Hawaiian Senate Endorses Bill for Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization

Hawaiian legislators are advancing efforts to reform cannabis laws as the state Senate recently passed a bill aimed at legalizing and regulating recreational cannabis.

In a decisive 19-6 vote, the Hawaiian Senate approved Senate Bill 3335, proposing measures to permit adults aged 21 and above to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and up to five grams of cannabis concentrates. Additionally, the bill outlines frameworks for the sale of recreational cannabis, including the imposition of a 14% excise tax on recreational products and a 4% tax rate on the medical cannabis market. Residents would also be permitted to cultivate a maximum of six cannabis plants and possess up to 10 ounces of home-grown flower.

The bill further establishes a social equity program and introduces the Hawaii Hemp and Cannabis Authority, overseen by the Hemp Cannabis Control Board, tasked with regulating cannabis and hemp businesses.

While the Senate’s approval marks significant progress, the bill’s fate now rests with Hawaii’s more conservative House, which has traditionally exhibited resistance towards adult-use cannabis policies. The current legislation, spanning over 300 pages, mirrors Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez’s legalization plan unveiled in November 2023.

Despite widespread support for the bill, concerns have been raised regarding certain provisions, particularly those related to law enforcement protocols. Critics argue that the legislation’s inclusion of THC blood limits for drivers and the establishment of a cannabis enforcement unit within the Department of Law Enforcement could lead to punitive outcomes rather than a focus on justice and equity.

Advocacy groups, including the Marijuana Policy Project and the Hawai’i Alliance for Cannabis Reform (HACR), are pushing for amendments to the bill. Proposed amendments aim to eliminate THC limits for drivers, revise open container provisions, and enhance social equity components within the legislation.

In a positive development alongside the legalization bill, senators also approved SB 2487, a separate piece of legislation aimed at reducing penalties for cannabis possession. This bill would downgrade possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis to a non-criminal offense, punishable by a $130 fine.

Governor Josh Green has indicated his support for cannabis reform, suggesting that he would likely sign a legalization bill if presented by lawmakers. Green emphasized the potential for cannabis legalization to address social issues and serve as a harm reduction strategy.

As the legislative process unfolds, it remains to be seen whether the House will align with the Senate’s prioritization of cannabis legalization, signaling a significant step forward in Hawaii’s evolving cannabis landscape.


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