

I can’t tell you how many times this happened to me on Maui. I loved to cruise over around the West side of the island, it’s virtually barren and so beautiful. A great Sunday morning drive. A great place to buy pot too, if that’s what you’re into.

I remember in the 80s walking around Waikiki and being in my 20s at the time, local guys were casually walking close to me and then saying in a low voice “Buds? buds? buds?” hoping that I would respond. Not sure if this is different today because I rarely go to Waikiki but back in the day, it was easier than getting a cigarette.  For the record, I never responded.

Whether pot is legal in Hawaii – or not – really doesn’t make that much difference to most people. I think in eight out of ten traffic stops by police they must smell pot, or know pot is in the car, but you never hear about the epidemic arrests for possession. Everyone has to overlook it because I think it’s a majority of residents smoking – not a small minority.

What kind of medical condition do you need to have in order to legally smoke marijuana in Hawaii?

According to the State of Hawaii Department of Health’s Medical Marijuana website, the “Eligible Debilitating Medical Conditions” are:

  1. Cancer
  2. Glaucoma
  3. Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus
  4. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome
  5. Post-traumatic stress disorder (added effective July 1, 2015 as per Act 241), or
  6. “The treatment of these conditions”, or
  7. “A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following:
  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome,
  • Severe pain
  • Severe nausea
  • Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy, or
  • Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis or Crohn’s disease.

So if you take a look at this list, it certainly seems they legalizing marijuana in Hawaii to address genuine medical conditions. Whether you’ll be able legally buy weed for a simple headache or not seems questionable, for now, at best.

What qualifies you to legally buy marijuana in Hawaii?

If you want to smoke marijuana in Hawaii without breaking the law, you’ll need to be eligible with these three requirements:

  1. You have a debilitating medical condition. (see above)
  2. You have a certified physician that will work with you.
  3. You have a valid ID (driver’s license, state ID or passport).

How does the registration process work to legally use marijuana in Hawaii?

This is a summary and you should refer to the State Dept of Health website link provided above for the authoritative source. Here’s basically how it works:

  1. Make sure you have a qualified debilitating condition.
  2. Make sure your doctor has set up an account on the DOH registration system BEFORE you schedule your appointment.
  3. Create your secure accounts at and login at
  4. Fill out the online applications and pay your $38.50 application fee.
  5. Your doctor reviews your application, certifies you have a debilitating condition, and submits electronic paperwork to the state.
  6. DOH (Department of Health) reviews the application and directly sends you your “329 Card”. Interestingly, there is a specific reference as to why the didn’t call it the “420 Card” because 420 is a reference to recreational marijuana and apparently these laws are clearly designed to address medical conditions.

How often to I need to renew my registration in order to use marijuana in Hawaii?

Every 12 months and renew 60 days prior to expiration so you don’t have any lapse of registration.

How do I buy marijuana legally in Hawaii?

First, you’ll need your 329 card. If you don’t have your card, you can’t buy it legally. And I would not test that law.

Once you have your 329 card, you will be able to enter a dispensary and go through a very controlled process that goes something like this (though keep in mind these things may change and this is of mid-2016):

  1. You present your 329 card to gain entry.
  2. Choose the products to purchase. Apparently there will be no “candy” type products designed to appeal to children. Lozenges are legal, however.
  3. Your order is electronically captured and records (presumably) sent to the State of Hawaii DOH.
  4. You will be given an order slip with the total shown.
  5. You walk over to a “reverse ATM” machine where you insert the slip and then either use your credit card or insert cash. Presumably every single cash bill will be scanned and serialized to identify any nefarious purposes like money laundering, etc.
  6. A slip of paper will come out of the reverse ATM indicating payment completion.
  7. You take the slip to another counter and receive the products purchased.
  8. You exit the dispensary from the exit door, not the entrance door.

It certainly seems to me that this process is going to track every single aspect purchase than we can possibly imagine. I don’t think anyone is going to get away with anything. At least for now. Don’t get any ideas of buying tons of pakalolo for your buddies because every single purchase will get logged. Whew.

Should marijuana be legal in Hawaii?

My own stand on legalizing pot, is – sure, why not? Why not give people an alternative to alcohol. To think that alcohol is healthier than pot, is ridiculous. Alcohol causes a high that can totally incapacitate people. I’ve never seen pot do that, or anything remotely close. I wonder if any studies have been done on drivers high on pot vs. drivers high on alcohol.

