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Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Advances in Hawaii

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #670)
Drug War Issues

A bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults passed out of two state Senate committees Friday. The bill, SB 1460, must now pass one more committee vote before heading to the Senate floor.

Will the Aloha State be the next decrim state? (Image via Wikimedia)
The bill, as amended, makes possession of up to an ounce a civil violation punishable by a fine of up to $100. It also removes marijuana possession as a reason courts may require parolees and probationers to submit to drug treatment, and it clarifies that possession of less than an ounce in itself is not the basis for a possession with intent to distribute charge and that a being fined for possession does not constitute a prior offense for sentencing purposes.

Possession of less than an ounce of pot is currently a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. It also leaves a permanent criminal record.

Marijuana law reform advocates said that pot smokers should not be jailed and clogging up the courts for a nonviolent offense.

"Given how common, how normalized marijuana use is in this country, this is counterproductive," said Pam Lichty, president of the Drug Policy Action Group. "Saddling young people particularly with criminal penalties affects their entire life."

But law enforcement predictably enough stood up to speak against the bill. It would send the wrong message, went the cops' all-too-familiar lament.

"We shouldn't be telling our youth that it's OK to smoke or to deal one ounce of marijuana, period," said Keith Kamita, chief of the narcotics enforcement division for the Hawaii Department of Public Safety.

The measure passed out of the Senate Health and Judiciary and Labor committees in a joint vote Friday and now goes before the Senate Ways and Means Committee. A similar bill in the House, HB 544, is before the House Judiciary Committee. No hearing date has yet been set.

Small-time pot possession has been decriminalized in 14 states, the most recent being California, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Most of the other decrim states acted in the 1970s.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Tirau (not verified)

Whatever happened to that old, "We don't make the laws, we just enforce them" line from the police? Yeah, that seems to be total BS.

Tue, 02/08/2011 - 1:14am Permalink
Arnold (not verified)

Are you f-ing kidding me? They want to continue to demonize weed, to "protect the children" and keep them on their "right" path while everyone glorifies the beer and liquor adds that are all over the TV. Yeah, how many kids drink themselves to death at their first college party, or 21st birthday? Kids you can drink all you want when you are 21, but smoking isn't ok. Why isn't this argument used more?

Tue, 02/08/2011 - 3:04am Permalink
rebelfigher (not verified)

So the police say it sends the wrong message to kid. But sending the message that alcohol is alright isn't the wrong message. Its all hypocrisy to the max. Epically when alcohol and tobacco our the number one and number two killer in America.

Tue, 02/08/2011 - 3:56am Permalink
Anonymous345 (not verified)

We don't actually want to do our jobs. That would be too risky. We prefer just to screw over harmless drug users of a harmless substance. 

God the last lingering thread of respect I have for police is all because of LEAP.

Tue, 02/08/2011 - 9:57am Permalink


Marijuana is the safest drug with actual benefits for the user as opposed to alcohol which is dangerous, causes addiction, birth defects, and affects literally every organ in the body.  Groups are organizing all over the country to speak their minds on reforming pot laws.  I drew up a very cool poster for the cause which you can check out on my artist’s blog at  Drop in and let me know what you think!

Fri, 02/11/2011 - 8:34pm Permalink
Maui Guy (not verified)

The truth is the Police Dept. use marijuana as a means to lock up the young adults and other young Hawaiians, a sort of Ethnic cleansing of Hawaiians and other "undesirables".... Time to legalize! Meanwhile the whole Island of Maui talks about "Cop Rocks" "cops selling Ice" and "buying weed from this cop", it seems that not only are the Police anti-marijuana, but a larger proportion of them are also in the illicit "Ice" or "Batu" dealing business along with the buds they confiscate from other unfortunate smokers......
In other words: Many Hawaii Police are Corrupt!!

Sat, 02/19/2011 - 2:11pm Permalink

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