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OPINION: Marijuana – Legalization Revisited

November 20, 2012, 3:05 PM HST
* Updated November 20, 8:21 PM
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It’s a great time to be a stoner.

No matter how you feel about marijuana in general, recent events make it difficult to sugarcoat the above statement (although some of the people involved may appreciate that.)

In a victory for snack-loving cannabis users everywhere, the union representing Hostess employees agreed yesterday to bargaining talks that may end up saving the venerable Twinkie from extinction. Update: talks appear to have since broken down, but analysts expect the Twinkie brand and formula will survive under different ownership.

In other news, voters in Colorado and Washington approved ballot measures on Nov. 6th legalizing recreational pot usage.

The measures in both states make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana legal for persons over the age of 21. Under the ballot initiatives, both Washington and Colorado would set up commercial sales via state-licensed dispensaries. Both states would prohibit public use, and prohibit driving under the influence of the substance.

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Mind you, it will be a couple of weeks before these measures become official law, and the rules and regulations for commercial sales of pot have yet to be written.

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It’s unclear how the Obama administration will respond to legalization of pot in Washington and Colorado. File photo courtesy of the White House.

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These measures are of course flagrant violations of federal law, and it remains to be seen what the Obama administration will do about this. Leading up to the 2012 presidential election, Obama appeared to be cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries; though it’s unclear how much of that was political posturing meant to appease social conservatives.

With the election now over, and Republicans still left scratching their heads over the thrashing they received, President Obama is in a position to be perfectly candid about cannabis. What he does about Washington and Colorado (or perhaps more importantly, what he doesn’t do) will have a huge impact on how other states treat marijuana usage in the future.

But before the president gives the final word on weed, states like Hawaii have a window of opportunity to piggyback off of Colorado and Washington’s momentum.

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Whether by introducing looser regulations on medical marijuana usage at the state Legislature, or attempting a full-scale commercial legalization, state lawmakers should use this moment to clear the air over Hawaii’s confusing stance on marijuana.

Hawaii’s combination of Medicinal Pot use and eradication efforts is controversial. Image from California State University.

The Aloha State currently employs an awkward policy that allows medical marijuana usage, while simultaneously cracking down on growers and sellers of the substance.

Clogging our law enforcement system with eradication efforts is a drag on our state budget, where thoughtful regulation of cannabis could be a boon to tax revenue. As for our tourism industry, having one more enticement to visit our shores could lead to higher and higher hotel occupancy rates.

Washington and Colorado provide the perfect opportunity for us to revisit the issue of pot. With a former hippie in the governor’s mansion, and election season at an end, the time is ripe for an inspired conversation over the subject.

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