Last Update: January 3, 2014

Sensible marijuana policy still alive in Honolulu

The Hawaii Legislature will reconvene for the second half of their two-year session on January 15. Last year, the legislators passed, and Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed, two bills that affect the state’s medical marijuana program. They were the first laws to amend the program in its 13-year history. One of the bills will ensure that health professionals will run the program. The other increases the amount of usable marijuana a patient may possess, but also changes the law to only allow a patient’s primary care physician to recommend medical marijuana. Because many doctors – including Veterans Administration physicians – will not recommend medical marijuana, this could result in a dramatic drop in the number of patients if it is not revised. This law will not take effect until January 2, 2015, and advocates will work to fix this.

Lawmakers still need to address a bill to replace the current criminal penalties for possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana with a civil fine. This legislation advanced out of the Senate — unanimously — but was not called to a vote in the House. If you are a resident of Hawaii, please consider sending an email in support of this legislation to your representative. Criminalizing individuals for possession of substance that is safer than alcohol is simply wrong and could result in serious collateral consequences affecting everything from housing to job prospects. 

A huge thanks is due to The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, ACLU of Hawai’i, Fresh Approach Hawaii, and Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii for their hands-on advocacy work in Honolulu.

Hawaiians support ending marijuana prohibition; House speaker proposes doing so

The Drug Policy Action Group and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii recently commissioned QMark Research to poll voter attitudes towards marijuana policy in Hawaii. The poll found that 78% support a dispensary system for medical marijuana, 69% think that jail time for marijuana offenses is inappropriate, and an overwhelming 57% favor legalizing marijuana for adults and regulating it like alcohol. This last number is 20% higher than the last poll conducted in 2005.

In addition to polling, an economic analysis was commissioned from University of Hawaii economist David Nixon. Dr. Nixon estimates that Hawaii could redirect $9 million annually if it stopped arresting individuals for marijuana possession. Additionally, Hawaii could generate tax revenues of up to $11 million annually if the state legalized, regulated, and taxed the sale of marijuana to adults.

Hawaii legislators had an opportunity to take a fiscally sound approach to marijuana policy this year. Speaker of the House Joe Souki sponsored H.B. 699, which would create a state-legal, taxed, and regulated marijuana market that could legally sell to adults 21 and older. While it wasn’t brought to a vote this year, the speaker’s bill can be considered in 2014 — the second year of Hawaii’s two-year legislative session. Meanwhile, a bill to replace the current criminal penalties for possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana with a civil fine advanced out of the Senate — unanimously — but was not called to a vote in the House. Like H.B. 699, S.B. 472 can be considered again next year. You can ask your legislators to support ending the costly and futile prohibition of marijuana or to impose a fine — rather than criminal penalties and possible jail time — on responsible marijuana consumers.

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