Hawaii’s legislators addressed a series of topics Sunday at the 8th annual Hawaii Cannabis Expo in Honolulu — the hottest of which was the future of legalizing recreational marijuana.
Conference moderator and former Hawaii State Senator Will Espero (D) told the crowd that it’s just a matter of time before recreational cannabis use is legalized in Hawaii.
“In my opinion it’s inevitable, this is a plant and a product that should be available to the masses and especially the blue-collar families, plus low-income individuals who know a lot about cannabis but have been on the ground for decades, we want to support the small farmers,” Espero said.
Hawaii, a politically progressive Democratic-leaning state, was the first in the nation to legalize medical marijuana through its state legislature in 2000.
“Given where we are as a nation on cannabis regulation, I do support a tightly regulated legalization scheme,” said State Rep. Della Au Belatti (D). “I think that our attorney general has engaged in a robust discussion, has been talking to all the stakeholders, and I’m looking forward to the conversation that we’re going to have in this legislative session.”
Hawaii’s Attorney General Anne Lopez (D) released a comprehensive proposal in November 2023 to legalize adult-use marijuana amid approval from lawmakers and advocates, though the latter are seeking stronger social equity provisions.
Cannabis bills on the table in Hawaii include both House and Senate initiatives that would allow adults over 21 to possess and purchase one ounce of cannabis and grow six plants.
The Senate passed a reform bill in March 2023 though it has not been enacted. Nevertheless, legislators and AG Lopez have signaled that 2024 is the year for Hawaii’s legalization to finally become law.
Decrease Burdens On Vulnerable Communities And Grow The Economy
Hawaii’s criminal legal system, say advocates, adversely impacts people from under-resourced communities, noting that enforcement of drug sentencing and paraphernalia laws are unusually Draconian, including a probation system with the longest average term in the United States (59 months).
Reports from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, according to Honolulu Civil Beat, have underscored the disproportionate treatment of Native Hawaiians at every stage of the…