(BIVN) – A bill that decriminalizes the possession of cannabis and which establishes a marijuana evaluation task force passed the Hawaiʻi State Legislature.
Both the House and the Senate agreed to House Bill 1383 in conference committee, and passed the bill on final reading on April 30.
According to its description, the bill:
Provides for the expungement of criminal records pertaining solely to the possession of three grams or less of marijuana. Decriminalizes the possession of three grams or less of marijuana and establishes that the possession is a violation punishable by a monetary fine of $130. Establishes a marijuana evaluation task force to make recommendations on changing marijuana use penalties and outcomes in the State. (HB1383 CD1)
State Representatives continued to debate the bill, even on final reading.
“This reflects a major change in the fabric of Hawaiʻi,” argued Representative Sharon Har in a lengthy floor speech opposed to the new law. “I think we have to remind members that marijuana is still illegal under federal law.”
“Federal law trumps state law,” Rep. Har stated. “So, while many people continue to ignore that fact, it is still the fact of the matter.”
“3 grams is 2 and a half joints,” said Puna’s State Rep. Joy San Buenaventura in support of the bill. “It is a small step towards relieving our HPD from having to bust concert goers, and having to bust parties, for these minor possessions.”
“Just about every argument made today in favor of keeping marijuana illegal could also be applied for prohibiting alcohol,” said Hilo’s State Rep. Chris Todd in support of the bill. “I think the question isn’t whether marijuana use is bad; its whether prohibition is worse. I think most of the evidence suggests that that is the case, at least on an aggregate level.”
In the end, the bill passed the House with 16 no votes.
Governor David Ige did not say whether or not he will veto the bill as he spoke cautiously with news reporters a few days later.
“I’ll be looking at that,” Gov. Ige said. “I am concerned, and as I’ve talked with governors from other states who have gone through recreational, you know, people assume that once it becomes recreational or decriminalized that it’s legal. And it’s not legal by federal law. And I think that that becomes the confusion, and that’s always been my concern.
“I’ll be looking at the bill and trying to make an assessment of what it means and then deciding,” the Governor said.