DUDE! SPEAKER JOE WANTS WANTS TO LEGALIZE IT!
The big takeaway from new/old state House Speaker Joe Souki’s prepared remarks upon taking office on Jan. 16 was that the state needed to “enhance our revenue stream.”
“We must put together a mix of strategies that will generate more state revenues–equitably,” he said. While he spent most of his speech talking about tax credits and personal tax rates, it’s now clear he had other, somewhat more radical, notions in mind.
That’s right kids: Speaker Joe wants to legalize marijuana.
In November 2012, voters in Washington and Colorado passed ballot measures doing exactly that. Could Hawaii be the third state to authorize legal cannabis use? It will if Souki has his way.
On Jan. 17, one of Souki’s first acts in the new Legislature was to introduce HB 150, which would legalize marijuana in the state of Hawaii (and, at the very least, make a mockery of the DEA’s Operation Green Harvest).
The bill “Authorizes persons 21 years of age or older to consume or possess limited amounts of marijuana for personal use,” says the state Legislature’s website. “[It] provides for the licensing of marijuana cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, safety testing facilities, and retail stores. [It] requires the counties to provide for licensing of marijuana facilities if the State fails to do so. [It] authorizes the counties to regulate or prohibit marijuana facilities within their boundaries.”
I think it goes without saying this bill will be at least slightly controversial (though as I write this, Representative Scott Saiki, D-McCully, has already attached his name to the bill). Citing a recent QMark Research Poll that showed 57 percent of Hawaii residents wanted marijuana legalized, the ACLU’s Hawaii office has officially endorsed the bill.
“In Hawaii, as across the nation, arrests for marijuana possession are one of the most common ways that individuals get caught up in the criminal justice system, at great social and economic cost,” said ACLU of Hawaii executive director Vanessa Chong in a Jan. 18 press release.
Bill advocates like ACLU Hawaii and the Marijuana Policy Project believe legalization will both decriminalize activity that most people want legal and help the state raise badly needed revenue.
“Regulating and taxing marijuana similarly to alcohol takes marijuana sales out of the hands of criminals and puts them behind the counter in legitimate businesses that will generate significant new revenue for Hawaii,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project, in a Jan. 18 ACLU Hawaii press release. “Law enforcement resources should be focused on preventing and responding to serious crimes rather than enforcing antiquated marijuana prohibition laws.”
MAUI PD FAILS TO ENFORCE STUPID ORDINANCE AT MLK DAY MARCH
Word started to reach me on Sunday, Jan. 20 that there might be action at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day March in Wailuku. “Thanks for the heads-up,” stated an anonymous email from Occupy Maui, referring to my Jan. 14 blog post stating that County of Maui law prohibited the carrying of signs on public roads. “Don’t miss the march tomorrow. We won’t.”
The message sender wasn’t kidding. At 8:30am on Monday, Jan. 21, I walked over to the front of lawn of the Kalana O Maui Building, where a ceremony honoring King was taking place. As I passed the old Federal building, now screened in with heavy black tarps, I couldn’t help but notice a guy in an orange t-shirt reading “stop illegal foreclosures” getting out of a car. A Guy Fawkes mask, made famous by the 2005 movie V for Vendetta, and subsequently the anarchist/hacker group Anonymous, lay on the front seat.
By the time of the march at 9am, there were about a hundred people gathered in the parking lot, with signs everywhere. Members of the group African Americans on Maui (AAOM) carried a few small signs–most notably a picture of King–and toted a few banners that required two people to carry. Same with the public employee union HGEA, which had scores of members turn out, all wearing pale green shirts. They brought along two large banners. Near the back of the assembled march, behind the bagpipers and union guys, were about a dozen people carrying hand-written signs denouncing war and police.
“Anyone who knows what their First Amendment rights are can march back here with people who know what their rights are,” yelled orange shirt, who was hoisting a sign that asked “Is Maui a police state?”
At the front of the assembled march stood a lone Maui police officer. Everyone marching would have to get past him to leave the parking lot.
Shortly after 9am, the bagpipes began piping, and people began to walk forward. The cop, wearing a bright orange safety vest, moved into Wells Street, where he stopped auto traffic.
First, the AAOM marchers passed him. Some smiled, and a more than one broke ranks to walk over and shake his hand, which he seemed happy to do so. Then the union guys crossed Wells. Then the bagpipers. Then the First Amendment folks, all still holding their signs–often just pieces of cardboard with pro-peace messages scrawled on them–walked past.
The cop didn’t move as each and every marcher walked past. Even orange shirt, though his Fawkes mask was now tied around his wrist. When the last of the marchers left the parking lot and crossed the street, the cop dashed over to his car and took off for the next intersection.
And that was it. All the marchers, whose only real purpose was to show the county that people of all races could stand in solidarity on matters of peace and justice, walked down Main Street, crossed Church Street (where a second cop was holding up traffic), then crossed over to Market Street and walked up to Wailuku Coffee Co., where, at last, the bagpipes stopped playing.
In my Jan. 17 story “Unpaid Debts,” I mischaracterized Chris Salem’s experience with the Maui County Council. Salem spent 15 years working with the council, not for it.