New Hawaii House Speaker Joe Souki Introduces Marijuana Legalization Bill

In November 2012, voters in Washington and Colorado passed ballot measures legalizing marijuana. Could Hawaii be the third state to authorize legal cannabis use? It will if new Hawaii House Speaker Joe Souki has his way.

One of his 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). According to the state Legislature’s website, the bill

“Authorizes persons 21 years of age or older to consume or possess limited amounts of marijuana for personal use. Provides for the licensing of marijuana cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, safety testing facilities, and retail stores. Requires the counties to provide for licensing of marijuana facilities if the State fails to do so. 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 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.”

Click here for text of the bill.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons