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How Many Cannabis Dispensaries Will Hawaii Say “Aloha” To? The Leafly Legalization Roundup

Published on June 15, 2015 · Last updated July 28, 2020

We’ve got landmark federal rulings from sea to shining sea – from the American Senate to Canada’s Supreme Court and things are even looking up for Australia! California’s gaining recreational support by leaps and bounds, Delaware’s first medical dispensary is about to open for business and Hawaii is looking towards a whole new system of medicinal cannabis distribution. If you’re looking for the latest on cannabis legalization, we’ve got all the news that’s fit to print:

U.S. Updates


The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted to approve a major spending provision that will protect medical marijuana in legalized medical states from a federal crackdown. The rider, introduced by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), prevents federal prosecutors and the Drug Enforcement Agency from using federal funds to interfere with medical marijuana laws at a state level. The House Appropriations Committee approved an identical amendment last week.

One concern of note is that the Justice Department still maintains that prosecuting patients and providers, even those in compliance with local laws, does not necessarily violate the rider. That right there is precisely why we need to keep working and pushing to support the CARERS Act, which would remove the federal ban on marijuana for those in states with laws allowing the use of medicinal marijuana. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times until every single person in Congress is sick of hearing it – contact your legislators and tell them to support the CARERS Act!


California, here it comes! Support for the legalization of recreational cannabis in California has reached a new high, according to the latest poll by the Public Policy Institute of California. A record 54% of California voters favor legalizing recreational cannabis, up 5% since a 2010 poll. What's better is that the numbers have increased across the board, even among Republicans, for which support has increased by 10% since 2010 (up to 44%). Even Californians 55 and older favor legalization at 52%, also marking a 10% increase in support since the last major polling in May 2010. With several ballot initiatives lined up for the 2016 general election, the outlook for legalization is looking mighty fine, indeed.


D.C.’s barely-there recreational legalization comes under fire once again. A House spending bill is attempting to block the District (again) from using funds to “legalize or otherwise reduce penalties” for the possession of cannabis, leaving the District in a state of legal limbo (again). Advocates, surprisingly, are pleased that this rider does not contain more restrictive language, an indication that perhaps the objectors to this bill are not interested in pushing a bigger fight over marijuana. If you’re a cannabis enthusiast in D.C., it’s time to start growing your own cannabis because it’s looking like this rider will prevent legal sales until at least 2017. Stock up on those seeds!

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Delightful news is developing in Delaware! The state's first medical marijuana dispensary is finally opening this month, more than four years after Governor Jack Markell first legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes. The First State Compassion Center will be opening June 27th in Wilmington, much to the delight of the more than 300 registered patients who have been waiting such a long time for the program to get up and running that their patient ID cards have expired and they’ve had to re-apply for the program.

The qualifying conditions for medical cannabis include the following conditions:

In order to apply, please visit the Division of Public Health for more information. Congratulations, Delaware!


Hawaii’s Department of Health just held a recent seminar on how to open a dispensary on the islands. The stakes are high and the risks are numerous, but hundreds turned out in Oahu to learn more about what it takes to open a medical marijuana dispensary. According to the new law, which has yet to be signed by Governor David Ige, there will be 16 dispensaries total; six on Oahu, four on Maui, four on the Big Island, and two on Kauai.

In order to open a dispensary, you must have been a legal resident of Hawaii for the last five years, with at least $1 million in the bank. There will be only eight total dispensary licenses available (each license allows for two locations and two growing sites), all at the discretion of the Department of Health. Maui Waui – wowie, indeed!


Iowa’s severe restrictions on its medical marijuana program has many Iowans considering a major move to some of the nearby states that have legalized medical cannabis. State lawmakers who worked on trying to pass medical marijuana legislation suggested to some of the families attempting to access cannabis to consider their options. Minnesota’s medical program is opening July 1st and many Iowans are looking at relocating to the nearby state so that their children can access the medicine they need.

Unfortunately, Minnesota’s medical marijuana program currently is limited to Minnesota residents only. Many affected Iowans are frustrated by the inaction from the last legislative session, and their children can't wait for legal access to get to their state. Let’s get that ball rolling, Iowa!


The Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform, or MI Legalize, is collecting signatures for a big recreational initiative push on the statewide 2016 ballot. They’ll be hosting a town hall meeting at Grand Valley University on June 19th to allow the public to ask questions, volunteer to gather signatures, donate to the campaign, or participate in other activities. The group must gather about 250,000 signatures within a 180-day period in order to place the measure on the ballot.

Even if the proposal passes the hurdle of obtaining the required signatures, it will almost certainly face opposition from law enforcement officials, including Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has said he opposes recreational legalization. From Timbuktu to Kalamazoo, let’s legalize it!


Patients and lawmakers are making a final push for a bill that would allow emergency access to medical cannabis for severely ill New York patients. The state Assembly was expected to approve the bill, but it still faces scrutiny from the Senate and House before it will be approved. With the legislative session set to expire June 17th, the likelihood that the bill will pass is slim to none, leaving many critically ill patients left out in the cold yet again.

New York’s timeline for implementing its strict medical marijuana program has slowed to a crawl and faced numerous setbacks. Experts indicate that the system could be about six months from officially debuting, and several families in New York said that their children have died while waiting for medical marijuana to be legalized and accessible. New York, New York, do me a solid and help these families sooner rather than later!

International Updates


Sydney University just received a record-shattering $33.7 million to research the medical applications of cannabis, making it one of the largest research donations to any university in Australian history. The Lambert Initiative comes from Barry and Joy Lambert, who regularly make the Business Review Weekly’s list of the top 200 richest Australians. The Lamberts were inspired to support cannabis research after their granddaughter found relief from her epileptic seizures through cannabis-based medicine.

The university will be able to grow its own cannabis for research and synthesize cannabinoids in the lab. This information comes on the heels of the announcement that Australia’s pharmaceutical company, MGC Pharmaceuticals, just received one of the first licenses to grow, process, import, and export marijuana for medicinal purposes in Slovenia, where the government has legalized the practice. Are we seeing a new era for cannabis in the Outback?


It’s been a monumental week for cannabis in Canada. After British Columbia’s appellate court ruled that the ban on cannabis oils, edibles, tinctures, and teas was unconstitutional, the case was passed on to the Supreme Court, resulting in a court ruling that will expand the legal definition of cannabis to include all forms, not just dried flower. This case will prove to set a major precedent for Canadian medical marijuana patients, although at least one Canadian, Health Minister Rona Ambrose, is “outraged” at the decision. 

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Lisa Rough
Lisa Rough
Lisa is a former associate editor at Leafly, where she specialized in legislative cannabis policy and industry topics.
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