Hawaii Senate Rejects Cannabis Decriminalization Measure

The Hawaii Senate has rejected a cannabis decriminalization proposal over concerns that the reforms would lead to a stronger illicit market in the state.

Full story after the jump.

The Hawaii Senate on Monday rejected a bill to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, Maui Now reports. In a statement, Drug Policy Forum of Hawaiʻi Board President Nikos Leverenz called the bill’s failure a “disappointment.” 

“While Hawaiʻi saw an uptick in legislative activity on cannabis decriminalization and adult-use cannabis legalization, the status quo remains. Too many legislators this cycle have ceded to the histrionic arguments by many in the criminal legal lobby and others who want to ensure broad prohibition. Fifty-eight percent of Hawaiʻi residents support adult-use legalization, which now reaches over half of the population of America and employs over 440,000 across the nation. Decriminalization of cannabis possession and cannabis paraphernalia remains an important reform in its own right.” — Leverenz in a statement via Maui Now 

Several lawmakers and the Department of the Attorney General expressed concerns that passing the reforms would create a stronger illicit market in the state.  

Sen. Troy Hashimoto (D) told Maui Now that he “would rather have a structure to tax and regulate marijuana rather than pursuing decriminalization,” which he said “would allow an unchecked market and potentially unsafe products to exist within our community.” 

In submitted testimony opposing the legislation, the Department of the Attorney General maintained that “decriminalized marijuana is unregulated, untested, and untaxed.” 

“This lack of regulation and testing creates a significant public health concern, particularly as marijuana use increases,” the department said in the testimony. “Black market marijuana often contains pesticides, trace amounts of metals like lead and nickel, and other toxic chemicals. Regulated marijuana can be tested for these poisons, to increase the chances that the marijuana consumed by recreational users is relatively safe. Because there are no restrictions on the levels of pesticides and other toxins in black market marijuana, consumers risk inhaling or ingesting harmful substances.” 

Earlier this month an effort to legalize adult cannabis use in the state was killed by the House Finance Committee. The legislation had been approved by the Senate. 

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