Fifteen states have now legalized recreational cannabis—what about Hawaii?
By Kevin Dayton
Legalizing recreational use of marijuana in Hawaii might finally get some political traction at the Legislature now that 15 other states have taken the plunge and there is an urgent need for more tax revenue due to the pandemic.
State Attorney General Clare Connors has already assembled a working group of her deputies to advise lawmakers on the issues involved in legalizing and regulating marijuana. Some key House and Senate lawmakers support legalization, including Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English, House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke and Senate Judiciary Chairman Karl Rhoads.
But many in law enforcement remain strongly opposed to legalization for recreational use, and there will certainly be some political pushback against such a proposal.
Even a modest bill to decriminalize possession of small quantities of marijuana stirred up significant opposition in 2019, with 16 House members and three senators voting against it. Gov. David Ige finally allowed the measure to become law without his signature.
Marijuana use is still illegal under federal law, but last week the voters in four more states approved ballot measures legalizing marijuana for personal use. Those election outcomes in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota bring the number of states that allow personal recreational use of cannabis to 15, along with the District of Columbia.
“Hawaii is a surfing state, so it’s only natural that we catch this wave,” said Roger Christie, a Hilo resident and longtime advocate of marijuana use.