ARCHIVED To Contents To Previous Page To Next Page To Publications Page To Home Page
National Drug Intelligence Center
Hawaii Drug Threat Assessment
Marijuana, the second most significant drug threat to the state, is widely available and frequently abused in Hawaii, especially by teenagers. Most marijuana available in Hawaii is produced locally. The state consistently ranks among the top five in the number of cannabis plants eradicated. Cannabis grown outdoors in Hawaii contains some of the highest THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) levels in the nation because of the optimal growing conditions, nutrient- and mineral-rich volcanic soil, and advances in hybridization techniques. Local independent growers, primarily Pacific Islanders, cultivate cannabis outdoors year-round. Local independent dealers and, to a lesser extent, Mexican criminal groups transport Hawaii-produced marijuana to the West Coast, primarily California, as well as to Canada and Mexico. Local independent dealers also transport Canada-produced marijuana from the West Coast into Hawaii, and they distribute the drug at the wholesale level. Pacific Islander and other local independent dealers are the primary wholesale and retail distributors of marijuana throughout Hawaii.
Abuse of marijuana is widespread and continues to increase in Hawaii. According to a Center for Substance Abuse Treatment survey, lifetime abuse of marijuana by adult Hawaiian respondents increased from 28.9 percent in 1991 to 38.1 percent in 1998. From 1991 through 1998 abuse among males increased from 34.8 percent to 44.8 percent and among females from 23.9 percent to 31.7 percent. During the same period, marijuana abuse increased slightly among Caucasians and Filipinos and decreased slightly among Japanese Americans.
The number of admissions for marijuana abuse fluctuated in Hawaii between 1994 and 2000. TEDS data indicate that admissions to publicly funded treatment facilities for marijuana abuse increased from 589 in 1994 to a peak of 1,257 in 1999 then decreased to 1,150 in 2000. According to 2000 TEDS data, admissions to publicly funded treatment facilities for marijuana abuse accounted for 20.3 percent of all treatment admissions in Hawaii. Individuals 17 years or younger accounted for 69.8 percent of treatment admissions for marijuana abuse. Healthcare professionals indicate that the high rate of juvenile admissions is attributed to the addictive properties of the potent marijuana available in Hawaii. In 2000 admissions for marijuana abuse were second only to the number of admissions for methamphetamine.
Fewer adult male arrestees in Honolulu tested positive for marijuana abuse than for methamphetamine abuse. ADAM data indicate that more than 30 percent of adult male arrestees in Honolulu tested positive for marijuana abuse in 2000; 36 percent of adult male arrestees tested positive for methamphetamine abuse.
Marijuana abuse is prevalent among juveniles in Hawaii. The 2000 Hawaii Student Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use Study indicates that lifetime prevalence of marijuana abuse among tenth grade students increased from 25.7 percent in 1991 to 39.2 percent in 1998, but decreased to 33.2 percent in 2000. The data indicate the same trend among twelfth grade students; abuse increased from 34.3 in 1993 to 47.7 percent in 1998 and decreased to 45.8 percent in 2000. According to the 1999 YRBS, 44.6 percent of Hawaii high school students reported lifetime marijuana abuse compared with 47.2 percent of high school students nationally.
High potency cannabis is widely cultivated and readily available in Hawaii. Cannabis grown outdoors in Hawaii contains some of the highest THC levels in the nation. High quality marijuana smuggled from Canada also is available in Hawaii. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse Marijuana Potency Monitoring Program, the average THC level of samples from Hawaii has decreased from 11.9 percent in 1998 and 11.1 percent in 1999 to 6.2 percent in 2000. Despite this decrease, cannabis cultivated in Hawaii still yields marijuana with THC levels that exceed the national average (4.92%).
Marijuana prices indicate that availability remains stable in Hawaii. Wholesale and retail prices for marijuana were relatively constant from 1992 to 2000. Wholesale quantities of marijuana sold for $400 to $800 per ounce in 1992 and $450 to $650 in 2000. Retail quantities of marijuana sold for $100 per one-eighth ounce between 1992 and 2000.
