Legalization and decrim-improvement bills stall in the House; carry over to 2022
Last update: August 3, 2021
In early 2021, the Hawaii Senate approved bills to legalize cannabis and to improve the state’s existing decriminalization laws. This was the first time the Senate ever voted to legalize cannabis — though the placeholder bill had an effective date of 2137. Unfortunately, the bills — SB 767 and SB 758 — failed to proceed past a House committee deadline on March 18. However, they will pick up where they left off when the legislature reconvenes in 2022.
The bills stalled when House Committee on Health, Human Services and Homelessness Chair Ryan Yamane (D) failed to even call a hearing on them. Rep. Yamane previously opposed Hawaii’s decriminalization law, which replaced criminal penalties with fines, and in 2015 voted against a measure to allow storefront dispensaries for the state medical program.
Both measures also face additional challenges — House Judiciary Chair Mark Nakashima (D) and Gov. David Ige (D) were also unsupportive of both measures.
SB 758 — the decrim-improvement bill — would increase the possession threshold from three grams to one ounce. It cleared the Senate in a 24-1 vote.
The legalization bill (SB 767) passed the Senate in a historic 20-5 vote. SB 767 would legalize cannabis and allow licensed businesses to cultivate, produce, and sell cannabis products. Under the bill, personal use and possession of cannabis would no longer be a crime, and adult home cultivation of up to three mature plants would be allowed. The bill also charges the state Department of Health with crafting rules around business licensing and retail sales.
However, the law wouldn’t take effect until the year 2137 and doesn’t address equity or expungement.