ARCHIVED Skip nagivation.To Contents     To Previous Page     To Next Page     To Publications Page     To Home Page


The Hawaii HIDTA region is one of the most significant cannabis cultivation and marijuana production areas in the nation. According to Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program (DCE/SP) data, Hawaii consistently ranks among the top states for the total number of cannabis plants eradicated each year. (See Table 1.) However, as a result of successful law enforcement aerial surveillance and eradication efforts, DCE/SP data show that the number of cannabis plants seized from outdoor grows in the HIDTA region has declined over the last 5 years. Successful outdoor eradication efforts have resulted in some growers moving their operations indoors; consequently, the number of indoor grows has increased. On average, indoor grow sites typically average fewer plants than outdoor grows. (See Tables 2 and 3.)

Table 1. Top-Ranking States for Cannabis Plants Eradicated, 2003-2007

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
California 1,181,957 California 1,214,420 California 2,011,277 California 3,877,628 California 4,951,976
Tennessee 679,105 Kentucky 476,803 Kentucky 510,502 Kentucky 558,756 Kentucky 492,615
Kentucky 527,775 Tennessee 416,012 Tennessee 440,362 Tennessee 483,342 Washington 295,573
Hawaii 392,422 Hawaii 379,644 Hawaii 255,113 Hawaii 201,100 Oregon 277,766
New York 99,423 Washington 134,474 Washington 136,165 Oregon 194,453 Tennessee 178,322
West Virginia 74,690 Oregon 62,621 Arizona 113,523 Washington 144,181 Hawaii 139,089

Source: Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program.


Table 2. Outdoor Cannabis Grow Sites Seized and Plants Eradicated in Hawaii, 2003-2007

  2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Grow sites seized 9,662 7,945 5,096 3,974 2,010
Plants eradicated 388,903 377,332 251,163 188,742 131,355

Source: Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program.


Table 3. Indoor Cannabis Grow Sites Seized and Plants Eradicated in Hawaii, 2003-2007

  2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Grow sites seized 9 13 13 49 55
Plants eradicated 3,519 2,312 3,950 12,358 7,734

Source: Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program.

Cannabis has been cultivated outdoors in Hawaii for decades because the tropical climate is conducive to year-round cultivation. Law enforcement reporting indicates that most outdoor cannabis cultivation takes place on the islands of Hawaii, Maui, Kauai, and Oahu, particularly on State Division of Land and Natural Resources lands in Hawaii and Maui Counties. (See Figure 3.) Controlling cultivation in these areas is particularly challenging for law enforcement because of the vast tracts of unincorporated land available for hiding cannabis plants among native vegetation. Outdoor cultivation operations are conducted primarily by local Asian and Polynesian DTOs as well as some Caucasian groups, including those that have relocated to Hawaii from the U.S. mainland.

Figure 3. Cannabis plants eradicated, by HIDTA County, in 2007.

Map showing cannabis plants eradicated, by HIDTA County, in 2007.

Source: Hawaii HIDTA.


Operation Green Stream

Kauai law enforcement officers conducting a routine aerial surveillance of state land in the mountainous terrain of the Blue Hole area at the foot of Mt. Waialeale observed a large number of cannabis plants growing between the trees and other vegetation. Further investigation revealed thousands of cannabis plants growing near the base of the mountain. In September 2007 law enforcement officers arrested five individuals and seized more than 6,000 plants--making this the largest outdoor cannabis grow operation ever prosecuted in the state of Hawaii. The street value of the plants was estimated to be nearly $6 million, with each plant conservatively yielding approximately $1,000 worth of processed marijuana.

Source: U.S. Attorneys Office, District of Hawaii, press release dated September 4, 2007.

