Hawaii’s attorney general has issued a draft bill that would legalize the use and possession of cannabis for adults 21 and older in the state. The bill, which was released on Friday, January 12, 2024, is based on the recommendations of a working group that studied the issue for two years.
What the Bill Proposes
The draft bill would allow adults to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and grow up to six plants at home, with a limit of three mature plants. It would also create a regulated system of cannabis cultivation, production, testing, distribution, and retail sales, overseen by a new Cannabis Control Commission.
The bill would impose a 15% excise tax on cannabis sales, as well as a 10% county surcharge tax. The revenue from the taxes would be used to fund public education, substance abuse prevention and treatment, law enforcement, and other programs related to cannabis.
The bill would also expunge the criminal records of people who were convicted of cannabis offenses that are no longer illegal under the new law. It would also provide protections for cannabis consumers from discrimination in employment, housing, education, and parental rights.
How Hawaii Compares to Other States
Hawaii would join 18 other states and the District of Columbia that have legalized recreational cannabis for adults, if the bill becomes law. However, Hawaii’s bill is more conservative than some of the other states, such as California, Colorado, and Massachusetts, which allow adults to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and grow up to six plants at home, with no limit on the number of mature plants.
Hawaii’s bill is also more restrictive than the one that was proposed by a group of lawmakers in 2023, which would have allowed adults to possess up to two ounces of cannabis and grow up to 10 plants at home, with a limit of five mature plants.
Hawaii’s bill is similar to the one that was passed by voters in Arizona in 2020, which also allows adults to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and grow up to six plants at home, with a limit of three mature plants. Arizona’s law also imposes a 16% excise tax on cannabis sales, as well as a county surcharge tax.
What are the Challenges and Opportunities for Hawaii
Hawaii’s draft bill faces several challenges before it can become law. The bill needs to be approved by the state legislature, which has been reluctant to pass cannabis legalization bills in the past. The bill also needs to be signed by the governor, who has expressed opposition to cannabis legalization. The bill could also face legal challenges from the federal government, which still considers cannabis a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
However, the bill also offers many opportunities for Hawaii, such as generating new revenue, creating new jobs, reducing the black market, enhancing public safety, and respecting personal freedom. The bill could also boost Hawaii’s tourism industry, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a 2019 survey, 26% of visitors to Hawaii said they would be more likely to visit the state if cannabis was legal.
The bill also reflects the changing attitudes of Hawaii’s residents, who have shown strong support for cannabis legalization. According to a 2020 poll, 67% of Hawaii voters said they favor legalizing cannabis for adults, while only 29% said they oppose it.