Hawaii: Lawmakers push to legalize marijuana for personal use

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Outside medical cannabis use, more than a half dozen marijuana-related bills, including a measure to legalize its recreational use, have been introduced this legislative session.

Not one had secured a hearing before an assigned committee as of press-time Thursday. Feb. 19 is the deadline for all bills referred to more than one committee to move to their final committee. Bills referred to three committees must reach their second committee by Feb. 11.



House Bill 7 would legalize the personal use, possession, and sale of marijuana in a specified quantity for those 21 and older, establish a means for licensing marijuana establishments, and subject marijuana sales to excise and income taxes.

Among its introducers were by Big Island Reps. Jeanne Kapela (D-South Kona, Ka‘u), Nicole Lowen (D-North Kona), Mark Nakashima (D-Hamakua, Hilo) and Richard Onishi (D-Hilo). It has been referred to three committees, but had yet to secure a hearing as of press-time Thursday.

The bill points to other states legalizing marijuana, as well as Hawaii’s enactment of Act 273, which decriminalized the possession of marijuana in the amount of three grams or less.

It also notes tax revenues from other states that have legalized recreational use, including Colorado, which has collected $1.41 billion in revenues since 2014. A new source of funding will also be critical in helping the state in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that decimated the state’s economy with an estimated $2.3 billion budget shortfall.

“A new source of revenue is necessary to allow the State to meet its strategic goals, including the provision of quality early learning and preschool programs for Hawaii’s children. The legislature further finds that marijuana cultivation and sales hold potential for economic development, increased tax revenues, and reduction in crime,” House Bill 7 reads.

House Bill 238 also seeks to authorize persons 21 years of age or older to possess or use limited amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes and establish a means for licensing marijuana establishments. It differs in that it would allocate an unspecified percentage of general excise tax revenues derived from retail sales transactions to the counties and would be subject to state income taxes.

Big Island Reps. Jeanne Kapela (D-South Kona, Ka‘u), David Tarnas (D-North Kona/South and North Kohala) and Chris Todd (D-Hilo) were among its introducers.

Senate Bill 47 would decriminalize possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana or one-eighth ounce of marijuana concentrate outside of a personal residence and up to 10 ounces of marijuana or 1 ounce of marijuana concentrate inside a personal residence. It would also remove the penalty for transferring up to 1 ounce of marijuana or 5 grams of marijuana concentrate to individuals 21 and older.

Senate Bill 704 would legalizes the personal use, possession, and sale of marijuana in a specified quantity and would requires licensing to operate marijuana establishments. It also subjects marijuana establishments to state general excise taxes and income taxes.

Senate Bill 705 would remove marijuana as a Schedule I of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act and reclassifies it as a Schedule V drug. It would also increase the amount that qualifies as a violation of third-degree promoting a detrimental drug.



Senate Bill 758 would increase from 3 grams to 1 ounce the minimum amount of marijuana that a defendant must possess to be charged with a petty misdemeanor; and the maximum amount of marijuana that a defendant convicted of possessing marijuana could have possessed without being disqualified from the subsequent expungement of the record of that conviction.

Senate Bill 1010 would extend the time for the marijuana evaluation task force to submit its report to the Legislature and would also requires the task force to examine potential economic benefits of decriminalizing marijuana use. Big Island Sen. Dru Kanuha (D-Kona, Ka‘u) was among the bill’s co-introducers.

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