Hawaii Decriminalizes Small Amounts of Cannabis for Personal Use

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HONOLULU, Hawaii – The Hawaiian Legislature on Tuesday passed House Bill 1383, which makes Hawaii the twenty-sixth state to decriminalize cannabis.

As of January 11, 2020, the penalty for possession of less than three ounces of cannabis for personal use will be reduced to a misdemeanor and will incur a $130 dollar fine. Prior to the new law, penalties for cannabis possession were accessed at $1,000, and up to 30 days in jail.

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According to the NORML blog, the bill was sent to the desk of Hawaiian Governor David Ige, a Democrat, who stopped short of vetoing the legislation. Though he did not veto HB 1383 outright, he did not sign the legislation; the law goes into effect by virtue of not being signed by the Tuesday deadline, by the governor.

Ige has been reported to feel unfavorably toward the legislation because it doesn’t include provisions for young people in need of rehabilitation resources. He also vetoed legislation that would have allowed island-to-island transport of cannabis by medical patients, as well as a bill that would have created a program for hemp licensing in the state.

Nonetheless, decriminalization is considered progress on the road to legalization, though tropical Hawaii’s lawmakers have moved at glacial pace. Medical cannabis was legalized in 2000, but the state’s fifth cannabis dispensary only opened in March 2018 – eighteen years later. Patients without access to dispensaries are allowed to grow a few plants for their own use.

There also has been slow growth for cannabis testing facilities in the islands, which adds to difficulties with supply, even if there are so few dispensaries.

In early March, Hawaiian lawmakers failed to pass legislation that would have allowed cannabis to be legalized for adult use, as has been established in Colorado, California, Oregon, and other legal states.

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