Three proposals to legalise adult-use cannabis in Hawaii have been met by opposition from law enforcement and community leaders.
On January 24, 2024, a pair of companion bills were introduced in the House and Senate by Rep. David Tarnas and Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole.
These bills were based on proposals put forward by the state’s Attorney General Anne Lopez last year, which presented a new plan to legalize the sale and possession of adult-use cannabis for people ages 21 and over by 1 January, 2026.
If passed, adults would be legally allowed to possess 1 ounce of cannabis flower and up to 5 grams of concentrates, while enabling Hawaiians to grow six plants in their homes.
The bills would also see a new Hawaii Cannabis Authority created, and levy a 10% excise tax on cannabis sales, alongside a 4% sales tax.
Meanwhile, according to Cannabis Business Times, a separate Senate Bill was introduced by Sen. Joy San Buenaventura which would decriminalise possession of up to 1 ounce and reclassify cannabis-related misdemeanours as civil violations.
A third bill was also proposed on January 22 by Rep. Gene Ward, seeking to allow voters to decide on a constitutional amendment allowing adults over the age of 21 to possess and use cannabis.
During the Hawaii Cannabis Expo last week, conference moderator and former Hawaii State Senator Will Espero said that in his opinion, legalisation in Hawaii was ‘inevitable’, Benzinga reported.
“This is a plant and a product that should be available to the masses and especially the blue-collar families, plus low-income individuals who know a lot about cannabis but have been on the ground for decades, we want to support the small farmers,” Espero said.
Despite the growing momentum, there has been continued opposition from local law enforcement and community leaders.
“During our law enforcement careers in Las Vegas, Chief Pelletier and I witnessed firsthand how criminals exploited marijuana legalization to expand their criminal enterprises,” said Kauai Police Chief Todd Raybuck.
“You will have violent crime more than you have now, you will have homeless more than you have now,” said Maui Police Chief John Pelletier. “You are not prepared to do this.”
Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm, who vocally opposed the proposals when they were first made public last year, also suggested that legalization would not do away with the illicit market.
“In fact, states that have legalized have a bigger black market because you’re gonna get more users,” he said recently.