HONOLULU – On Thursday, newly elected State House Speaker Joseph Souki (D-8), introduced a bill to remove penalties for private adult marijuana possession and establish a system in which the cultivation and sale of marijuana would be regulated and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol. H.B. 150 is the first of several anticipated bills on marijuana legalization this legislative session.
“Regulating and taxing marijuana similarly to alcohol takes marijuana sales out of the hands of criminals and puts them behind the counter in legitimate businesses that will generate significant new revenue for Hawaii,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project. “Law enforcement resources should be focused on preventing and responding to serious crimes rather than enforcing antiquated marijuana prohibition laws.”
If passed, H.B. 150, the Personal Use of Marijuana Act, would allow adults 21 years of age and older to privately possess up to one ounce of marijuana and to cultivate a limited number of marijuana plants in a secure and locked location. The bill also authorizes the state to license marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities. Public marijuana use, driving under the influence of marijuana, and use by individuals under the age of 21 would remain illegal.
A QMark Research poll released earlier this month found 57% of Hawaii voters believe marijuana should be regulated, taxed, and legal for adults. According to an economic analysis performed by University of Hawaii economist David Nixon, the state would generate $20 million per year in new tax revenue and criminal justice savings.
“In Hawaii, as across the nation, arrests for marijuana possession are one of the most common ways that individuals get caught up in the criminal justice system, at great social and economic cost,” said ACLU of Hawaii executive director Vanessa Chong in a release announcing the poll and economic analysis. “These studies provide important, updated facts for the Hawaii community as we consider new directions.”
In November 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington approved ballot initiatives to make marijuana legal for adults and establish systems in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. Similar proposals are expected to be introduced this year by lawmakers in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
The Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana-policy-reform organization, has been responsible for changing most state-level marijuana laws since 2000. For more information, visit http://www.mpp.org.