Hawaii: Cannabis Decriminalization Bill Fails Amid Unified Legislative Opposition

Zinger Key Points
  • Hawaii lawmakers unite to reject a bill to further decriminalize cannabis.
  • Bill aimed to ease penalties but raised safety concerns.

In a surprising turn of events, both proponents and opponents of cannabis reform in Hawaii joined forces to defeat a bill aimed at decriminalizing marijuana further.

The bill, known as SB2487, would have eased penalties for possession and use of marijuana but was rejected in a vote of 16 to 9 in the state legislature. Sen. Angus McKelvey (D) explained his opposition by highlighting potential risks.

“The Senate sent a very good, reasonable, recreational legalization bill with guard rails over to the other chamber. In other states where the rush to decriminalization is outpacing their own recreational medical marijuana market; you could have a black market that could explode. Thereby undercutting and creating all the safety hazards that the bill that we sent over would have addressed,” McKelvey stated.

The bill aimed to remove certain penalties under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, specifically those related to marijuana paraphernalia. It also proposed reducing penalties for the possession and transfer without remuneration of marijuana, concentrates and infused products, while designating public smoking of marijuana as a violation under promoting a detrimental drug in the third degree. Currently, Hawaii has decriminalized possession of up to three grams of cannabis.

The rejection of SB2487 comes after another failed legislative effort earlier this year when a recreational cannabis bill was killed in the House.

If They Favor Cannabis, Why Would They Reject The Bill?

Cannabis regulation isn’t simply a battle between progressives and conservatives. Advocates for cannabis freedom often support decriminalization, but the complete liberalization of the cannabis market can introduce health and public safety challenges. These concerns are more effectively managed through legalization frameworks. Similarly, substances like alcohol, tobacco and prescription medications are regulated rather than merely decriminalized, just as the personal possession of nearly all plants is subject to legal oversight.

Hawaiian decriminalization began in early 2020 after an initial attempt to pass a legalization bill failed in the House. There appears to be a consistent approach in the political discussions, which involves a trade-off between pursuing full legalization and expanding consumer rights through decriminalization measures.

This reflects a strategic legislative effort, balancing the broader goals of legalization against more immediate, albeit limited, advancements. Meanwhile, another piece of legislation concerning cannabis is advancing. A new bill that would establish a pilot program for marijuana expungements is headed to the desk of Gov. Josh Green (D-HI). If approved, it could offer some relief and reform, compensate for the technical tie and level the scale a bit once again.

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Posted In: CannabisGovernmentNewsRegulationsACTCannabisHawaiiregulationSTATE BILL
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