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Strategic Drug Threat Developments

State of Hawaii Medical Marijuana Law (Act 228)

In June 2000 Hawaii became the sixth state to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Hawaii's medical marijuana law (Act 228/Senate Bill 862 SD 2 HD) allows registered patients to have 1 ounce of usable marijuana per each mature plant--3 mature cannabis plants and 4 immature cannabis plants. The law removes state criminal penalties for the use and possession of marijuana and the cultivation of cannabis by qualifying patients. Patients qualify through diagnosis and physician certification of certain medical conditions. The state of Hawaii's Department of Public Safety issues identification cards and maintains a registry of qualifying patients, caregivers, and physicians. In 2007, 3,240 people were registered for medical marijuana certificates--a 45 percent increase from the 2,241 registered in 2006. It is important to note that 61 percent of the state's registered patients are located on the Big Island, yet only 12 percent of the state's population resides there. The Big Island is also where most of the state's cannabis is illegally cultivated.

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HIDTA Overview

Hawaii's unique geography, isolated location, heavy reliance on importation of commodities, high volume of tourist and commercial traffic, and diverse demographics provide excellent opportunities for illicit drug trafficking and pose considerable challenges to law enforcement. As such, the Hawaii HIDTA was established in 1999 to address the illicit drug trafficking threat posed to the state. Hawaii is located approximately 2,500 miles from the west coast of the United States and comprises the eight main islands1 and a 1,500-mile chain of islets that span over 6,400 square miles in the north central Pacific Ocean. (See Figure 1.) It is situated between the continental United States and Pacific countries of Oceania.2 Regionally, Hawaii is a gateway to Pacific Rim3 countries and Asia. International airports and maritime ports as well as a developed transportation infrastructure facilitate not only the efficient flow of legitimate commerce but also the transshipment and distribution of illicit drugs and drug proceeds into and through the state. The diverse, largely transient (tourist) population in the HIDTA region provides a large customer base and a heightened degree of anonymity for various drug traffickers and criminal groups operating in the state.

The state of Hawaii has a total population of over 1.2 million; approximately 70 percent of the population resides in the city of Honolulu on the island of Oahu. Honolulu is Hawaii's principal port of entry (POE) for travelers, mail, and cargo; the movement of passengers and commodities is facilitated by an international airport, international postal facility, and two of the state's busiest commercial harbors. Consequently, Honolulu is the primary transshipment point for drugs and drug proceeds to, through, and from the state. Much of what transpires in terms of drug trafficking and abuse in Honolulu drives the drug situation on each of the other populated islands of the state.

End Notes

1. The eight main islands are Hawaii (the Big Island), Kahoolawe, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai, Niihau, and Oahu.
2. Oceania, with an estimated population of 3.1 million, is a region consisting of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia, as well as the thousands of coral atolls and volcanic islands in the South Pacific Ocean.
3. The Pacific Rim is a political and economic term used to designate the countries at the edges of the Pacific Ocean and the various island nations within the region (Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam).

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