Medical marijuana patients looking to take an island vacation next year no longer have to worry about going without their medicine. Although medical cannabis is currently legal in 30 states, it’s still illegal to fly with federally-prohibited substance from one state to another, forcing patients to choose between smuggling their medicine illicitly or leaving it at home.
However starting next year, the Hawaii Department of Health will give medical cannabis users a third option, by allowing them to apply to temporarily purchase their medicine from a local dispensary. The new regulation will enable patients registered with another state's medical marijuana program to apply for a temporary in-state medical cannabis card. The pot permit will cost just under $50, be valid for 60 days, and allow the cardholder to purchase legal cannabis at any state-licensed dispensary.
In 2019 patients can bring these temporary cards “to dispensaries to show they are registered patients for purchase and for possession of medical cannabis," Peter Whitacar, chief of the state health department's Harm Reduction Branch, said to Hawaii News Now. “They will be available on a secure website to patients and caregivers. They will be able to download them onto their phones, their iPads.”
There is one catch, though — the cards will only be granted to individuals suffering from “debilitating conditions” as defined by the state of Hawaii itself. This restriction will grant patients diagnosed with cancer, epilepsy, PTSD, or eight other ailments to access to the temporary cards, but will block those who are using cannabis to treat autism, chronic pain, or other conditions not recognized by the Aloha State. Minors, cancer patients, and patients in hospice will receive priority treatment, and are expected to receive cards within one to two days of application.
George Bullock, director of the Cure Oahu dispensary in Waikiki, told the Los Angeles Times that he has already “been fielding a lot of calls” about the temporary cards. “A lot of the calls that we have are from patients who need the medicine and are concerned about...not being able to get their medicine once they are here.”
State officials have estimated that 5,000 visitors could apply for cards next year, but expect that number to eventually expand to 30,000 annually. Hawaii is one of only three states, alongside Delaware and Rhode Island, that allow out-of-state medical cannabis cardholders to shop at local dispensaries, although medical marijuana patients may also be able to legally source their medicine in the eight states that have legalized recreational pot sales.