House Bill 699, if passed, would legalize cannabis in the State of Hawaii. Possession of an ounce or less would no longer be a crime, and the state would license growers and sellers to sell cannabis in retail outlets. The state would garner a 15% tax from these sales, and would begin accepting and processing the applications for licenses on July 1st, 2014.
This bill is one of a dozen cannabis-related measures being discussed in Hawaii.
Although a huge uphill battle is yet to be fought, the politics in Hawaii has setup the perfect situation to move the conversation forward. 57 percent in the state support legalizing cannabis (a 20 percent increase in 7 years), and the Speaker of the House supports legalization.
During the bill’s initial hearing, which took place yesterday, the opposition was filled with predictably ridiculous rhetoric and propaganda.
“When marijuana dispensaries started to proliferate the police were all reporting increases in crime, more murders, robberies, burglaries, assaults, thefts”, Lance Goto, Deputy Attorney General stated to the crowd.
This is of course complete absurdity. Recent studies have been consistent in showing that closing cannabis dispensaries causes an increase in crime. A university study from last year, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, found that “There were no observed cross-sectional associations between the density of medical marijuana dispensaries and either violent or property crime rates in this study”.
Further testimony in opposition was similarly bunk, including tiresome arguments that we’re sending the wrong message to our kids – because throwing people in cages for possessing a natural plant is something to boast about.
Supporters, on the other hand, clearly sounded much more sensible; “We are wasting millions of dollars by having our criminal justice system treat marijuana users like violent criminals,” said Laurie Temple from the ACLU of Hawaii. Kat Brady from the Community Alliance on Prisons, stated; “We know prohibition has not worked. We know our prisons are bursting with nonviolent drug offenders”.
Further testimony in support argued that the millions in potential new tax revenue could go towards state essentials like teachers, police officers and firemen.
A vote on this bill will take place at a later date. Until then, the discussion will continue to heat up.