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Pot Decriminalization Falters Again, This Time in Senate

March 3, 2014, 5:29 PM HST (Updated March 3, 2014, 5:30 PM)
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A bill that would have made possession of an ounce of marijuana or less a civil rather than criminal offense is dead for the session.

Senate Bill 2358, which made it through the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, would have made first-time offenders subject to a $100 fine.

State law now treats possession of less than an ounce of marijuana as a petty misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to 30 days.

But the bill was not scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor chaired by Sen. Clayton Hee.

Thursday is cross-over day in the state Legislature, which means that a bill is finished unless it is approved by its original body by the end of the day.

Marijuana decriminalization appears to be losing ground in Hawaii.

A similar bill introduced in the Senate last year was approved by that body and sent over to the House where it passed two of three required readings before being bottled up in the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. Karl Rhoads.

Bills that would have legalized small amounts of marijuana for recreational use have been introduced in both the House and Senate over the past two years but have failed to gain a single committee hearing.

Only two bills dealing with marijuana are still alive this session, and both involve its medical use.

One, Senate Bill 2574, would expand the list of doctors who could prescribe marijuana by adding board-certified pain specialists, oncologists, ophthalmologists and palliative-care physicians.

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Previous changes to the medical marijuana law going into effect next year would have limited the prescribing of marijuana to a patient’s primary-care physician.

The other, House Bill 1503, would not allow landlords to evict tenants for smoking medical marijuana unless the rental agreement also prohibits smoking tobacco or if community or condominium association rules specifically ban the medical use of marijuana.

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