Hawaii Legislature Approves Decriminalization of Small Amounts of Cannabis

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Hawaii recently passed a bill decriminalizing a small amount of cannabis, becoming the 26th state to decriminalize the plant. 

Under House Bill 1383, possessing up to three grams of cannabis will be legal, but would carry with it a fine of up to $130. This amount is the smallest in any of the 26 states that have elected to decriminalize, and that doesn’t exactly sit well with the state’s governor, David Ige (D).

“The amount is very small, when you talk with law enforcement personnel,” Governor Ige said. “Essentially they will proceed the way they always have.” 

When the bill to decriminalize up to three grams of cannabis was passed by the Hawaii legislature earlier this year, Ige said it was a “very tough call” as to whether he should veto the bill, according to a press conference he gave in June. The governor says he made the decision to allow the bill to become law without giving it his signature of approval, because he wasn’t satisfied with the small amount that would be decriminalized. 

The governor went on to explain that he is optimistic that the new bill could potentially lead to more cannabis freedom in the state “and other mechanisms to make marijuana more available.”

The new law will take effect in January 2020. Additionally, the bill will expunge the criminal records of anyone convicted of possessing up to three grams of cannabis, and will establish committees that will explore the legal status of the plant in Hawaii. As it currently stands, possession of any amount of cannabis in Hawaii is punishable with up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

In March of this year, a bill died because the Senate House Committee failed to act on a measure that would legalize recreational cannabis. The bill would have permitted adults to legally possess, grow and consume cannabis. Despite the fact that the bill was passed unanimously by Hawaii’s Senate Judiciary Committee, it never passed because lawmakers failed to act on it before the legislative deadline. 

It is unfortunate voters in the Aloha State have no processes for any kind of ballot initiatives, and that legalization of cannabis must be passed by the legislature. 

Cannabis advocates in Hawaii would most likely want to see their state catch up with those in the upper 48 who have legalized recreational cannabis and decriminalized small amounts. Medical cannabis was legalized in Hawaii way back in 2000, but it took 17 long years for dispensaries to actually be permitted to open.

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