Hawaii House Speaker Joseph Souki (D-8) last Friday introduced a bill to legalize the possession of marijuana by adults and create a system of taxed and regulated legal marijuana commerce. The measure, House Bill 150, would allow people 21 and over to possess up to an ounce and grow an as yet unspecified number of plants in a secure location.
"Regulating and taxing marijuana similarly to alcohol takes marijuana sales out of the hands of criminals and puts them behind the counter in legitimate businesses that will generate significant new revenue for Hawaii," said Mason Tvert, director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project, which is working on passage of the bill. "Law enforcement resources should be focused on preventing and responding to serious crimes rather than enforcing antiquated marijuana prohibition laws."
In addition to allowing adult possession and cultivation, the bill would also authorize the state to license marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities. Public pot smoking, driving under the influence, and use by individuals under the age of 21 would remain illegal.
The bill introduction comes on the heels of the release earlier this month of a QMark Research Poll that showed support for legalization at 57%. That poll was sponsored by the Drug Policy Action Group, a sister group of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, and the ACLU of Hawaii, suggesting that local as well as national reform groups are pushing the bill.
In the wake of the legalization victories in Colorado and Washington last November, at least a half dozen states are expected to entertain legalization bills. Hawaii is first out the gate; the others are Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.