Hawaii Cannabis Bill Fails, Ending Legalization Hopes for 2023

March 28, 2023 · High Times

Hawaii will have to wait at least another year before marijuana legalization comes to the islands, after a legislative proposal stalled in the state House of Representatives. 

Earlier this month, the Hawaii state Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass the bill, which would legalize adult-use cannabis and establish the regulatory framework for a recreational marijuana market. 

But that bill “was not scheduled for a state House hearing before a key legislative deadline,” according to MJBizDaily, which means that the proposal is likely dead for 2023. 

It is a familiar outcome for marijuana advocates in Hawaii, where Democrats control both chambers of the legislature. The state’s governor, Josh Green, is also a Democrat.

MJBizDaily reported that senior leadership in the state House also “killed off three earlier legalization proposals introduced in that chamber in February when those bills were also not scheduled for hearings.”

Despite its smooth passage in the state Senate, the legalization bill was also bound to encounter obstacles in the state House.

One of the leaders in that chamber, House Speaker Scott Saiki, has “said that he thought it best for the state to wait on approving recreational marijuana use,” according to the outlet Civil Beat, and that he “would rather see a working group analyze the idea over the summer.”

The bill sailed out of a pair of state Senate committees earlier this month, with one of the legislative panels adding a host of amendments to the measure.

According to local news station KHON2, those amendments included: “1. Language was added to establish civil penalties for unlicensed cannabis growth and distribution activities; 2. Language was added that protects employers who seek to prohibit cannabis use amongst their employees; 3. Prohibition of advertising within 1,000 feet of any youth-centered area; 4. Proposed licensing of cultivation, manufacturing, testing and retail facilities that ensure a properly regulated industry while also preventing future consolidation and monopoly control of cannabis dispensaries.”

The bill was approved by the full state Senate by a vote of 22-3.

Green, who was elected as governor last year, has expressed his support for marijuana legalization.

“I think that people already have moved past that culturally as a concern,” Green said during a gubernatorial debate last year. “But here’s what I would do. First of all, if marijuana is legalized, it should be very carefully monitored, and only done like cigarettes, or I’ve been very careful to regulate tobacco over the years. We should take the $30 to $40 million of taxes we would get from that and invest in the development and recreation of our mental healthcare system for the good of all.”

As the bill made its way through the state Senate this month, an adviser for the governor made it clear that the measure would likely receive his signature.

“Governor Green supports legalized use of cannabis by adults, providing that any legislation that emerges protects public safety and consumers, and assures product safety with testing and tracking. The Governor also seeks to ensure the continued viability of our medical cannabis industry. Because these are complicated issues, he has encouraged his departments to state their concerns, and to make suggestions if there are ways to mitigate them. If a bill passes the legislature that accounts for his primary concerns, he has indicated he will likely sign it,” the adviser said at the time.

There is also public backing for legalization to couple with the political support. A poll released earlier this year found that 52% of Hawaiians are in favor of legalization adult-use marijuana, while only 31% are opposed.  (Full Story)

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