Gov. Ige will let decriminalization bill become law!
Last update: July 1, 2019
Gov. David Ige announced that he would let a legislature-passed bill to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis become law.
Beginning on January 11, 2020, this bill will make possession of three grams or less of marijuana punishable by a $130 fine. Under current law, possessing even a tiny amount of cannabis is punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, and a possible life-altering criminal record.
Unfortunately, three grams would be the smallest amount of any state that has decriminalized (or legalized) simple possession of marijuana.
Still, removing criminal penalties and possible jail time for possession of a small amount of cannabis is an improvement.
Legislation to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adult-use does not advance in 2019
After its first marijuana legalization hearing in five years, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to approve a bill to allow adults 21 and older to possess, cultivate, and consume marijuana. Unfortunately, the bill did not get through a second panel before the deadline to advance in the legislative process, which killed the bill.
Let your state lawmakers know it’s past time to legalize marijuana.
Voters in 10 states — including every state on the West Coast — have chosen to treat marijuana more like alcohol, by making it legal for adults 21 and older, taxing, and regulating it. (In an 11th state, Vermont, adult-use possession and cultivation is legal, but there are no regulated sales.) These laws are working well, generating tax revenue, and creating good jobs without creating problems.
Unlike those states, Hawaii lacks a voter initiative process, so only lawmakers can chart a more sensible course. Contact your legislators today urging them to pass legislation to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older.
Medical cannabis program update
This session, legislation has been reintroduced to expand Hawaii’s medical marijuana law to include opiate use disorder as a qualifying condition. In 2018, the Hawaii Legislature approved SB 2707, which would have done so, but it was unfortunately vetoed by Gov. David Ige.
On July 10, 2018, Gov. Ige signed HB 2729 — a reciprocity bill — into law. The new law will allow patients who are registered in other medical marijuana states to use medical cannabis when they visit Hawaii. It also makes other improvements, including allowing medical cannabis certifications to last as long as three years for certain conditions and allows the retesting of cannabis.
One year earlier, in August 2017, Hawaii’s first dispensaries began serving patients, two years after the state’s dispensary law passed and 17 years after Hawaii became the first state to legislatively enact a medical marijuana law (rather than by ballot initiative).
Also that year, the legislature and governor strengthened and expanded Hawaii’s medical marijuana program by enacting H.B. 1488. The law added rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis to the list of qualifying conditions and allowed patients and caregivers to access testing facilities. Patients and caregivers are allowed to cultivate three additional plants of any maturity, for a total of 10 plants. A planned phasing out of caregivers’ ability to grow marijuana plants for patients was pushed back five years, to the end of 2023.
In addition, the Department of Health is now allowed to permit current licensees to open one additional dispensary — for a possible total of 24 statewide — and to cultivate more plants at their production sites.
Stay connected: To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Hawaii, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service.