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Hawaii Poll Indicates Increasing Support For Legal Marijuana

Posted January 10, 2013, 03:58 PM HST Updated January 10, 2013, 09:51 PM HST
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Rep. Joe Souki has suggested allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii. Public domain image.

A survey of Hawaii voters shows increasing support for legal use of marijuana.

And according to a study by a University of Hawaii economist, the decriminalization of marijuana could save the state more than $9 million a year in law enforcement costs and provide an estimated $11 million annually in tax revenues.

The results of both studies were presented today by the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii at a press conference in Honolulu.

More than half of those polled said they favored the legalization and taxation of marijuana, said Barbara Ankersmit, president of Qmark Research, which conducted the telephone survey of more than 600 Hawaii voters.

The survey was conducted between Nov. 19 and Dec. 4.

It said that 57% supported the legalization of marijuana. That was 20% higher than in a poll taken in 2005.

Ankersmit said 69% of the respondents think that jail time for marijuana offenses is inappropriate, and that 78% support a dispensary system for medical marijuana.

The poll was commissioned by the Drug Policy Action Group.

The other research involved an update by UH economist David Nixon of a 2005 study on the state of marijuana law enforcement in Hawaii.

His study found that arrests for possession of marijuana have increased almost 50% since 2004, and arrests for its distribution have nearly doubled.

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According to Nixon’s research, males under the age of 25 and native Hawaiians are more likely to be involved in marijuana arrests.

The research shows that Hawaii voters are open to reconsidering marijuana laws, Pam Lichty, president of the Drug Policy Action Group, said at the press conference.

“The data in both of these reports will help our communities craft more effective, less costly approaches for the future,” Lichty said. “The Drug Policy Action Group, the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii and our allies will advocate for the policy reforms that people in Hawaii want.”

Vanessa Chong, executive director of the ACLU of Hawaii, said that arrests for marijuana possession are one of the most common ways that individuals get caught up in the criminal justice system.

That comes at a great social and economic cost, she said.

“These studies provide important, updated facts for the Hawaii community as we consider new directions,” Chong said.

Nixon’s study noted that the recent legalization of recreational use of marijuana by voters in Washington and Colorado “make the legalization and regulation in Hawaii more than just the theoretical possibility they seemed just a few years ago.”

The Drug Policy Action Group was founded in 2004 to advocate for effective, non-punitive drug policies that minimize economic, social and human costs.

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