The percentage of marijuana-related federal sentences in Hawaii was approximately one-fourth the national percentage in FY2000. According to U.S. Sentencing Commission data, 8.1 percent of drug-related federal sentences in Hawaii in FY2000 were marijuana-related compared with 31.2 percent nationwide. Each year from FY1997 through FY2000, there were fewer federal drug-related sentences for marijuana than for methamphetamine, heroin, or cocaine. Hawaii had 9 marijuana-related federal sentences in FY1996, 7 in FY1997, 9 in FY1998, 14 in FY 1999, and 12 in FY2000.
Violence generally is not associated with marijuana distribution or abuse in Hawaii. However, officers with the Hawaii County Police Department occasionally encounter growers who employ violent measures to protect their cultivation operations.
Agricultural and economic conditions in Hawaii are optimal for cannabis cultivation. Cannabis grown outdoors in Hawaii contains some of the highest THC in the nation because of optimal growing conditions, the nutrient- and mineral-rich volcanic soil, and advances in hybridization techniques. Cannabis cultivators can produce at least two crops per year in Hawaii. Cannabis cultivation and the production of marijuana have become more prevalent in the wake of sugarcane plantation closings that have resulted in a depressed local economy.
Cannabis is grown primarily outdoors in Hawaii by Pacific Islander and other local independent cultivators. The size of outdoor cannabis plots varies widely, from as few as five plants to as many as several thousand. Growers often use federal and state land for cannabis cultivation to avoid having their personal property seized. The Department of Land and Natural Resources estimates that 70 to 80 percent of cannabis cultivation in Hawaii occurs on government land, approximately 10 percent on company land previously planted with sugarcane, and the remainder on private land. Growers often cultivate small cannabis plots in remote mountainous areas, making it difficult for law enforcement authorities to locate and eradicate the plants. In 1999 state law enforcement authorities discovered a new cannabis hybrid on the slopes of Mauna Loa on the island of Hawaii. This particular hybrid is difficult to detect from the air.
Although cannabis is cultivated throughout the state, most cannabis cultivation sites are located on the island of Hawaii. More than 80 percent of the plants eradicated in the state in 1999 were on the island of Hawaii. Cannabis also is cultivated on Kauai, Maui, and Molokai.
In 1999 and 2000 Hawaii ranked second to California in the total number of cannabis plants eradicated, according to DEA's Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program statistical report. Hawaii has ranked among the top five states in the number of cannabis plants eradicated since 1995. According to DEA, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, and Tennessee had the highest numbers of cannabis plants eradicated in 2000; these four states accounted for 78 percent of all cannabis plants eradicated in the United States. On average, from 1995 to 1999 approximately 650,000 plants were eradicated each year in Hawaii. During 2000 law enforcement agencies eradicated fewer than 467,000 plants because Hawaii County did not participate in statewide eradication efforts.
Although most of the marijuana available in Hawaii is produced locally, some is smuggled into the state. Occasionally, BC Bud--a highly potent type of marijuana produced in Canada--is smuggled to the continental United States from Vancouver and Quebec and transported to Hawaii. Canada-produced marijuana typically is smuggled across the U.S.-Canada border via commercial truck, private vehicle, or courier; however, there have been incidents of BC Bud being smuggled directly from Canada into Hawaii. According to 2000 Operation Jetway statistics, there were four seizures of marijuana in Hawaii totaling just over 6 kilograms; two of the shipments seized originated in California, and the sources of the other two were unidentified. Marijuana is transported from island to island within the state by courier and package delivery service.
Some locally produced marijuana is transported from Hawaii to the West Coast, primarily California, and to Canada and Mexico by local independent dealers and, to a lesser extent, Mexican criminal groups. These dealers and groups often exchange marijuana for methamphetamine or cocaine in the continental United States.
Pacific Islander and other local independent dealers are the primary wholesale and retail marijuana distributors in Hawaii, according to Honolulu Police Department authorities. However, when compared with all other drug distribution networks, wholesale marijuana distribution is the least organized. Anyone with access to the seeds and a cultivation site can become a producer and distributor. Locally produced marijuana typically is transported by local independent dealers to Oahu for distribution. It is transported in multiounce to multipound quantities on commercial flights from Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, and Kauai. Local independent dealers also distribute BC Bud in Hawaii.
End of page.