Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Hawaii Dropped

UPDATED

A bill that would have legalized marijuana in the state of Hawaii was dropped today at a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee.

According to media reports, House Judiciary Chairman Karl Rhoads said that there is not enough support to pass the bill in the House.


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HB 699 would authorize the use of marijuana by adults over the age of 21. Driving under the influence of cannabis would remain illegal. Sales to minors under age 21 will remain illegal.  The bill would regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol by amending Chapter 329 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes.

The bill would also license facilities for the cultivation of cannabis plants, quality control, and a retail distribution system.  A state excise tax would apply to all marijuana establishments in Hawaii.

The bill does not effect Hawaii’s current medical marijuana laws.

Hawaii marijuana activists have been encouraging their fellows to participate in the political process.

“My gut feeling is that there is going to be some improvement in the cannabis laws this session but only if we step up to the plate,” said Andrea Tischler, chair of Big Island Americans for Safe Access.  ”It will be a long process because there are many bills relating to cannabis and medical cannabis during this session that will be heard in the committees.”

Charlie Cook, an organizer for the Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii, suggested several reasons why HB 699 is a good idea:

Taxing and regulating makes economic sense for Hawai‘i:

  • It would save $12 million a year in marijuana law enforcement costs.
  • It would bring in at least $11.3 million a year in tax revenue.
  • Legalizing marijuana for adults will undercut dangerous drug cartels which sell millions of dollars in marijuana on the black market.

Prohibition has failed: Marijuana use is mainstream and widespread. More than 106 million Americans have tried it and every year more than 80% of high school students say it’s easy to obtain (per Monitoring the Future survey.)

Prohibition makes control impossible: Producers and sellers of marijuana are completely unregulated unlike sellers of tobacco and alcohol. There are no quality controls for purity or potency.

Taxing and regulating marijuana allows police to spend money on serious and violent crimes:

  • In Hawai‘i, marijuana arrests for possession have increased 50% since 2004.
  • Arrests for distribution have almost doubled since 2004.
  • Costs and law enforcement time spent on these could be used for more serious drug offenses like Hawaii’s methamphetamine problem or in addressing violent crimes.

Hawaii’s marijuana laws are enforced unevenly:

  • There is no evidence that any specific gender or ethnic group uses marijuana more than another group, but arrest data in Hawai‘i show a different story:
  • Males are 50% more likely to be arrested than females
  • Juveniles are 70% more likely to be arrested.
  • Native Hawaiians are 70% more likely to be arrested than non-native Hawaiians.
  • Filipinos are 30% more likely to be arrested than non-Filipinos.
  • Non-Oahu residents are 40-140% more likely to be arrested for possession than Oahu residents.

Convicted marijuana offenders:

  • Are denied federal student aid.
  • Lose their professional licenses.
  • Encounter barriers to employment, housing, and adoption.
  • These penalties disproportionately affect young, low income, and minority individuals.
  • While people who are convicted of marijuana related offenses are denied federal student aid, people convicted of violent crimes remain eligible.
  • Arrests for marijuana possession are one of the most common ways that people get caught up in the criminal justice system.
  • Marijuana users who are not convicted have gone on to be President or a Supreme Court justice.

Legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana for personal use will not
increase youth consumption:

  • Selling to minors (under 21) will remain illegal.
  • Young people now have easy access to marijuana since drug dealers don’t check IDs.
  • Placing marijuana under strict regulatory control may actually decrease youth access here in Hawai‘i since regulated businesses could lose their license if they sell to minors while illegal dealers have no incentive not to sell to kids.

Hawai‘i residents support the taxation and regulation of marijuana:

  • In a December 2012 poll, 57% of registered voters in Hawai‘i support legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana for personal use.
  • 76% believe police should focus their time on violent crimes and fighting the ice/methamphetamine problem in Hawai‘i.
  • Laws against driving while intoxicated and other anti-social behaviors will remain in place.
  • The current bill keeps penalties in place for those driving under the
  • influence of marijuana.
  • The current bill does not allow for marijuana consumption in public places.
  • All forms of advertising will be prohibited.

References:

Nixon, David. Update to: Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Decriminalization in Hawai’i. Public Policy Center: University of Hawai’i, Dec 2012.

http://acluhawaii.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/econreptmarijuana1_2013.pdf

QMark Research & Polling. November 19 –December 4, 2012. Survey of 603 adults statewide, MOE +/-4%

http://acluhawaii.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/dpagmarijuanapolicyfindings.pdf

 

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