Following initial progress in the statehouse, proponents are hoping the Aloha State will this year become the 11th state to legalize adult use of “recreational” cannabis.
The Hawaii State Senate’s Judiciary Committee on Feb. 7 unanimously recommended a bill to legalize cannabis, clearing its first hurdle to becoming law. The text of the bill declares “that the legalization of marijuana for personal or recreational use is a natural, logical, and reasonable outgrowth of the current science of marijuana and attitude toward marijuana.”
If passed, it would allow adults 21 and older to possess, cultivate and consume cannabis, and it would create a taxed and regulated retail market.
Legal Sales Within Two Years?
From the bill’s language, it appears that Hawaii isn’t interested in reinventing the wheel, as it would set in place a system very similar to other states with adult-use cannabis.
The bill would instruct the state’s Department of Taxation to draw up regulations overseeing the licensing and operation a “marijuana establishment.” Fees for licenses would initially be kept within $5,000, adjusted annually for inflation. Critically, cannabis businesses would not be required to collect any personal information from customers.
Rules would be established to oversee labeling, security and health and safety standards, as well as to restrict advertising and impose civil penalties for any violations.
The bill would lift all penalties for possession of up to an ounce of processed marijuana or home cultivation of up to six plants.
Smoking legal cannabis would be regulated under the same rules as those for tobacco products. The state’s Department of Health, which has overseen the medical marijuana system in place since 2010, would also regulate the recreational sector. Existing medical marijuana dispensaries would be permitted to sell cannabis to all persons of the legal age of 21 years or older.
The bill now moves on to the Senate Ways and Means Committee before going to a floor vote. A version has already been introduced in the House of Representatives.
Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, has thus far been non-committal on whether he would sign the bill. Upon its introduction last month, he said in a statement: “I’m concerned about conflicting federal and state laws that allow marijuana dispensaries on each island, but prohibit the transport of marijuana between islands.”
Law enforcement agencies have, not surprisingly, opposed the bill. Hawaii News Now reports that local police and prosecutors warned lawmakers of a likely increase in marijuana-related accidents and use by minors. As the Honolulu Star Advertiser notes, it was due to such concerns that the Judiciary Committee ruled out a provision to allow edibles under the bill.
Nonetheless, a full 12 of the Senate’s 25 members have signed on to the bill, Honolulu Civil Beat reports. Proponents anticipate the first adult-use cannabis sales by as early as February 2021.
The Hawaiian Status Quo, Unsurprisingly Sunny
As the bill was introduced, Hawaii’s modest constellation of cannabis dispensaries got a new star. Pacific Business News reports that Lau Ola LLC, operating a chain of Big Island Grown dispensaries, last month received approval from the state Department of Health to begin sales from its new outlet in Hilo. The Health Department issued a formal notice to proceed after the dispensary completed laboratory testing requirements and passed a final on-site inspection.
Big Island Grown was the first licensed medical marijuana dispensary on the Big Island, and the seventh in the state. Lau Ola is also planning to open two more outlets in Waimea and in Kailua-Kona, in a sign that the state’s cannabis infrastructure is growing.
Lau Ola CEO Dylan Shropshire said: “We would like to thank the Big Island community for their patience as we built our facilities and developed our company to grow clean, reliable, lab-tested cannabis medicine that is of the highest quality. We have over 100 unique strains and phenotypes that we will be rolling out over the next year along with a large diversity of high-quality concentrates and manufactured products.”
And just as the bill cleared the Judiciary Committee, the 4th annual Hawaii Cannabis Expo was preparing to open at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall in Honolulu. The three-day event featured seminars and panel discussions as well as 120 vendors — up from around 60 vendors when the expo first started in 2015.
“Every year we’ve been growing about 25 percent,” said expo director Kyle Paredes to Hawaii News Now. “People want to get involved and learn more.”
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