Hawaiians Hoping to Legalize Recreational Cannabis in 2019

Maui Wowie strain (photo courtesy of The Clinic)

Hawaii’s place in the cannabis pantheon is legendary. Anyone 50 or older who was privileged enough to smoke the island’s famous kine or pakalolo at their peak often still describes it as amongst the best herb they’ve ever smoked.

During the late ’70s, High Times routinely listed strains such as the infamous Maui Wowie, Puna Budder and Kauai Electric Blue for more $2,000 a pound at the same time commercial Mexican or Colombian was fetching just $300. There were four reasons for this: seeds, climate, passion and gardening acumen. Hippies traveling the hashish trail brought many varieties of Middle Eastern, Indian and Nepali cannabis seeds to the Hawaiian islands.

Returning Vietnam vets, many of whom had first been exposed to cannabis in Southeast Asia, increasingly settled in Hawaii. Along with seeds of the fabled Laotian Red and Chocolate Thai, the vets brought an understanding of jungle survival courtesy of Uncle Sam. The hippies, for their part, provided access to worldwide markets.

By the late ’70s, Hawaiian marijuana enjoyed its rightful place in the sun. The hippest dealers in New York and Los Angeles received $500 an ounce for precious Hawaiian flower. One OG grower, Papaya John, cleared $8,000 a pound for his prized product in the mid-’80s.

Hippies traveling the hashish trail brought many varieties of Middle Eastern, Indian and Nepali cannabis seeds to the Hawaiian islands.

These days, the Hawaiian cannabis scene is undergoing a renaissance. Hawaii was the first state to enact a medical marijuana law via the legislature in 2000. Following passage, it took 17 years to open a dispensary on the islands. Only cannabis cultivated indoors may be sold and all operations must produce their own supply. As a result of this narrow and restrictive model, a robust movement to pass a recreational cannabis law is gathering steam.

The Maui Cannabis Guild was formed to act as an umbrella group for the various stakeholders in the scene. Originally founded as the Hawaii Cannabis Guild by Will Grinnell and other farmers, it has been reconstituted to be more Maui-centric.

“We decided to form a smaller group, with fewer voices so we could concentrate more on getting good legislation passed and not miss the opportunities to create a robust industry that supplies jobs,” Grinnell tells Freedom Leaf. The main purpose of the Guild is to get state legislation passed for recreational cannabis, which is supported by several current and former Maui representatives. The next legislative session begins this month and the Guild has plans to go to the statehouse in Honolulu to talk with lawmakers.

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

In Congress, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has sponsored the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act.

While the Maui Cannabis Guild focuses on Maui specifically, the Maui Cannabis Conference on January 5-6 at the Royal Lahaina Resort in Lahaina is casting a wider net. According to event producer Mary Bailey, the goal of the conference is to update attendees on the current legal climate in Hawaii, discuss the myriad health benefits of cannabis and focus on marketing, branding, investing and crypto currencies. In its second year, Bailey is hoping it becomes “one of the go to cannabis conferences,” she says. “I mean, it’s Maui!”

Editor’s note: The author of this article is scheduled to be a panelist at the conference. Tickets can be purchased here.

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