Hawaii Decriminalizes Marijuana

By Victoria Kim 07/12/19

The law will take effect on January 11, 2020.

a person enjoying a sunset in Hawaii
ID 113609608 © Wen Xiaoxia | Dreamstime.com

On Tuesday (July 9) Hawaii decriminalized marijuana possession. 

The state will no longer give jail time for possession of up to 3 grams of marijuana, but can give a $130 fine. Previously this “offense” was punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1000 fine.

However, 3 grams is a low threshold for marijuana possession. Possessing larger amounts, repeat offenses and selling or trafficking marijuana is still punishable by jail time, Vox reported.

“Unfortunately, three grams would be the smallest amount of any state that has decriminalized (or legalized) simple possession of marijuana. Still, removing criminal penalties and possible jail time for possession of a small amount of cannabis is an improvement,” read a statement by the Marijuana Policy Project.

The decriminalization bill, after passing the state legislature, was neither signed nor vetoed by Hawaii’s governor David Ige. It became law on July 9 and will take effect on January 11, 2020.

Ige decided not to veto the legislation, though he did veto two other marijuana-related bills—to allow the transport of medical marijuana between Hawaii’s islands and to create an industrial hemp licensing program.

The governor said the bill lacked a provision to provide substance abuse support for young people. “That was a very tough call,” he said. “I did go back and forth on decriminalization.”

Ige said that Hawaii’s passing of decriminalization does not mean that they will be next to legalize marijuana. And he’s in no hurry to do so either.

“We continue to learn from other states about the problems they see with recreational marijuana, and most of the governors that I talk to that have recreational laws have acknowledged significant problems with those measures,” he said in June.

“Hawaii can benefit from not being at the head of the table, that we would be smart to engage and recognize what’s happening in other states, acknowledge the challenges and problems that it has raised and allow us to look at how we would implement it here in a much better controlled fashion,” said Ige.

Legalization has been proposed in Hawaii for years. This year, it again fell through the cracks.

In March, a bill to legalize marijuana died before a deadline in the state legislature. “Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English has introduced marijuana legalization bills for the past 15 years—but Hawaii has a track record of moving slowly on social issues,” the AP reported.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr