Medical marijuana is legal in Hawaii. But traveling inter-island with it could get you in trouble

Published: Jul. 8, 2019 at 7:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Governor Ige appears ready to veto a measure that would allow medical cannabis patients to carry their marijuana with them as they travel between the Hawaiian islands.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Hawaii for almost two decades, but patients say that even with all the proper paperwork, they often feel hassled by law enforcement.

Four years ago, a trip to the doctor’s office turned Aja Alverio’s life upside down.

“It was rough,” said Alverio. “I wouldn’t wish that upon anybody.”

Tests confirmed she had stage 2 breast cancer. At the time, she was just 36-years old, and she endured a combination of chemotherapy and radiation for more than a year.

Now, she says with a smile: “God gave me my victory. Four years, now.”

While the cancer is gone, Alverio has been left with stabbing pain in her fingers and toes ― the nerve damage is a side effect of the chemotherapy.

Instead of taking prescription painkillers, she has been using a mixture of marijuana and CBD oil to manage the pain. But going that route hasn’t always been easy.

In April, the business owner had to fly to the Big Island for work when she and her young daughter were stopped at a TSA checkpoint.

“I said I have a license for this. Here’s my doctor’s name,” said Alverio. “He was like ‘No, no, no, no, no. You need to stay right here and wait for the Sheriff.’”

She says a state sheriff’s deputy told TSA officials she wasn’t breaking any law at that moment, but warned her if she didn’t surrender her medication, she’d be in trouble ― and could lose her child.

“He said, ‘We will call the cops. You’ll get arrested when you land, and then CPS will be involved,’” said Alverio.

Alverio is one of Dr. Clifton Otto’s cannabis patients. The medical doctor heads up Akamai Cannabis Clinic in Honolulu.

“Our law enforcement officers are using tremendous amounts of their time at our airports dealing with a situation that shouldn’t even exist,” said Otto.

He told Hawaii News Now he was shocked to find out what had happened to his patient, noting that state law already authorizes inter-island transportation of marijuana for dispensaries.

“It also has language that could be interpreted to prohibit patients from traveling to other islands if they are transferring material to other patients," Otto added. "But it does not specifically prevent patients from transporting for their own personal medical use.”

But federal authorities disagree. in a statement sent to Hawaii News Now, TSA officials said: “Marijuana remains an illegal substance under federal law. This includes medical marijuana. The passenger’s originating and destination airports are not taken into account. Airport law enforcement will be notified if marijuana is discovered by a TSA officer.”

“This, to me, is discriminating,” said Alverio. “I register with the state every year to renew my license. So what is my license good for?”

The governor’s office tells us David Ige is still reviewing the bill and all of the input it received. His decision on whether or not to veto the bill will be announced Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. during a press conference.

Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.