Ok, I’m back. Yep, someone did a study. There were some dry reading studies I could have bored you out of your minds with, but here is a fun video that gives a much more interesting look at 3 different people driving completely stoned. Addy is tearing up the course, even though she’s well on the way to cognitive oblivion. Anyway, check out people driving on marijuana:

Here’s a government study that shows the risk of crashing a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana is actually less until the 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter is reached in the bloodstream. So, smoking pot until you reach this point can make you a SAFER driver! Ha! Great stuff. Click here for the chart.

Looking at Colorado and Washington State, it’s hard to believe Hawaii wasn’t the first state to make smoking pot, growing pot, and possessing pot, legal – isn’t it? My god, most of the people I knew on Oahu and Maui were smoking the stuff regularly. You can’t drive down the road – any road – without smelling the sweet stench of burning budz. It really should be the State Plant.

What about you? You want to weigh-in on the legalization of herb in Hawaii? Is it the right thing to do? Do people in Hawaii need an alternative to alcohol? Is pot a safe alternative? Would you let your teen son or daughter smoke it?

Here’s another article I wrote more recently about legalization of marijuana in Hawaii and what isn’t being done about it! (Fair warning – salty as I’ve ever been.)

[Image – Bob Doran at]

About the Author:

I’ve lived Hawaii since the mid ‘80s when I moved here at the age of 21. I arrived site-unseen in Honolulu with zero contacts and about $5k in savings. I worked from nearly zero and today Hawaii has given me the greatest gifts in the world in all aspects: spiritually, financially, romantically (married since early ‘90s w/ 2 children), and most important, peace. My goal with this site is to share the magic of this Land of Aloha and help others who are on a similar quest.


  1. Christopher L. Schaefer 07/01/2018 at 8:48 am - Reply

    What were the control groups score? You know, the group given the placebo. This was a study, right?

  2. Brad Howard 04/25/2018 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    What a great video! I’m a chronic chronic user (ha-ha), and I applaud law enforcement and the public for testing the abilities of stoned drivers. I wouldn’t want the relatively benign perception of pot and pot smokers tarnished by someone hitting/killing someone while on the road when under the influence, and will abide by traffic laws limiting driving while high (once those laws have been established, using scientific studies like this). Personally I don’t find any diminished ability with myself when driving, but my perception might be altered ;).

  3. Katie Button 01/28/2018 at 2:01 pm - Reply

    I’m taking CBD oil for epilepsy and have a California medical card. Can I bring my CBD oil to visit Hawaii, big island, without trouble?

  4. Lynn Steele 11/28/2017 at 4:30 am - Reply

    Got news for you . The edibles are not there to appeal to children , It’s for those who don’t want to smoke, for a million different reasons, like you know LUNGS and all , and for me the kinds I need sometimes burn my throat . Obviously I DO smoke now and then but, I quit smoking cigs years ago and I have had pneumonia 4 times since I was very young . Edibles are a lifesaver . I am in Seattle tho .

  5. Mari 04/10/2017 at 8:00 am - Reply

    If you have marijuana license and don’t like to smoke because u have asthma, can i obtain cbd oil for chronic pain?

  6. Holly 07/13/2016 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    I wouldn’t mind the fact that marijuana is legal except that now it’s affecting where I live & my kids. I have 3 small children one of whom is a 4 month old. The down stairs nieghbors smoke every night. They have a medical certificate and all. It just worries me because it permeates our condo even with AC on in bedroom and windows closed. I feel a light buzz & I’m wondering the effects on my newborn. It would be a better situation if they were taking a pill or eating it that way it wouldn’t affect others. It’s got a ton of harmful chemicals just like cigarettes. What rights do I have as a mom to protect my kids from the smoke? Just wondering…

    • Peter Kay 07/13/2016 at 11:46 pm - Reply

      You raise valid concerns and I’m sure you’re not the first.

    • David Moore 07/26/2016 at 1:47 pm - Reply

      “It’s got a ton of harmful chemicals just like cigarettes” said no scientist, research, or study ever. I do empathize your pain, since I am not a fan of any kind of smoke at all (other than the BBQ), but cannabis doesn’t contain the “harmful chemicals” found in tobacco cigarettes, FYI.

