Last month Hawaii became the 26th state to decriminalize marijuana. According to the new bill, possession of three grams of marijuana or less is no longer a jailable offense. Instead, if caught you will only be fined $130 for possession. The bill was approved by the state of Hawaii legislature however Governor David Ige, a Democrat, refused to sign the bill. He didn’t veto it though, which means that the decriminalization will go into effect on January 11, 2020.
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, three grams would be the smallest amount of any state that has decriminalized possession of marijuana. It is still a huge change to current laws. Until now, being caught with even a small amount of marijuana could land you in jail for up to 30 days and with fines of $1,000. Not to mention going on a person’s permanent record, with potentially life-altering effects.
FROM MEDICAL TO DECRIMINALIZATION: HAWAII SLOW TO PROGRESS
Back in 2000, Hawaii became the first state to legalize medical marijuana through state legislature. But medical and recreational are very different to Governor Ige, which is why he stated in a press conference in June that deciding whether or not to veto this bill was a “very tough call”.
Governor Ige seems to have reservations about recreational use though, and fears it may hurt the medical marijuana dispensary system in Hawaii. This came out earlier this year when a bill that would have legalized recreational use for adults in Hawaii was squashed when lawmakers missed a key deadline.
For Governor Ige, it seems progress is slow but steady. In 2018, he signed HB 2729, a reciprocity bill into law. The law allows patients visiting Hawaii to use medical marijuana if they are registered in another state where it’s legal. One year before that, Hawaii’s first dispensaries opened up and began serving patients.
So while to some this measure feels bittersweet, it’s still a huge accomplishment, as now the majority of states have decriminalized marijuana. To date, 11 states have legalized recreational marijuana use, along with the District of Columbia. For Hawaii, this is definitely a step in the right direction.