Legislature adjourns 2013-2014 session
The Hawaii Legislature has adjourned its 2013-2014 session. The first half of the session saw marijuana policy advocates score a big victory when the legislature passed, and Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed, legislation that transfers control of the medical marijuana program from the public safety department to the health department. Also last year, legislation passed that increased the amount of usable marijuana a patient may possess, but it also changed the law to only allow a patient’s primary care physician to recommend medical marijuana. This law will not take effect until January 2, 2015, and there is legislation pending in conference committee that would allow a larger class of licensed physicians to make medical marijuana recommendations.
Unfortunately, despite overwhelming support for sensible marijuana policies, lawmakers failed to pass legislation that would have prevented arrests and criminal charges for the mere possession of a small amount of cannabis. They also failed to vote on legislation that would have treated marijuana more like alcohol. The Hawaii Senate unanimously supported a marijuana decriminalization bill last year, but it was never even called to a vote in the House.
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 this past session. 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.