Hawaiian politicians are making a push this year to be one of the vastly growing number of states to end prohibition. Twelve of the Senate’s 25 members have cosigned a bill that would legalize marijuana for those who are over the age of 21 and living in Hawaii. The bill would put into place what many other states have already accomplished: distributing licenses to grow, process and sell the plant which would also be subject to an exile tax. The bill states that the legalization of marijuana is the natural and reasonable next step, given the “current science of marijuana” and the public attitude towards the plant.
The Bill to Extend Qualifying Conditions
This is not the first marijuana bill that has made its way into legislature. Last year a bill aiming to add people with opioid disorders to the list of qualifying medical marijuana conditions was vetoed by Governor David Ige. Marijuana has been found to be a cure for opioid related disorders such as addiction to heroin and prescription drugs. The pain-relieving attributes of marijuana have been found to be a safer, non-addictive substitute for pain medication. In states where opioid users have the option to take marijuana instead, both addiction and opioid related overdoses are down by over 20%.
A Conservative Approach
Unfortunately, Ige, has leaned on the conservative side on marijuana related issues in the past. On the issue of full legalization, he has continued to express concerns; in particular when it comes to the fact that marijuana is still illegal on a federal level and remains to be a Schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs are considered to be the highest risk substances for abuse, have no medical benefits and be unsafe for testing on humans. Ige issued a statement saying “I’m concerned about conflicting federal and state laws that allow marijuana dispensaries on each island, but prohibit the transport of marijuana between islands.”
A Series of Cannabis-Related Bills
At this point in time it is hard to determine what the governor will do with the new legislation. It is clear, however, that this is a major issue for Hawaiian legislature this year. On top of the Senate’s bill, there is also a House measure which is almost identical, moving to legalizing the plant for recreational use for those over the age of 21. If all legislation related to legalization fails to go through, another bill which focuses on decriminalizing the plant, sponsored by Rep. Gregg Takayama, will most likely be passed.
The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii (DPFH), an advocacy group for marijuana reform in Hawaii, are supporters of the Senate’s bill, although they are also pushing for some adjustments to the bill that would aim to heal some of the damage caused by prohibition. The group are pushing for the criminal records of those convicted of marijuana-based crimes to be expunged. They are also pushing for some of the tax revenue that would be collected from marijuana to be used to improve communities that have been disproportionately impacted by prohibition.
Should the bill pass this year, Hawaii would become the 11th state to end prohibition in the U.S.