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Amended Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Moves to House

Posted March 5, 2013, 06:11 PM HST Updated March 11, 2013, 04:29 PM HST
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Big Island Now stock photo. June 2012.

A bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana has been approved by the state Senate and moved to the House.

When it was first introduced, Senate Bill 472 would have made possession of less than an ounce a civil penalty with a fine of up to $100.

However, the bill was amended late last month by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor to raise the fine to $1,000, the maximum allowed for a civil violation.

Under state law, a violation is not technically a crime and does not carry penalty of imprisonment.  A parking violation is another example of that type of infraction.

The vote today was unanimous, although two senators voted in favor of the bill with reservations.

Sen. Russell Ruderman, one of the bill’s 13 co-sponsors, was one of them.

Ruderman said his reservations were based on the increase of the penalty to $1,000, and other changes to the bill.

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He said that was done to give the measure a better chance of survival.

“All of this is in hopes that the House will consider it worthy of discussion,” he said.

Earlier this session the House killed a bill that would have legalized the  possession of up to an ounce.

Ruderman said he hopes that the fine will eventually be whittled down to $250 or less.

Sen. Sam Slom, a Republican from Oahu, cast the other affirmative-with-reservations vote.

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