Hawaii Officially Decriminalizes Cannabis

Hawaii has officially removed the possibility of incarceration for possessing small amounts of cannabis.

We note that the subject contained in this article represents illegal activity in certain jurisdictions. Whilst we do not condone any acts which are contrary to any such laws, we understand that readers in those jurisdictions which have decriminalised cannabis may find this article of interest.

Following a cannabis reform bill proposed in the state legislature in January last year, Hawaii has finally decriminalized cannabis possession for low quantities as of January 11th.

The Bill became law despite not receiving Governor David Ige's signature, who was reluctant to give it approval as he felt the bill didn't comply with the federal illegality of cannabis. Despite this, Gov. Ige's inaction on the matter allowed the Bill to pass, and now Hawaiians will only face a $130 fine if they are caught carrying up to three grams of cannabis.

This makes Hawaii the 26th state to decriminalize cannabis in the US, meaning that a majority of the country has now ceased to penalize low amounts of cannabis possession, even though federal law states that cannabis is illegal.

Hawaii's version of decriminalization is much stricter than most states, who typically allow possession of up to an ounce of cannabis without the threat of jail time once they've decriminalized the plant. According to Marijuana Moment, the possession threshold began at a higher level and was eventually tapered down to a minor three grams through the legislative process. This is likely a method to ensure decriminalization passes in the face of individuals who aren't as sold on cannabis, like Governor Ige., who likely would have blocked the bill had the possession threshold been higher than he felt comfortable with.

This is a smart move because as we've discussed previously, the proof is in the pudding. Hawaii's decriminalization of cannabis comes right on the tail of Illinois' hugely successful first fortnight of cannabis sales, and frankly, it's hard to ignore the benefits which come along with cannabis legalization.

States reap enormous amounts of tax revenue, youth cannabis rates decline, employment goes up, and opioid and alcohol use goes down. Of course, these are all generalities, but they have been seen in many of the states which have already legalized cannabis. This is why many states who decriminalize cannabis, often go on to legalize the plant for medicinal purposes and then eventually do the same for recreational.

While there seems to be some reluctance from Hawaii's governor on cannabis, it's also likely we're seeing Hawaii take the first steps towards recreational cannabis legalization. It won't happen overnight, but decriminalization is definitely a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, we can expect some movement on New York, Vermont, and New Mexico's cannabis laws in the coming months, and New Zealand's cannabis referendum is just around the corner.

Given that we're only three weeks into 2020, Illinois' recreational success, Hawaii's decriminalization coming into effect, and Thailand's recent handout of free medicinal cannabis are all symptoms for a bright, green year ahead.

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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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