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Hawaiian lawmaker introduces pot-legalization bill

Greg Campbell
Contributor

The Aloha State may soon follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington by becoming the third state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults 21 and older.

While the historic laws in Colorado and Washington passed despite opposition from elected leaders, Hawaii’s measure was proposed by state lawmakers themselves.

House Speaker Jospeh Souki introduced the Personal Use of Marijuana Act on Friday. If passed, it will allow adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow a limited number of plants for personal use. It will also create a system of licensing for retail stores and cultivation facilities. As with the laws in Colorado and Washington, public use would be prohibited.

In a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, Mason Tvert, one of the architects of Colorado’s Amendment 64 and a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, lauded the bill.

“Regulating and taxing marijuana similarly to alcohol takes marijuana sales out of the hands of criminals and puts them behind the counter in legitimate businesses that will generate significant new revenue for Hawaii,” he said. “Law enforcement resources should be focused on preventing and responding to serious crimes rather than enforcing antiquated marijuana prohibition laws.”

The ACLU also released a poll last week showing that 57 percent of Hawaiians support legalizing marijuana. The organization said that similar laws are expected to be introduced in Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

Like in many states, pot use in Hawaii is nothing new, but it gained new notoriety when it was learned that President Obama regularly partook of this federally prohibited substance as a member of the so-called Choom Gang in his youth.

Obama is opposed to legalization, but said in an interview with Barbara Walters last month that his administration wouldn’t make arresting pot smokers a high priority.

Citizens propose most legalization initiatives, but Hawaii’s state legislature has taken the lead on the issue in the past. In 2000, it was the first state to legalize medical marijuana without the prompting of a citizen-backed petition drive.

Since then, six of the 18 states that allow medical marijuana have passed laws through their legislatures rather than by a vote of the people.

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