Senate bill on legalizing adult-use cannabis moves forward

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Senate Bill 3335 Draft 1 cleared its first hurdle after the Health and Human Services and Judiciary joint committee passed the measure with amendments following a public hearing.

Lawmakers listened to testimony Tuesday from a variety of groups ranging from state agencies, marijuana dispensaries to cannabis users. Those in opposition raised concerns ranging from normalizing marijuana use for keiki to increased dangers of impaired driving.

Those supportive of the measure testified the tax sales from marijuana would be substantial to the state. Decriminalizing cannabis would allow people full access without requiring a medical license and alleviate the justice system.

The five-member committee voted unanimously to move the measure forward with Vice Chair Henry Aquino and Sen. Maile Shimabukuro voting with reservations.

The Judiciary committee passed the measure by a 3-1 vote with Sen. Brandon Elefante voting no. Vice Chair Mike Gabbard was excused.

If passed into law, the measure would establish the Hawaiʻi Cannabis Authority and Cannabis Control Board within the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to regulate all aspects of the cannabis plant.


“The responsible thing to do to protect the community and kids is to regulate and double down,” said Big Island Grown CEO Jaclyn Moore.

The legislation would also establish taxes for adult-use cannabis sales.

If passed, the measure would become law beginning Jan. 1, 2026.

“At its core, this measure seeks to regulate Hawai‘i’s cannabis industry, establish safeguards for the community, and establish a new tax on adult-use sales of cannabis to generate revenue for the state,” Moore stated in written testimony. “As we know, cannabis use has been prevalent in Hawai‘i for decades but it has been dominated by unregulated/illicit sales. For too long, this issue has been ignored.”

The bill appropriates $38 million to set up the program and advisory board. Several people supportive of the measure advised reducing that cost. 


Michael Medeiros, of Hilo, testified in person and provided written testimony supporting the bill.

“Cannabis has had such a positive impact on my life,” he said. “It helped me when I did not want to rely on opiates for pain relief and still to this day helps me cope with regular pain. I firmly believe that every adult deserves the right to decide whether they can use cannabis without fear of judgment or imprisonment.”

Despite the strong regulatory requirements proposed by SB335 SD1, the Department of Health remains highly concerned about the public health and environmental impacts that increased accessibility of cannabis and opening of an adult-use marketplace will bring.

“Legalizing adult use of cannabis should be expected to have a negative impact on the health of the public,” the Department of Health stated in written testimony. “Whereas cannabis can provide a medical benefit for certain medical conditions, patients can access this through the medical cannabis program. Recreational use is therefore not a program to provide medical benefit and would only add harm.”

The Office of the Public Defender provided testimony in support of the measure saying the marijuana market already exists.


“The decriminalization and regulation of cannabis is far overdue,” public defender’s office stated in written testimony. “People use cannabis. Decades of rigorous prosecution, imprisonment, and forfeiture have not changed this simple fact.

“Police and prosecutors have aggressively gone after the cannabis users. Intrusive and extraordinary tactics have ranged from military-style operations involving helicopters patrolling the air above us to intrusive body cavity searches. Once in court, prosecutors have faithfully pursued them resulting in permanent criminal convictions, imprisonment and supervision, and asset forfeiture.”

While there was a lot of support for the measure from individuals, businesses and state agencies alike, there was also quite a bit of opposition.

Testifier Cal Chanel approached the committee saying he was speaking on behalf of his grandchildren.

“This is not going to be good for them. Already we can’t control illegal fireworks. We legalize this and market this, we’re opening a can of worms,” Chanel said, adding families will be destroyed.

“That’s a guarantee. It’s already happening. We cannot let this pass,” Chanel said.

One testifier said marijuana is not part of the Hawaiian culture. It’s an invasive species.

Another testifier stated: “No one wants to live in a state full of potheads and drug dealers.”

Hawai‘i Island police submitted written testimony citing statics from states where recreational marijuana is legal and its impact on traffic crashes and fatalities.

In Chief Ben Moszkowicz’s written testimony he cites traffic fatalities in Colorado increased more than 51% since 2013, noting the rise in statewide traffic fatalities coincided with a rise in instances of traffic fatalities where the drivers tested positive for THC.

“The legalization of marijuana for adult personal use is not in the best interest of our state,” stated Hawai‘i Island Police Chief Ben Moszkowicz. “The passage of this bill will negatively affect many aspects of our society.

“It will create an undue burden on our law enforcement and first responder agencies as there will surely be increases in drug overdoses, emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and impaired driving on our roadways which will result in serious traffic-related injuries including fatalities.”

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a full-time reporter for Pacific Media Group. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.

Tiffany can be reached at [email protected].
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