Judiciary Committee Votes to Decriminalize Adult Use of Cannabis

February 27, 2019, 2:40 PM HST (Updated February 28, 2019, 8:46 AM)
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Hawai‘i’s House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee voted to approve, HB1383, a progressive, thoughtful bill that decriminalizes adult use cannabis on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. Next, the full House will vote on the bill, something only the Hawai‘i Senate has previously done (25-0 in 2013, including then Sen. David Ige). If enacted, Hawai‘i would become the 24th state to decriminalize or legalize cannabis, joined by Washington DC and the Northern Marianas.

According to a release from the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai‘i (DPFH), in the years since the last Senate vote, thousands of adult and juvenile Hawai‘i residents have been arrested for cannabis offenses and suffered from the numerous collateral consequences of such an arrest or a related petty misdemeanor conviction. The expungement provisions of this bill would help these individuals clear their records. Finally, the bill mandates the convening of an evaluation group or task force to study the future of cannabis in Hawai‘i. DPFH intends to be an active participant in the public dialogue over cannabis policy and serve on this task force.

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“This is a positive step forward for cannabis reform and drug policy reform in Hawai‘i,” said DPFH Board President Nikos Leverenz. “Over 1,000 cannabis possession arrests year after year in Hawai‘i serves no one. Cannabis use does not present the levels of injury, illness, and death that come with alcohol use and tobacco use. As we move forward together, repairing the harms produced by eight decades of criminalization should be grounded in the humble aspiration to do better for everyone in our communities.”

Carl Bergquist, executive director of DPFH, added: “We are grateful to the committee members and Chair Chris Lee for deliberating, conferring with stakeholders and passing this essential bill. Given how overdue this is, we sincerely appreciate the bill’s social justice focus on expunging records of those previously criminalized for cannabis offenses. It is essential that a future cannabis industry is not one where the only people who cannot profit are the ones who suffered from the criminalization of cannabis in the first place. We look forward to participating in the evaluation group about the future of cannabis in Hawai‘i, as we did on the HCR48 Task Force to set up the medical cannabis dispensaries. Given the incredible amounts of misinformation and confusion that has enveloped the state since the Senate Judiciary Committee approved an adult use cannabis legalization bill on Feb. 7, the imperative for an informed, honest discussion across all four counties is crystal clear.”

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