Hawaii’s Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization Stalls Again as House Panel Opts Out

Despite gaining significant traction this legislative session, Hawaii’s pursuit of adult-use cannabis legalization has hit another roadblock after a key House committee declined to hold a hearing on the reform measure, effectively killing the effort for 2024.

The decision by House Finance Committee Chair Rep. Kyle Yamashita (D) to bypass the bill comes as a blow to advocates who had remained hopeful following the Senate’s approval of SB 3335 in a decisive 19-6 vote last month. The legislation had narrowly advanced through the lower chamber in a 25-23 vote, setting the stage for financial scrutiny.

However, Yamashita cited numerous implementation concerns and the state’s “abnormally fiscally challenging year” as reasons to prioritize funding for essential services and wildfire recovery efforts over the unknown costs of establishing a recreational cannabis market.

“As lawmakers, it would be remiss of us not to allocate funding to safeguard critical government services… especially during a period of fiscal uncertainty,” Yamashita stated, acknowledging the bill’s progression as the “furthest for adult-use cannabis legislation” while deeming it a “deeply divisive issue.”

SB 3335, based on the Attorney General’s legalization plan, proposed allowing adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and five grams of concentrates. It included provisions for a 14% excise tax, home cultivation, and automatic expungement of low-level convictions, though the latter was later limited to a pilot program.

While a recent poll found 58% of Hawaiian adults in favor of legalization, the bill faced criticism from advocates over proposed law enforcement protocols, such as THC blood limits for drivers and the creation of a cannabis enforcement unit.

Gov. Josh Green had signaled openness to signing legalization into law, stating, “I don’t think the sky would fall, honestly, if marijuana were legalized.” However, the House’s inaction mirrors last year’s stalled efforts, prompting Rep. David Tarnas (D), the bill’s sponsor, to vow introducing revised legislation next session.

Karen O’Keefe, Director of State Policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, expressed disappointment, stating the move will “condemn hundreds of Hawai’i residents to traumatic police encounters” while forgoing tax revenue opportunities. “While this is a setback, this was also the furthest legalization has ever got in Hawai’i,” O’Keefe said. “Advocates are not giving up until we get legalization past the finish line.”

As the oldest medical-only cannabis market in the U.S., Hawaii’s path to adult-use reform remains an uphill battle, but proponents remain determined to continue the fight for comprehensive policy change.


  • No comments yet.
  • Add a comment