Stoner Symphony

Hawaii Moves Ahead With Cannabis Reform Despite Legalization Failure

Efforts to reform Hawaii’s cannabis laws are continuing at pace despite its House of Representatives killing off efforts to legalize adult-use cannabis last week.

On Friday, the House voted to approve SB2487, a bill seeking to expand the state’s existing cannabis decriminalization initiative.

The bill would reduce the penalty for anyone caught with small amount of cannabis. The threshold will be increased from three grams to an ounce of cannabis, and the fine will be dropped from $130 to $25.

However, anyone caught with over an ounce of cannabis will still be prosecuted criminally, and anyone caught consuming in public will still be fined $130.

An amended version of this bill must now be passed through the Senate, and subsequently be signed by the Governor Josh Green before becoming law.

Meanwhile, a watered-down expungements bill, which would see the launch of a single-county pilot-programme was approved by a Senate committee.

This bill, dubbed HB 1595, would have originally seen the state automatically expunge thousands of arrest and conviction records for those caught with small amounts of cannabis.

Following a Senate Judiciary Committee last month, the bill was significantly reduced in scope, and the pilot will now only apply to one state and to non-conviction arrest records.

The bill is expected to be voted on in the Senate this week, and if passed it will be returned to the House to consider recent changes.

Business of Cannabis reported last week that Hawaii’s efforts to legalize adult-use cannabis had been thwarted by its House of Representatives, who announced that the bill would not receive another hearing this legislative session.

Despite gaining bipartisan support in the Senate, last month’s 25-23 vote to move it forward to the Finance Committee laid bare the growing opposition to the bill, and now SB 3335 is effectively dead in the water for this legislative session after House leaders decided the bill was unlikely to survive a vote in the chamber.

Jaclyn Moore, CEO and Co-Founder of Hawaii’s Big Island Grown, told Business of Cannabis: “Hawaii’s medical cannabis market continues to underperform. Stringent regulatory requirements under Hawaii’s State Department of Health, and a thriving unregulated cannabis market [that includes direct-to-consumer sales of intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids] are undermining the medical program here.

“This is why there’s increasing enthusiasm and interest in legalizing adult use in Hawaii. Many community members including policymakers have come to realize that regulating and taxing adult cannabis use is the only effective way to provide safe access, address illicit activity, encourage economic opportunity, and grow tax revenues for the State.” 

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