Lawmakers in the Hawaii House and Senate have provided initial approval to multiple marijuana reform bills.

In the House chamber, members of the Committee on Judiciary & Hawaiian Affairs have approved HB 1596, which reduces penalties involving the possession of marijuana (up to one ounce) and marijuana-related paraphernalia to a fine-only ($25) non-criminal offense.

Committee members also advanced HB 1595, which facilitates state-initiated expungements for those with misdemeanor marijuana convictions. (Under existing law, only those convicted of possessing three grams of cannabis or less are eligible for expungement relief; moreover, those eligible must petition the courts themselves in order to have their conviction vacated.)

NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano provided testimony to the Committee in support of HB 1595. He testified: “The state’s existing expungement law places the burden on those with previous convictions to petition the courts for legal relief. But, as we have learned from other states’ experiences, many people are either unaware of their own criminal record status or are unable to navigate the legal process on their own. Some cannot afford to pay the fees necessary to hire legal representation to assist them in this process. Others remain unaware that such a process exists at all. As a result, the law is underutilized by those who could otherwise benefit from it.”

In the Senate, members of the Health and Human Services and Judiciary joint committee voted Tuesday to advance SB 3335, which seeks to regulate the adult use cannabis market. While some proponents have criticized specific provisions in the bill, law enforcement and other groups have strongly come out against any legislative effort to legalize marijuana, alleging that doing so will increase crime and will negatively impact tourism to the state.

Neither allegation is supported by data. Numerous studies assessing the relationship between state-level cannabis legalization and criminal activity have reported “decreases in violent and property crime, reductions in drug-related arrests, and an improvement in crime clearance rates.” Other studies have documented tourism spikes following states’ adoption of adult use legalization.

Additional information of pending marijuana legislation is available from NORML’s ‘Take Action Center.’


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