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.
The state of Arizona has not had much luck when it comes to passing marijuana laws. Despite their geographic location putting them close to many states that have progressive weed laws, they still only permit those with qualifying medical conditions to indulge. Nevada, California, and Colorado all allow different legal protections for those older than 21, with some minor differences in what exactly is allowed. This week on July 5th, was the deadline for The Safer Arizona Cannabis Legalization Act to submit the required amount of signatures to qualify for the ballot. Altogether they were able to collect just over 75,000 but the requirement calls for over 150,000. So this initiative missed by a long shot. This is extremely disappointing news and yet another heartbreak for those living there. Just two years back in 2016, a similar initiative had qualified for the ballot but narrowly failed to receive the popular vote. The opposition received more funding than those supporting legalization and it had a major effect. One of the largest donors was Insys Therapeutics a company that produces synthetic painkillers. The pharmaceutical companies have no shame in admitting with their large contributions that they don’t want their drugs to be replaced by something they can not sell and is also not physically addictive.
These large contributions from companies help spread a lot of misinformation about the post-legalization effects that have yet to happen in the 9 states that have legalized it. While different businesses have targeted every single state that has successfully got an initiative on a ballot, they have had very little success outside the state of Arizona recently. Within the past four years, the only other legal marijuana ballot initiative to fail was in 2014 when Florida tried to pass medical marijuana. Many attribute that failure to the high supermajority requirement of 60%. It narrowly missed it with a 57.6% approval vote. These opponents should stop wasting their money on funding the opposition and use it to innovate and react to the change in the economic environment. It should make it easier for them to do so considering people are being thrown in jail and having their future destroyed as a result of their contributions.
This year it seems it should have been easier to reach success considering as more time goes on more people seem to join the marijuana movement. The group collecting signatures, Safer Arizona, claims that the main reason they were not much able to get support was medical marijuana dispensary owners. I believe there are plenty of dispensary owners out there who might not want recreational marijuana to pass yet so that they can cash in as long as possible. However, I also know there are plenty of dispensary owners who can’t wait for legalization because that would give them the opportunity to apply for a license and expand to a larger market with an advantage of already having a location and experience. It would not be easy for dispensaries to convince patients at their stores and other people they know to keep weed illegal and have people continue to get prosecuted for possession. This ballot failure more than likely came down to the group doing a poor job of hiring volunteers or targetting the right locations for signatures. Polls nationwide have shown over 60% of the population wants weed to be legal for adults. There simply is no excuse for them to fail to meet even half the required number of signatures. Hopefully in the future, a more organized campaign can spread the word more efficiently and develop a more solid framework for the bill.