Legislature adjourns 2013-2014 session
While lawmakers have been out of session since May, a lot of work was accomplished over the summer to set the stage for the possible enactment of sensible marijuana policies during the 2015-2016 legislative session.
The Hawaii Medical Marijuana Dispensary Task Force met a few times in various locations to solicit input on how best to create a medical marijuana dispensary program in Hawaii. Those who participated overwhelmingly supported this long overdue change, giving patients reason to be optimistic that lawmakers will finally create a dispensary program next year. Thanks so much to everyone who participated. For information on MPP’s comments, please read our written submission here.
In addition to improved medical marijuana access, advocates are hopeful that the 2015-2016 legislative session will finally bring an end to arresting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana. In 2013, the Hawaii Senate unanimously supported a marijuana decriminalization bill, but it was never even called to a vote in the House.
The next legislative session is right around the corner, and should prove to be fruitful for those who support sensible marijuana policies. 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. Please urge your legislators to support a new, responsible approach to marijuana next year. Let them know it’s time to legalize and regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol.
Hawaiians support ending marijuana prohibition; House speaker proposes doing so
A QMark Research poll, commissioned by the Drug Policy Action Group and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, found that 78% of Hawaii voters 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 in 2014. Speaker of the House Joe Souki sponsored H.B. 699, which would have created 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 session, we are confident that the long arc of history bends towards legalizing cannabis for adults and regulating it like alcohol. 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.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Hawaii, be sure to subscribe to MPP's free legislative alert service.