Legalization Bill Moving Along in Hawaii Legislature

The measure in Hawaii cleared a hurdle last week when it passed out of a committee.
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A bill to make Hawaii the next state to legalize recreational cannabis cleared a legislative hurdle this week.

The legislation “advanced out of two state Senate committees Thursday — and is now moving to the full senate,” according to local station HawaiiNewsNow.

Under the measure, adults aged 21 and older could legally possess and consume marijuana, while the state would regulate and oversee a cannabis market. 

The station said that the bill was “approved by the Consumer Protection and Ways and Means Committees.”

According to local news station KHON2, the chair of the Consumer Protection Committee “chose to provide some proposals on amendments that had been integrated to cover issues that had been raised in earlier hearings.”

Per the station, those amendments are: “1. Language was added to establish civil penalties for unlicensed cannabis growth and distribution activities; 2. Language was added that protects employers who seek to prohibit cannabis use amongst their employees; 3. Prohibition of advertising within 1,000 feet of any youth-centered area; 4. Proposed licensing of cultivation, manufacturing, testing and retail facilities that ensure a properly regulated industry while also preventing future consolidation and monopoly control of cannabis dispensaries.”

Democratic state Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole, who chairs the Consumer Protection Committee, said that the bill’s approval by the two senate committees marked “a significant step forward in the legalization of adult-use cannabis in Hawaiʻi.”

“These amendments are reflective of the Senate’s commitment to ensuring a fair and well-regulated cannabis market that provides safe access to both adult consumers and existing medical patients,” said Keohokalole, as quoted by KHON2.

Democrats control both chambers of the Hawaii state legislature. The state’s Democratic governor, Josh Green, who was elected and took office last year, has said that he would sign a cannabis legalization bill if it were to land on his desk.

“I think that people already have moved past that culturally as a concern,” Green said during a gubernatorial debate in the fall. “But here’s what I would do. First of all, if marijuana is legalized, it should be very carefully monitored, and only done like cigarettes, or I’ve been very careful to regulate tobacco over the years. We should take the $30 to $40 million of taxes we would get from that and invest in the development and recreation of our mental healthcare system for the good of all.”

An adviser to the governor reiterated that support this week.

“Governor Green supports legalized use of cannabis by adults, providing that any legislation that emerges protects public safety and consumers, and assures product safety with testing and tracking. The Governor also seeks to ensure the continued viability of our medical cannabis industry. Because these are complicated issues, he has encouraged his departments to state their concerns, and to make suggestions if there are ways to mitigate them. If a bill passes the legislature that accounts for his primary concerns, he has indicated he will likely sign it,” the adviser said in a statement, as quoted by HawaiiNewsNow.

Moreover, there is broad public support for legalization among Hawaiians. 

A poll released earlier this year found that more than 50% of residents there support the legalization of adult-use marijuana.

But while the bill is widely expected to pass out of the Hawaii state Senate, it is “likely to run into strong opposition in the state House,” according to HawaiiNewsNow.

The station reported that the speaker of the state House of Represenatives, Scott Saiki, has “said the state is not ready this year.”

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