A bill to legalize recreational cannabis failed in the
The legislation, Senate Bill 669, was approved by the Hawaii state Senate earlier this month. But after being referred to the House of Representatives for consideration, the measure failed to meet a legislative deadline on Friday, killing the proposal for the remainder of the year.
The bill had been assigned to three House legislative committees for debate in the lower house of the state legislature. Under the chamber’s rules, all bills up for approval in 2023 were required to have been advanced by all but one committee by March 24. The Friday deadline came and passed without action on the bill from any of the three committees, leaving the bill dead for the balance of the year.
State Sen. Joy San Buenaventura, one of four Democratic sponsors of the bill, said recently that the measure is a “phased-in approach” to legalizing cannabis for adults in the Aloha State, according to a report from the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. The bill, which would have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use and established a regulatory framework for legal sales of cannabis, was passed by the Hawaii Senate by a vote of 22-3 on March 7.
“For years, advocates have been working to pass legislation to sensibly legalize cannabis in Hawaii,” DeVaughn Ward, senior legislative counsel at cannabis policy reform nonprofit Marijuana Policy Project and a resident of Hawaii,
The Details of Hawaii’s Failed Cannabis Legalization Bill
Had Senate Bill 669 been passed by the full legislature and signed into law by Gov. Josh Green, the measure would have legalized the possession, transfer and transportation of up to 30 grams (just over one ounce) of cannabis by adults aged 21 and older. The legislation also would have legalized the
The legislation also would have created a Hawaii Cannabis Authority to oversee the regulation of recreational marijuana cultivation, processing and sales and set a 10% on retail sales of adult-use cannabis. The bill requires the state’s existing medical marijuana license holders to submit a plan to preserve access to cannabis for patients before being allowed to convert to a dual license permitting the businesses to sell adult-use cannabis. Buenaventura told her colleagues in the Hawaii Senate that the bill “allows us to cut back on the illicit market by allowing free access for only one ounce for recreational use, and it allows for the dispensing of a safer form of marijuana for those who need to use it for [medical] reasons.”
The failure of the bill to gain committee attention before last week’s deadline is a disappointment to activists who hoped to see progress on legalizing recreational marijuana in the island state following last year’s election of Green, who said in November that he would sign an adult-use cannabis legalization proposal if one made it to his desk.
“It’s disappointing but not surprising that House leadership has failed to consider moving adult-use cannabis legalization forward this year,” Nikos Leverenz of the Drug Policy Forum on Hawaii
“Hopefully those in the House who oppose rational reforms will come forward and disclose why Hawaii residents deserve less than those in other states,” Leverenz added.
Although Senate Bill 669 is dead for this year, the measure can be revived in 2024, giving the proposal another chance for passage during the current legislative session.
“MPP and other advocates will be counting on House leadership and committee chairs to keep their word and work on the bill in the off-session,” said Ward. “We’re hopeful 2024 will be the year Hawaii legalizes.”