Hawaii is the first state to file and debate legislation that would legalize recreational marijuana since voters passed legalization ballot measures in Colorado and Washington state this past fall.
The bill HB 699, Personal Use of Marijuana; Licenses to Cultivate, Manufacture, Test, or Sell Marijuana, was introduced on January 24th of this year and is modeled after the measures passed in Colorado and Washington.
HB 699 allows adults over 21 to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, to grow up to five plants per adult, and it establishes a regulatory system for cultivating, selling, and taxing cannabis. In short, it will treat marijuana like alcohol.
The Judiciary Committee of the Hawaii State House is set to vote on the bill on February 12th sending in to a full vote in the House. If passed, it will be the first time a state legislature instead of voters defies federal prohibition laws.
However, the feds have indicated that they intend to respect the states that have already legalized. When Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee told US Attorney General Eric Holder of his intention to implement Initiative 502, he was “satisfied” and “encouraged” by the meeting.
Holder’s biggest concern is how legal weed states would prevent legally-obtained marijuana from crossing state lines. This concern would seem to be moot for the island state of Hawaii where transporting marijuana to another state is simply not feasible or practical.
Therefore, it would seem that Hawaii has an upper hand when it comes to dispelling the Department of Justice’s biggest concern of maintaining legal pot within the state.
A recent survey showed that a majority of Hawaiian citizens support legalizing and regulating marijuana. The poll showed 57 percent in favor of legalization, 69 percent want no criminal punishment, while a staggering 78 percent want a dispensary system for medical marijuana.
A study conducted by the University of Hawaii was released at the same time as the poll showing that Hawaii stands to benefit by an estimated $20 million per year should marijuana be legalized.
The report states,
By decriminalizing marijuana, Hawaii could redirect over $9 million annually in law enforcement costs,” and “By legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana, Hawaii could conservatively add an additional estimated $11 million in yearly revenues.
With the tide turning on public opinion, undeniable economic benefits, and federal concerns pacified, Hawaii may indeed become the next state to legalize marijuana.
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