Hawaii is on the verge of implementing a far-reaching decriminalization bill. If the bill is signed into law it would replace criminal charges for marijuana possession with a simple fine.
Hawaii’s House Bill 1383
The bill currently working its way through the legislative process is House Bill 1383. Simply put, this bill aims to decriminalize the possession of cannabis throughout the state.
Under the terms of the bill, it would no longer be a criminal offense to possess three grams or less of marijuana. Instead, people busted with weed would only be fined $130.
Importantly, the bill also takes into consideration people who already carry a marijuana-related charge on their records. Specifically, it provides a way for people in this situation to have their records expunged if the charge was not related to any other crimes.
So far, House Bill 1383 has found success among lawmakers. In particular, it cleared the Senate with unanimous approval.
But things were a little different in the House, where the bill reportedly had many more opponents.
In particular, some lawmakers expressed concern that the decriminalization bill did not have any provisions that would require minors caught with weed to attend rehabilitation or educational programs.
Similarly, opponents of House Bill 1383 also claimed that the bill should make distinctions according to strain and potency.
In the end, the bill ended up clearing the House, although by a much tighter margin of 34-16.
Now, after being approved by both the Senate and the House, the bill is being handed off to Hawaii Governor David Ige for final review and approval. If he signs the bill it will officially become Hawaii state law.
Cannabis Laws in Hawaii
The bill is largely being hailed as a step forward toward more progressive cannabis laws.
In particular, many see decriminalization as an effective way to significantly reduce some of the harm caused by cannabis prohibition laws.
However, full legalization has so far failed to pick up serious traction among lawmakers. As reported by Honolulu Civil Beat, legalization efforts stalled and died earlier this year in the Legislature.
But the state’s medical marijuana program has seen some significant growth in recent years.
The state first began taking applications for medical marijuana dispensaries in 2016. Immediately, the program received a lot of attention from people hoping to open a dispensary. Notably, even celebrities like Woody Harrelson applied for a license.
After reviewing applications and issuing licenses, Hawaii allowed dispensaries to open for business in 2017.
At that point, Hawaii’s medical marijuana program received broad enthusiasm from patients. In fact, the first dispensary to officially open its doors sold out in a single week.
Most recently, officials in Hawaii decided to open medical marijuana to out-of-state visitors.
As originally planned, this amendment to the state’s program would allow visitors with a qualifying health condition to apply for a special temporary registration card. This would then allow them to access and purchase from medical marijuana dispensaries.
With well over 8 million visitors spending time in Hawaii every year, this decision could have big implications for the state’s medical marijuana program.