University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu

Hawaii Gov. Allows Decriminalization Law to Take Effect Without Signature

A cannabis decriminalization law in Hawaii has taken effect without Gov. David Ige’s signature; the governor, however, vetoed a bill allowing patients to transport medical cannabis products between islands and another bill that would have made permanent the state’s hemp program.

Full story after the jump.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige has allowed a cannabis decriminalization bill to take effect without his signature while vetoing a measure to allow patients to transport medical cannabis products between islands and another to make permanent the state’s industrial hemp cultivation program.

According to a Hill report, the decriminalization bill makes possession of three grams or less of cannabis a violation, punishable by a $130 fine. The Marijuana Policy Project notes that the three-gram threshold is “the smallest amount of any state that has decriminalized (or legalized) simple possession of marijuana.” Previously, getting caught possessing any cannabis in Hawaii was punishable by $1,000 fines and 30 days in jail. The new law takes effect Jan. 11, 2020.

In a release, the governor’s office indicated Ige vetoed the medical cannabis transport law due to federal law.

“Both the airspace and certain areas of water fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government. This bill may lead travelers, acting in reliance on this provision, to erroneously believe they are immune from federal prosecution.” – June 24 veto message from Ige’s office

The notice indicates that the governor also has concerns about the plan over the roles of the state departments of transportation and public safety.

Ige is vetoing the hemp legislation over concerns that the licensing structure outlined in the bill “cannot be enforced” and that it wouldn’t “meet [U.S. Department of Agriculture] requirements for an approved industrial hemp program.”

Under the 2018 federal Farm Bill, which removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, the USDA must approve state hemp program plans.

Ige’s office also indicated that the hemp bill “creates practical problems in the enforcement of existing medical cannabis.”

The hemp bill passed in late April and state Rep. Richard Creagan (D) – who served on one of the conference committees that passed the bill – told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald that he had expected Ige to sign the bill. Hawaii does have an active hemp pilot program but there are just 17 licensed farmers participating.

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