Hawaii’s state Legislature isn’t taking any brazen steps towards a reasonable drug policy this session, but they’ve got the baby steps down. While bills for the legalization of cannabis were shot down despite overwhelming public support, bills for the decriminalization of cannabis possession and the improvement of the state’s medical marijuana program are still moving along.
On Mar. 5, the state Senate unanimously approved SB472 SD2, a bill that would decriminalize marijuana possession up to an ounce, making it a civil violation carrying a fine up to $1,000—a sizable cost to make any college student holding a gram sack sweat, but still less damaging than possession’s current classification as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail AND a $1,000 fine.
“Amending state law to make these offenses a fine-only, non-criminal infraction will significantly reduce state prosecutorial costs and allow law enforcement resources to be refocused on other, more serious criminal offenses,” the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws (NORML) stated in testimony regarding the bill. “Decriminalization would spare thousands of minor marijuana offenders from criminal arrest, prosecution, and incarceration, as well as the emotional and financial hardships that follow–including the loss of certain jobs, students loans, federal and state subsidies, and child custody rights… decriminalization would spare offenders from being saddled with lifelong criminal records.”
As SB472 SD2 moves from the Senate to the state House of Representatives for approval, House Bills 667 HD2 and 668 HD2 are being passed upon the left hand side for the senate. These bills deal with the state’s medical marijuana program. Both seek to transfer control of the state’s medical program from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health, but HB667 HD2 contains added amendments to the program including provisions of confidentiality, physician requirements, caregiver to patient ratio, plant transfer, qualifying visitors and registration requirements.
Most interesting is the state’s elegant verbal jiu jitsu in working around a contradictory policy that insists marijuana is a Schedule I drug (high potential for abuse and no legitimate medicinal usage) but authorizes its transfer: “’Reimbursement’ means consideration provided to a primary caregiver as compensation for costs associated with assisting qualifying patients who are registered under section 329-123 to obtain marijuana for medical use; provided that ‘reimbursement’ shall not include the sale of controlled substances.” Imagine the poor guy who has to explain to a cop that it wasn’t a drug deal, it was reimbursement for assistance.
Also interesting is the provision that allows visitors from states with medical marijuana policies to participate in Hawaii’s program for 30 days after entering the state, so long as they possess valid registry identification and register with our medical marijuana program if they intend on staying for 31 days or more. Prepare for a boon, tourist industry.
These developments come after a recent study showing that 81 percent of state residents support the medical program and 58 percent think possession of small amounts of cannabis by adults should not carry a criminal penalty.
For more information on the status of these bills and their full text, visit Capitol.hawaii.gov.