A Modest Proposal…
A committee in the Hawaii senate kept its promise and made cannabis legislation a priority the first session of 2019.
SB 686 outlines the framework for adult use cannabis in Hawaii. In a unanimous decision, the legislature supported the measure, sending it to the congress for consideration. If it reaches Governor Ige, it still faces an uncertain fate.
The second term governor is not an advocate of cannabis in general, receiving a B rating from NORML. Last year, he vetoed a bill that would make medical cannabis available to people suffering from opioid disorders.
If signed into law, legal cannabis would be enacted by July 1st. Rules could be establish the July 1st, 2020. And sale of flower could be available as early as February 2021.
The measure makes the sale of cannabis available through a dispensary to any adult over 21.
Possession, use and transportation of small amounts would be decriminalized, but having more would be unaffected by the measure.
Storing more than half an ounce in public or private would be unaffected by the measure. Amounts over the restricted amount would still under the jurisdiction of federal law.
It would be permitted for any adult to grow up to six plants simultaneously. Only three could be flowering at a time. Cultivating plants in plain sight is restricted.
Legal Access through a Senate Bill
Most states that have adult access to cannabis through a ballot initiative. If this measure becomes law, then it would follow the same legislative route of the medical program. The state has endured a lethargic growth of the medical cannabis program.
Hawaii was the first state to pass a medical cannabis program through the legislature in 2000. The dispensary program did not become law until 2015, and the first sale of legal cannabis happened in 2017.
The medical program has allowed 8 dispensaries across the state. The list of qualifying conditions is fairly restricted when compared with other states.
Despite the reputation of Hawaii, the appetite to end prohibition is not as veracious as one would think.
Opposition to the Bill
In the public testimony, many local municipalities opposed the measure.
The Department of Transportation submitted concerns about public safety. They cited increased traffic accidents with THC in the systems of drivers following legalization in other states.
The Police department mentioned the proposed possession and cultivation regulations are not reasonable. The Attorney General testified to the conflict of the measure with federal law as it’s major concern.
Finally, the Republic Party of Hawaii strongly opposes the bill citing the usual “Just Say No” talking points.
Language Change Favors Dispensaries
In the first meeting regarding legalized cannabis, the measure changed fairly drastically.
In its original form, SB 686 allowed for possession and sale of up to one ounce of personally grown cannabis. Now, there is no sale of personal supply.
The measure now seems to follow the route of restricting supply to concentrate tax revenue.
Local residents who supported the measure in its original form are concerned about the drastic changes.
“The rules shall not require such a high investment of risk, money, time, or any other resources or asset that the operation of a marijuana establishment is not worthy of being carried out in practice by a reasonably prudent business person.”
Originally seen as a measure to uplift the local communities, residents are beginning to perceive the measure as a diluted. Some are losing faith that this one is the right one.
The possibility for adult use access to cannabis is closer than it has ever been.
The path in the Democratically controlled legislature is uncertain, and likely to change more as it progresses through the congress.
Local residents following the measure have mixed feelings about whether or not to support.