Hawaii Moves Forward With Marijuana Legalization

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In Hawaii, State Bill 686 has made it past the Committee on the Judiciary. Not only that, but the bill passed with a unanimous vote — a testament to the changing societal perspective. This move is a first for Hawaii, as legalization bills introduced prior to this one have stalled in committee.

The bill will have to pass votes by at least one other panel, possibly more before a full Senate vote will take place. However, advocates in Hawaii are optimistic about this initial 5-0 vote and what it means for legalization in the state.

The next stop for the bill is the Ways and Means committee.

SB686 would make recreational marijuana use legal for adults age 21 and older. It would allow possession of one ounce of marijuana and growth of as many of six plants — three of them permitted to be mature at the same time.

It also outlines a 15% surcharge and regulations for cultivating and consuming the drug within state borders. The bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Senator J. Kalani English and Sen. Russell Ruderman.

Hawaii’s Department of Health would oversee regulation of retail for recreational use, as it currently oversees the medical marijuana program. Originally, the recommendation was for the Department of Taxation to regulate marijuana. That has been adjusted.

Expunging criminal records for those found guilty of possession is also an option, although current public knowledge does not include whether that particular amendment was included in the bill that passed unanimously.

Hawaii Governor David Ige has raised concerns in the past of conflict with federal law, and he has not been in favour of other bills that have made it through legislature in the past. It is unknown how he will react should this bill make it all the way to his desk for his signature.

The bill specifically mentions other states that have legalized and the measures taken in those states that have been successful. Meanwhile, those in opposition to legalization, such as MADD Hawaii, have quoted changes to the detriment of said states, including a statistic that Colorado traffic accidents have increased 151% since legalization and traffic deaths have gone up as well.

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