The sun sets on a Hawaii beach.

Nan Palmero

Big changes could be made in Hawaii this session as two adult-use bills have been introduced in both legislative houses, according to a Honolulu Civil Beat report. However, they will likely face opposition from Democratic Gov. David Ige who wants to hold off on any cannabis-related legislation until the state’s medical marijuana program is off the ground.

On Jan. 21, a legalization measure (SB.548) was introduced in the Senate sponsored by 10 lawmakers. The proposal would set up a taxed and regulated system under which adults 21 and older would be able to purchase cannabis. That bill has been referred to the Public Health and Judicial committees.

Under a plan introduced in the House, counties would be allowed to decide whether or not to legalize cannabis for adult use and set up their own infrastructure. That proposal was moved to the Judicial and Finance committees on Jan. 23.

Under current Hawaiian law, enacted 17 years ago, patients enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program can grow their own plants, but there is not yet a way to legally buy cannabis from a dispensary. Last year, eight companies were licensed by the state to cultivate and sell medical cannabis, and some dispensaries are expected to open this year, but delays have plagued the program’s rollout thus far.

Advocates are also expecting a decriminalization bill this session after SB.666 died in the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2015. In 2013, the Senate unanimously passed legislation to decriminalize possession of 20 grams or less, but that bill did not make it to a floor vote in the House.

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