Medical cannabis patients who travel often face restrictions that prevent them from bringing their medicine with them. Transporting cannabis across state lines, for example, even for a medical cardholder, is a federal crime. At the same time, Hawaii continues to set tourism records, year after year. In 2016, a total of 8,934,277 visitors came to the state, with U.S. tourists making up around 60 percent. With 2,500 miles between the Hawaii and the nearest U.S. state with legal medical cannabis, that means a lot of tourist-patients with no access to medical cannabis.
But a new policy rule will change all of that. Hawaii is planning to implement a process whereby medical cannabis cardholders in other states can buy products in Hawaii.
By next year, Hawaii wants to allow visitors to the islands to purchase medical cannabis from licensed dispensaries. However, you won’t be able to get into a dispensary simply with your out-of-state medical cannabis card.
Instead, you’ll need to apply for a special temporary registration card. Eligibility for the card, however, won’t mirror qualifications in the visitor’s home state. To be eligible, a person must have a qualifying condition under Hawaii’s medical cannabis rules.
Additionally, temporary patient registration cards cost nearly $50; $45 plus a $4.50 processing fee, according to sources. Medical cannabis cards for out-of-state patients will also only be valid for 60 days. At that point, patients can re-apply, but many will have returned home by then, or obtained a card in Hawaii.
Back in March, Hawaii’s House of Representatives passed the bill that paved the way to allowing out-of-state patients access to medical cannabis. At the time, the bill was viewed as a “reciprocity” measure. Hawaii would let patients from other states purchase and possess medical cannabis if other states with legal programs did the same for Hawaii’s residents.
Now, however, officials aren’t using the term reciprocity. Even so, Hawaii’s approach could establish an alternative model for states that are hesitant to embrace full reciprocity yet want to permit visitors with debilitating conditions to obtain and use medical cannabis.
Among the 31 states and D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico that have legalized cannabis for medical use, just three let out-of-state cardholders access dispensaries. And only two of those really count, Delaware and Rhode Island, since the third, Nevada, has legalized adult use.
Hawaii’s health officials estimate 5,000 visitors will take advantage of the program in the first year. As the state’s own medical cannabis infrastructure expands, however, that number could swell to 30,000 annually, officials predict.
Even if just one patient has access to their life-saving medicine while away from home, the new rule will have been worth it. For Hawaii’s cannabis regulators, the next step is setting up the online application process.