The History of Marijuana in Hawaii

Hawaii has a history with marijuana that dates back to 1842, when it was first featured in the island newspaper Ka Nonanona. The newspaper referred to the drug as  “pakalolo”, which is the Hawaiian word for “numbing tobacco”. Advertisements for medical marijuana continued to appear in the newspaper until the state coordinated a program to destroy  “pakalolo”, because Hawaii received more money from the federal government than any other state to seize all marijuana. The Big Island had the bulk of Hawaii’s marijuana crop, so Big Island police worked with federal law enforcement agencies and the Drug Enforcement Agency to enforce this program to destroy all cannabis in the state.

The Green Harvest program sought to rid Hawaii of the plant completely, while also ridding the state of any growers by incarcerating them. This was all part of the DEA’s nationwide War on Drugs, and it succeeded because more marijuana was seized in Hawaii in 1988 than in any two states. Even though massive amounts of marijuana were destroyed, the state still became a marijuana capital because Hawaii was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana. In 2000, the state legalized medical marijuana without establishing any legal market, but it took another 15 years for the state to finally expand this program. Now, with over 69% of Hawaii voters supporting legalization, the state hopes to move forward with “pakalolo” reform.


It’s no secret that my husband and I are longtime cannabis and hemp advocates. We’ve cheered as the majority of Americans have come around to supporting legalization, and applauded as cannabis law reform spreads from state to state. Still, decades of prohibitionist propaganda have left many in the dark about the powerful wellness potential of these long-demonized plants.

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