So Close – Hawaii Decriminalizes Small Amounts of Cannabis

So close, yet so far. Hawaii narrowly became the 26th state to decriminalize or legalize cannabis on Tuesday, July 9.

Hawaii's new regulations no longer mean jail time for those who possess three grams or less of cannabis; however, they could be slapped with a $130 fine.

In other words, Hawaii will ignore you if you have less than an eighth of an ounce (approximately 3.54 grams) of marijuana.

Hawaii's governor, David Ige (D), did not sign the bill when it reached his desk, but he did not veto it, either. By default, the law will go into effect January 11, 2020.

Unlike Illinois, criminal records will not be automatically expunged as part of this law. It does, however, open the door for those who have been convicted for cannabis possession to apply to have their records cleared.

Hawaii now joins New York and New Mexico as states who failed to legalize recreational cannabis this year. Cannabis advocates see this decriminalization law as a consolation prize rather than a significant step forward for the cannabis community.

In a statement released by the Marijuana Policy Project, they took a somewhat something-is-better-than-nothing stance, "Unfortunately, three grams would be the smallest amount of any state that has decriminalized (or legalized) simple possession of marijuana. Still, removing criminal penalties and possible jail time for possession of a small amount of cannabis is an improvement."

Troy Smit of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML) told Forbes, "While any progress is great, this stands to be the least progressive decriminalization statute, among states with them, in the whole."

While cannabis legalization still has a long way to go in the Aloha State, the new state legislation also creates a new task force to study other states' cannabis laws.

Unlike other states, Hawaii does not have a voter initiative process. Any cannabis legislation must go through the state's government. Hawaiians are encouraged to contact their local representative to urge them to legalize, tax, and regulate adult-use cannabis.

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