HONOLULU (KHON2) — The push to legalize recreational use of marijuana continues with two bills (SB 669 & SB 375) moving through the legislature. Could this be the year it goes all the way?
That is the question as joint committees in Senate prepare to cast a vote Wednesday, March 1.
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Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, (D) chair of the Ways and Means Committee said he’s not sure.
According to Dela Cruz, some of the biggest concerns include the amount of weed allowed, workplace restrictions, enforcement and the mindset of cannabis being a gateway drug.
“We want to make sure that all concerns were being addressed,” he explained. “There’s arguments on both sides so it’s a fine line that we’re really trying to walk to make sure that we pass something that’s going to be responsible and still allows the people the flexibility that they might need.”
Hawaii blazed ahead in 2000, as one of the first states in the country to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Many had high hopes recreational use would soon follow. Instead attempts to make it so have been nipped in the bud year after year.
While there is momentum behind the current proposals, some said this is not the right way.
There are even concerns from those who are pro-cannabis, like Jason Hanley, who owns Care Waialua, a patient based cannabis farm.
“I do think that cannabis needs to be de-stigmatized and legalized,” Hanley said.
But he doesn’t think the current bills are the way to go.
“The bills right now are based on only a few players being able to run dispensaries and being able to run the adult recreational market, that’s really what they’re all about.”
Hanley said that won’t help the community.
“You leave all the Hawaiian people behind that have been growing here for 40 years. The legacy growers that grow the best medicine in the world and can provide the best medicine for our kupuna and the people who are healing.”
House speaker Scott Saiki also has his reservations.
“At some point for recreational use, marijuana will be authorized in Hawaii, I’m just not so confident that this is the right year,” Saiki explained.
“Marijuana is still a controlled substance on the federal list so there are a lot of limitations when it comes to marijuana.”
If the bill does make it through the legislature, Governor Josh Green has said he would support recreational use of marijuana for adults as long as public safety concerns and other issues are addressed.
Dela Cruz said the Senate joint committees will likely cast their votes on the matter at the State Capitol Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. in Room 211.
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Click the link below to submit your written testimony or to watch the meeting live on Wednesday.