    • Malik 09/29/2016 at 1:18 pm - Reply

      It doesn’t have any harmful chemicals it’s all natural your babies will be fine and also you can’t get a buzz from smelling it or second hand smoke you need to do more research and stop letting people lie to you

    • Roxanne Olson 10/09/2016 at 3:24 am - Reply
  7. Mary Whispering Wind 06/10/2016 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    If a doctor recommends marijuana, and you register with the state, grow your own marijuana, or have a caregiver grow it for you, limit your plants to 7, and tag each plant with your “329 card” number and expiration, then you are protected from prosecution.

    It is NOT legal to buy or sell any form of marijuana in Hawai’i until the dispensaries open, no earlier than July 15, 2016. Most caregivers will need to stop growing medicine on December 31, 2018.

    The Hawai’i Department of Health will be responsible for establishing a “reciprocity” system whereby people with valid registrations from other states may Register with the State of Hawaii, and use dispensaries in Hawai’i, beginning January 1, 2018.

  8. Unknown agent 05/12/2016 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    We have to restrict and create supply and demand on the black market on certain countries due to the influx of revenue which stems from the criminal underworld 26% of major countries annual income and expenditure is based on or toward the drug trade. we know not what we know just what see

  9. Suzie Lindsay 05/03/2016 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    I am headed to Kauai any of those guys with bud on that island. On the road holding up bud? I have my CA card but understand I cannot buy there.

  10. Mike 12/20/2015 at 4:53 am - Reply

    I use medical marijuana for severe back pain after a failed spinal fusion. No other medicinal products help me.
    I find it disheartening that I am unable to purchase medical marijuana when in Maui even though I have a card from Canada. Medical marijuana tailored to my pain is the drug of choice. Maybe in another ten years the medical community will figure this out. A reply would be appreciated.

    • Vern Lovic 12/22/2015 at 3:50 pm - Reply

      Hi Mike,

      Man, there is so much pot on the island, I would just do like everyone else and smoke it. You know? I mean, sure it would be nice to have your joints legal and all, but that time is coming. Maybe not 2016, but soon. Drive over to the west side of the island in the morning around 9-10 am. There will be guys holding 2 foot long budz beside your car window. I’d recommend that. Aloha!

      • Bob 07/21/2016 at 7:02 pm - Reply

        West side of Which island? Oahu ? Thinking of moving to islands..former pot smoker .but not in last 25 yrs. I need relief for headache pain perhaps but prefer to ingest now that I’m older..perhaps as hash oil…do I go west side Oahu ?

        • Peter Kay 07/21/2016 at 7:05 pm

          As of right now there are no legal dispensaries in operation though this will probably change before the end of the year.

        • Jon 11/01/2016 at 10:17 pm

          Do NOT go to the west side of Oahu looking for Cannabis, especially, if you are not from the area.

        • Vern 12/01/2016 at 9:31 pm

          Yeah, agreed. I was talking about Maui.

  11. Dorothy Blakeslee 08/22/2015 at 4:38 am - Reply

    If you put a bunch of people drinking alcohol in a room together s nd pit a binch of people smoking pot in another room….more than likely the people with the slcohol will get rowdy, unruly and start fighting…the people smoking pot will all be laughing, joking around snd become friends!!!! What’s the problem? IF you don’t lije it….DON’T smoke…IF you don’t want your kids yo smoke it….RAISE them that way but…..WE should have the legal right to enjoy our pleasure!!!!

  12. Dorothy Blakeslee 08/22/2015 at 4:33 am - Reply

    People who drink alcohol or take prescription drugs are out on the road playing bumper cars and killing people….MOST pot smokers are at home enjoying their high and being mellow

    • Lou 12/01/2015 at 3:41 pm - Reply

      Here on vaca from Wash….and Col. Looking for smoke….

  13. Dorothy Blakesler 08/22/2015 at 4:31 am - Reply

    Pot should most definitely be legalized everywhere. People who drink alcohol can come home from eork and enjoy a cold beer/mixed drink…we pot smokers should be allowed to come home and enjoy a joint/bowl. It’s “discrimination for sure!!!

Join the conversation! What do you think?