Members of the Hawaii state Senate on Tuesday voted to approve two separate marijuana reform bills, sending both to the House for further consideration.
The Senate voted 20 to 5 to advance Senate Bill 767, which would legalize and regulate the commercial marijuana market in the state. The measure would allow adults 21 and over to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six (up to three mature) marijuana plants for personal use.
Legislation enacted in 2019 reduced penalties involving the possession of up to three grams of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, formerly punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, and a criminal record, to a non-criminal violation – punishable by a $130 fine.
The Senate also advanced Senate Bill 758 by a 24 to 1 vote, which would increase the current three gram decriminalization threshold to 30 grams. The measure would also provide procedures for the courts to grant an expungement order for those previously convicted of a marijuana possession offense involving up to 30 grams.
While this marks the first time the Hawaii Senate has approved an adult use marijuana legalization bill, with a veto-proof majority, the House may not be as receptive to the proposed policy change. According to the Honolulu Civil Beat, a key House committee chairperson “may not hear the measure.”
However, if the bills do make it through the House this year, it is unclear whether Democratic Governor David Ige would sign them into law or issue a veto. Ige let the 2019 decriminalization legislation become law absent his signature, and in a recent interview stated his concerns with adult use marijuana legalization, citing the federal illegality of marijuana.
“I’d have to look at it. I do have concerns. Marijuana is still a Schedule I substance, which is highly regulated by the federal government,” Ige said. “Until that is changed, it is confusing for the public to think that it’s legalized here but, if they were to carry it beyond certain quantities, they could actually end up getting prosecuted and sent to prison for a very long time.”