Souki Introduces Bill Legalizing Recreational Use of Marijuana
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by Dave Smith
The newly designated speaker of the state House of Representatives today introduced a bill that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
House Bill 150 introduced by Rep. Joe Souki of Maui would legalize the use and possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by persons 21 or older, and allow for personal cultivation of the plant. It would also provide for the establishment of marijuana dispensaries licensed by the state.
Public use of marijuana would be prohibited under the bill as would be driving under its influence.
The bill dubbed “the Personal Use of Marijuana Act” would allow for the growing of a limited number of marijuana plants “in an enclosed, locked space,” provided that the marijuana is not made available for sale.
However, the bill would allow for the “transfer” of one ounce or less of marijuana to another person at least 21 years old as long as it is “without remuneration.”
The section of the bill establishing the number of marijuana plants that could be grown and the number of flowering plants has been left blank, suggesting that a number would be inserted at a later time.
Under the bill, the state Department of Public Safety would adopt rules containing procedures for the licensing and operation of marijuana dispensaries, labeling standards for their products, and “health and safety standards for the manufacture of marijuana products and the cultivation of marijuana.”
The department’s Narcotics Enforcement Division is already charged with enforcing laws relating to the use of medical marijuana as well as controlled substances, including prescription drugs.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii applauded the move, which it said was the first of several bills legalizing or decriminalizing the use of marijuana it expects to see introduced during this year’s legislative session.
“Regulating and taxing marijuana similarly to alcohol takes marijuana sales out of the hands of criminals and puts them behind the counter in legitimate businesses that will generate significant new revenue for Hawaii,” Mason Tvert, director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement issued by the ACLU.
“Law enforcement resources should be focused on preventing and responding to serious crimes rather than enforcing antiquated marijuana prohibition laws,” he said.
The bill appears patterned after laws passed in November by voters in Washington and Colorado, where rules establishing dispensaries are still being ironed out.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, although the US Department of Justice has yet to weigh in on the situation in those states.
The ACLU of Hawaii said that legalization measures are expected to be introduced this year in other states including Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
The organization last week released the results of a poll that found 57% of Hawaii voters surveyed supported the legalization of marijuana.
According to ProCon.org, Hawaii is one of 18 states (and the District of Columbia) which have legalized the medical use of marijuana, with similar legislation pending in six more states.
Medical marijuana patients in Hawaii are allowed to possess up to seven marijuana plants and up to three ounces of dried marijuana. However, there are no provisions in the law for patients to legally acquire marijuana or its seeds, although patients are allowed to designate a “caregiver” to cultivate the marijuana for them.
When Hawaii legalized medical marijuana in 2000 it was the first state to do so through legislation, as opposed to a ballot measure. Since then, six state legislatures have followed suit.