Momentum builds in Hawaii to legalize adult-use marijuana as foes mobilize

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Hawaii lawmakers have introduced several marijuana-related bills this session as momentum grows to establish an adult-use program in the state after Democratic Gov. Josh Green again signaled support for legalization.

The proposals, according to the Hawaii Tribune Herald in Hilo, include:

  • House Bill 2037, which would create a ballot measure asking voters to legalize retail sales for those 21 and older and amend the state constitution.
  • Senate Bill 2487, which would repeal criminal penalties for possession of marijuana up to 1 ounce.
  • SB 2689, which would mandate that the state process and expunge records of those arrested and convicted for possessing 3 grams or less of marijuana, which has since been decriminalized.

A consorted effort to oppose legalization efforts is under way in Hawaii, as several law enforcement agencies and officials held a news conference Wednesday blasting efforts for marijuana reform, according to Honolulu-based Hawaii News Now.

The critics, who include former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, brought up common tropes denouncing legalization – increases in violent crime, underage use, homelessness and negative impacts on tourism – despite research indicating the opposite effects occur in markets with adult-use programs.

While adult-use legalization efforts have failed to gain ground the past few years in Hawaii’s more conservative House, industry insiders are optimistic legislation could pass in the 2024 session.

For his part, Gov. Green “has said he would sign a bill to legalize cannabis for adults,” according to Honolulu TV station KITV.