Indoor cannabis cultivation sites in Hawaii range in size from a single closet to entire houses or larger buildings converted into sophisticated grow operations. Some indoor grow sites have been relocated to residences or outbuildings on land formerly used for outdoor cannabis cultivation. Indoor cannabis cultivators typically use advanced growing techniques that include lighting, irrigation systems, chemical fertilizers, and plant cloning.4 Indoor growers prefer the controlled environment because they can avoid intensified outdoor eradication efforts while, at the same time, achieving higher profits through a year-round cultivation season by turning out a new crop of high-potency marijuana every 90 days. Some indoor cultivators bypass electric meters to eliminate high energy-use readings, large electric bills, and possible law enforcement scrutiny. Caucasian criminal groups and independent dealers are the primary producers of indoor, high-potency marijuana in the HIDTA region. Local Hawaiians, Caucasian independents, and Asian organizations operate most indoor grow sites in Hawaii.

Indoor grow sites pose considerable safety and health concerns for law enforcement officers, first responders, and the general public. Buildings used for indoor grow sites are fire hazards because of the presence of the chemical fertilizers, high-intensity lighting, electrical equipment, and reconfigured electrical systems. High levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide may also be present at indoor grow sites as a result of damaged exhaust systems. Moreover, the prolonged high humidity at indoor grow sites often results in the growth of toxic molds.

According to law enforcement officials, some cannabis cultivators exploit Hawaii's state medical marijuana laws to conduct illegal grow operations--primarily on the Big Island. For example, in March 2008, Puna law enforcement officers discovered an indoor cannabis grow while responding to a 911 call to a shooting incident. While looking for a victim, officers discovered numerous cannabis plants growing on the rear portion of the property and additional cannabis plants being cultivated inside the home. Eventually, officers made contact with the alleged shooting victim, who was uninjured. The next day officers obtained a search warrant for the property and recovered 95 cannabis plants. Sixty-four of the plants (some as large as 6 feet tall) were recovered from the rear of the property, and 31 were recovered from an indoor grow room that contained special lighting and other equipment. Officers also secured several firearms and recovered nearly 5 pounds of dried, processed marijuana, almost 24 grams of hashish oil, and 15.4 pounds of marijuana "budder."5 Additionally, officers recovered seven state of Hawaii medicinal marijuana permits listing the address for the property.

Figure 4. Sophisticated indoor cannabis grow seized on the Big Island in 2007.

Photo showing sophisticated indoor cannabis grow seized on the Big Island in 2007.

Hawaii County Police Department.

Local retail-level traffickers typically convert powder cocaine to crack cocaine on a limited basis in the Hawaii HIDTA region. Crack conversion by these local distributors typically takes place at or near distribution sites on an as-needed basis, usually in ounce quantities.

Local methamphetamine production in Hawaii is very limited and currently does not pose a threat to the HIDTA region. This situation is largely a result of successful law enforcement operations and the state of Hawaii's regulatory efforts and point-of-sale restrictions to control precursor chemicals. According to the National Seizure System (NSS), no methamphetamine production laboratories or ice conversion laboratories6 were seized in the HIDTA region in 2007 or in the first 3 months of 2008. Only 4 methamphetamine laboratories were seized in 2006, 9 in 2005, and 10 in 2004. One ice conversion laboratory was seized in 2006, and 6 were seized in both 2005 and 2004.

End Notes

4. Plant cloning enables cannabis cultivators to select higher-quality plants and avoid male/female pollination, thereby raising potential THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) content. THC is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. Cloning a cannabis plant is accomplished by simply taking a cutting of a select plant, allowing the cutting to sprout roots, and then planting it as a seedling, thereby creating a plant of the same genetic makeup as the parent plant.
5. Marijuana budder, produced from hash oil, is an extremely potent substance with high THC levels. It has the consistency of paste or wax and is typically light yellow in color.
6. Methamphetamine conversion laboratories are sometimes used by local distributors to convert powder methamphetamine to ice methamphetamine or to "clean up" ice methamphetamine that is of poor quality.

To Top     To Contents     To Previous Page     To Next Page

To Publications Page     To Home Page


End of page.