On Friday, a marijuana legalization bill failed in the Aloha State. The bill was introduced by J. Kalani English, a long time marijuana advocate. He has been attempting to pass recreational marijuana initiatives for fifteen years. This bill had looked promising since it made it further than all previous attempts. However, it was unable to gain approval from the two required committees. The Senate Health Committee essentially killed the bill by not scheduling a meeting.
The news is surprising considering Hawaii was part of the first group of states to pass laws for medical marijuana. Just four years after California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, Hawaii followed suit. There are several reasons for Hawaii’s slow path to legalization. Marijuana laws cannot be passed via ballot initiative like other states can. They must go through the more tedious legislative process. There has to be enormous pressure from the public before the lawmakers feel confident enough to contradict federal law. In addition, politicians from the state claim they don’t want to risk threatening the existing medical marijuana program. I wouldn’t buy this explanation since many states have had no issues after legalizing for recreational use. Yet, Senator Roz Baker and many others, believe the government will possibly enforce federal law if they move beyond medical use.
Recreational marijuana will not be happening this year, but how long can lawmakers delay the inevitable? It could be many more years based on the fact it took 15 years to set up a system for medical dispensaries in the state. Even though the legislation was passed in the year 2000, regulation came just a few years ago. It seems like they really like to scope out what is going on in other states before making a move. It’s a smart move to monitor the outcomes of legal marijuana before rolling out the perfect plan. At some point, they need to agree on a bill and get users the protection they deserve. The kinks can be worked out during and after implementation. Simply modeling other successful programs is a great place to start
Just imagine the level of tourism the islands would expect with a recreational market. People are much less likely to bring their cannabis with them since they can only come by plane or boat. Very few places currently have tropical climates along with cannabis stores. Also, ordinary tourists that are on vacation for the weather are likely to spend money on cannabis since it’s legal and available. From an economic point of view, it will definitely boost the Hawaiian economy. Growers have been taking advantage of its premium cultivation conditions for years and it would be great to see it openly available to the public.
Legalizing marijuana has offered some great benefits to California and the other 8 states who have passed similar legislation. Some of the main benefits that come to mind are tax revenue, reduction in crime, personal freedom, and job growth. These are all improvements that will help to make the future a better place. Like other states in the past, California lawmakers are trying to undo some of the enormous damage the war on drugs has had in the past. The senate voted in a large majority to require prosecutors to expunge or reduce the punishments for people who were convicted of marijuana related crimes since 1975. The Department of Justice would need to review all these cases and determine which ones are eligible for reevaluation. Misdemeanors would be expunged in most cases while some felonies would be able to be downgraded to what is now considered a misdemeanor offense. This bill has not yet become law; it must be signed/vetoed by Governor Brown or it will go into effect automatically in early September.
Currently Oregon, New Hampshire, Colorado and Maryland have made it easier for past offenders to have their records sealed. While California wouldn’t be the first state to successfully expunge past marijuana records, other legal states have struggled to offer similar protections. These bills have faced opposition from prosecutors and other lawmakers who argue that these people knowingly violated the law at the time and it’s a dangerous trend to apply new laws to old cases. For example in 2014, the year recreational sales began in Colorado, a similar bill died in committee. The opposition argued that many drug distributors had their charges lowered to low level felonies. Their concern was that these serious convictions would have the possibility of being changed to misdemeanors. Luckily later in 2017, a similar bill was passed that just targeted marijuana misdemeanors instead of felonies. While it won’t have as much of an effect at reducing the damage of the drug war, it is still helpful for many people.
If California is successful at passing this bill, they will have done more than any other state when it comes to requiring judges to excuse past marijuana crimes. This is likely due to this issue being mentioned in Amendment 64, the initiative that legalized recreational marijuana in the state. There was no framework established in 2016 when the initiative passed that established how the Justice Department would enforce the changes. This bill clarifies many of the uncertainties by establishing deadlines for the department and establishing that both misdemeanors and felony pot convictions must be reviewed for eligibility. There are a total of 218,000 cases that have the possibility of being expunged or downgraded to misdemeanors in the state of California alone. Imagine how large this number is if we included all Americans since 1975. All these people likely have faced issues when it comes to key parts of life. Things like seeking great employment opportunities or getting federal loans or grants for education can be nearly impossible. Regardless what the laws used to be, people convicted of non violent marijuana crimes were never criminals.