This week the Hawaiian state Senate approved two marijuana reform bills, which will now head to the state’s House of Representatives. Hawaii has already legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Senate Bill 767, which was approved with 20 yes votes and 5 no votes, would legalize and regulate recreational marijuana in the state. It would allow adults over the age of 21 to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to 6 marijuana plants for personal use. 

SB 767

The bill, which was introduced in the state Senate in late January, states that, “Notwithstanding the prospect of federal prosecution, several states, including Hawaii, enacted medical cannabis laws.  Chapter 329, part IX, Hawaii Revised Statutes, was enacted to create a medical use of cannabis exemption from criminal sanctions.  As of November 4, 2020, thirty-six states and four U.S. territories also allow the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.  Furthermore, chapter 329D, Hawaii Revised Statutes, was enacted to establish medical cannabis dispensaries authorized to operate beginning in July 2016.  As Hawaii expands its medical cannabis program through the use of highly regulated and monitored dispensaries, more patients are anticipated to consider medical cannabis as a viable treatment.

“In addition to medical cannabis laws, some states have legalized or decriminalized cannabis.  The jurisdictions of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington have all decriminalized cannabis in small amounts.  In each state, cannabis users no longer face jail time for the possession or use of cannabis in the amount permitted by statute.  Most places that decriminalized small amounts of cannabis replaced incarceration or criminal charges with civil fines, confiscation, drug education, or drug treatment, or made various cannabis offenses the lowest priority for law enforcement.”

SB 758

The Senate also approved Senate Bill 758 with a 24 to 1 vote. This bill increases the amount of marijuana that a defendant must possess to be charged with a petty misdemeanor from three grams to thirty grams. The bill also provides allowances for the courts to expunge convictions for marijuana possession for up to thirty grams.

Struggles Ahead

Passage in the Senate, however, does note mean that these bills have smooth sailing ahead. There is a question as to whether the House will even take up the measure. And Democratic Governor David Ige has expressed concerns about adult-use marijuana.

While the tide does seem to be flowing in the direction of legalization throughout the United States, there are still hurdles to be overcome — Hawaii might be facing theirs now.

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