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Hawaii Attorney General Grudgingly Offers Draft Marijuana Legalization Bill [FEATURE]

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1202)

Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez last Friday sent a 315-page draft marijuana legalization bill to legislative leaders, along with a 38-page report detailing her office's concerns with what it sees as an undesirable but unstoppable move. The draft bill signals Lopez' grudging acceptance that legalization is coming and her effort to make sure it does not inflict what she sees as potential damage to health and public safety.

Is legal weed about to come to the Aloha State?
The Senate last year approved a marijuana legalization bill with only three dissenting votes, although it failed to advance in the House. The state already has a small medical marijuana industry, with eight dispensaries operating on four islands.

"The Department of the Attorney General (Department) has provided a formal report to key legislators emphasizing the department's legal concerns and the significant risks to public safety and public health that could arise if the legislature legalized adult-use cannabis," her office announced. "Also included was draft legislation intended to minimize these risks and promote the public welfare to the greatest extent possible, should the legislature choose to legalize cannabis.

"Despite the substantial work put into the final draft bill, the department does not support the passage of the legalization of adult-use cannabis," the report continued. "But the department will not oppose the passage of a bill and will remain neutral on the question of its passage, so long as the bill contains the key elements identified in this section and does not include provisions antithetical to these elements, as it may be amended through the legislative process."

"The Department of the Attorney General does not support the legalization of adult-use cannabis," reiterated Attorney General Lopez. "We acknowledge that with changing public perception in recent years, the odds that the legislature may pass legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis have increased substantially. Given that the legislature could theoretically pass a bill as early as this year, it is my department's duty to warn the legislature of the risks, while simultaneously providing a framework that includes robust public-safety and public-health safeguards."

"The draft bill is not 'the Department of the Attorney General's cannabis bill," Lopez continued. "The draft bill was prepared to give the legislature a legislative option to consider -- a draft with public safety and public health protections embedded into its structure. Should the legislature decide to legalize adult use cannabis, the draft bill represents our best judgment about how to promote a legal market, minimize risks of societal harm, mitigate damage that does come to pass, avoid liability, and provide workable tools and substantial resources for law enforcement and public-health officials to promote the public welfare."

The bill envisions a taxed and regulated commercial market, as well as allowing for the home cultivation of up to six plants -- 10 plants for medical marijuana patients.

The attorney general's draft bill is arranged along six pillars:

  1. The enacting of the Hawai'i Cannabis Law, which is a legal safe harbor from state criminal prosecution concerning activities relating to cannabis for those who strictly comply with its provisions;
  2. The creation of an independent body -- the Hawai'i Cannabis Authority -- with the power to regulate all aspects of the cannabis plant (whether medical cannabis, adult-use cannabis, or hemp) in accordance with the Hawai?i Cannabis Law;
  3. The continuing role of law enforcement agencies in addressing illegal cannabis operations not acting in accordance with the Hawai?i Cannabis Law, which pose threats to public order, public health, and those business operators who choose to operate in the legal market;
  4. A vibrant, well-funded social equity program to be implemented by the Authority with the intent to bring greater economic opportunity to disadvantaged regions of our state and to help transition formerly illicit operators into the legal market;
  5. A delayed effective date of 18 months for the legalization of adult-use cannabis and the first legal retail sales to allow the Authority, law enforcement, licensees, and the public to prepare; and
  6. The implementation of extensive, well-funded public health protections, including public education campaigns about the new laws and the continuing risks to public health -- especially to children -- posed by cannabis, and financial assistance for public health services such as addiction and substance abuse treatment. The report further provides guidance to the Legislature regarding amendments that would be considered unacceptable to the department.

Now, the legislature can take this draft and work its magic with it.

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.

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