Why the 50th state may lead the next wave of reform
Ten years ago, Hawai’i marched at the forefront of cannabis reform. The Aloha state passed medical marijuana reform in 2000 alongside other early adopters like Colorado and Nevada in a bold move which, significantly, occurred through the approval of the state legislature and governor instead of the ballot measures which have been employed in most medical states. Less well known is the state’s pioneering experiment with industrial hemp, which began the same year – more than a decade before the first hemp legalization votes on the mainland.
Now, after lagging slightly behind states with regulated dispensary systems and taxed recreational use, Hawai’i is ready to push the envelope again. A survey by the Drug Policy Action Group and QMark Research has revealed that 57% of the state’s residents support changing their cannabis laws to a tax and regulate scheme similar to those of Colorado or Washington state, which both approved legalization measures by ballot initiative in November.
Given the islands’ tradition of reforming cannabis laws through the legislature, this relatively strong support may give the 50th state yet another historical bragging right as one of the earliest to legalize, since residents there won’t have to wait until 2016 for an effective initiative campaign. The Marijuana Policy Project, a leading reform advocacy group, has also ID’d Maine, Oregon, and Rhode Island as favorable jurisdictions to lobby for legislative reform this year and next. With so much up in the air, only one thing is certain: all eyes are on the state bureaucrats in Denver and Olympia. The ability of Colorado or Washington to draft effective regulations may effect a huge shift in the prospects of further legalization nationwide.