Substance Abuse

Hawaii House Committee to Hear Testimony on Marijuana Legalization

Hawaii lawmakers are set to meet on Friday to hear the testimony on House Bill 699, the legislation that seeks to regulate and tax marijuana in the state.

The bill, also known The Personal Use of Marijuana Act, was introduced by House Speaker Joseph Souki. It aims to decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce or less of marijuana and the private cultivation of a limited number of marijuana plants for adults 21 years of age and older. Additionally, it would allow for the commercial cultivation and sale of pot, The Daily Chronic reports.

Souki’s proposed marijuana legalization measure would regulate pot in a manner similar to alcohol. But the bill won’t change existing laws regarding driving under the influence of marijuana or the ability of employers to maintain their current workplace drug policies.

“Most Hawaii voters recognize that marijuana prohibition has been just as ineffective and problematic as alcohol prohibition,” said Pam Lichty, president of the Honolulu-based Drug Policy Action Group. “By regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol, our state can control its production and sale, generate millions of dollars in new tax revenue and savings, and allow law enforcement officials to focus on serious crimes.”

The survey conducted by QMark Research between Nov. 19 and Dec. 4, 2012 showed more Hawaii voters were open to the idea of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Of the more than 600 residents surveyed, 57 percent were in favor of legalizing, regulating and taxing the sale and personal use of marijuana by adults; 65 percent think the War on Drugs campaign is not worth the financial expenditures; and nearly 80 percent favor a tightly regulated dispensary system for safe and legal access of medical marijuana.

“Voters and elected officials nationwide are fed up with laws that criminalize adults simply for using a product that is objectively less harmful than alcohol,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project. “Prohibition has failed, and it is time for a more sensible approach to marijuana. H.B. 699 proposes just that.”

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