Is Hawaii One Step Closer to Legalizing Marijuana?

After Tuesday’s state Senate session, we are arguably five steps closer. On March 8, 2011, the Senate voted to pass five medical marijuana-related bills on to the House.

The current cannabis conversation

According to the Hawaii State Legislature measure history, Senate Bill 58 increases the amount of marijuana a medical marijuana patient may possess to allow for 10 plants and 5 ounces at any time. This bill also protects patient’s confidentiality, increases patient-caregiver ratios, and addresses issues regarding the transportation of medical marijuana.

Senate Bill 113 provides for a 3-year medical marijuana research program. The program would be conducted in state and would involve qualified researchers and local medical marijuana patients.

If passed into law, Senate Bill 175 will shift authority of medical marijuana laws from the department of public safety to the department of health.

Senate Bill 1458 will create three levels of classes for the purposes of licensing: (1) for “compassion centers” responsible for dispensing medical marijuana, (2) for cultivation centers, (3) for the sale of medical marijuana infused products.

Perhaps one of the most important steps towards legalization is Senate Bill 1460, as the bill decriminalizes an ounce or less of marijuana. This bill even proposes the cancelation of the requirement that currently calls for reporting of students possessing marijuana, should they be caught with one ounce or less.

All five senate bills were widely supported in the Senate, with two of the five being unanimous and the other three facing only one or two “no” votes. All will continue on for House approval.

Given our current economic condition, the drastic state debt, the money spent on arrests and prosecutions, and the proven benefits of medical marijuana, it seems high time to consider learning from Colorado’s lead in decriminalization. If our state government and law enforcement agencies put their efforts into properly taxing rather than prohibiting and prosecuting users, growers, and distributers, marijuana could provide the revenue needed to bail us out of the massive debt we are in. And the recent support from the Senate is a sure sign that several lawmakers agree.

For more information and to submit testimony on these bills, visit the Hawaii State Legislature bill status site at www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2011

– Article originally published at Hawai’i Island Journal

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