HONOLULU, Hawaii (Feb. 7, 2023) – A trio of bills filed in the Hawaii legislature would legalize marijuana for adult use despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition.
Sen. Maile Shimabukuro (D) and five fellow democrats filed Senate Bill 1043 (SB1043) on Feb. 3. The bill would decriminalize and legalize the personal use, possession, and sale of cannabis for adults over 21 years of age. The bill would also expunge some prior marijuana arrests and convictions.
A group of 15 democrats led by Rep. Della au Delatti (D) introduced House Bill 1216 (HB1216) on Jan. 25. The bill would establish a Hawaii cannabis regulatory authority, which would have oversight over the personal use of cannabis. It would legalize and regulates the personal use of small amounts of cannabis and regulates the cultivation and sale of small amounts of cannabis.
Sen. Joy San Buenaventura (D) and three fellow democrats introduced Senate Bill 669 (SB669) on Jan. 20. The bill would establish regulations for the cultivation, sale, and personal use of small amounts of cannabis, as well as decriminalizing and regulating it for personal use. The bill would also establish taxes for cannabis sales.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
Hawaii legalized medical marijuana in 2000 and also decriminalized marijuana possession despite ongoing federal prohibition.
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains a complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate cannabis within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
The legalization of marijuana for medical or adult use in Hawaii would wipe away another layer of laws supporting cannabis prohibition in the state. This is significant because FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. When states stop enforcing marijuana laws, they sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. Michigan followed suit when voters legalized cannabis for general use in 2018. Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act in 2018. Illinois followed suit in 2019. New Jersey, Montana and Arizona all legalized recreational marijuana through ballot measures in the 2020 election. In 2021, New York, New Mexico, Virginia and Connecticut legalized marijuana through legislative action, and Rhode Island legalized cannabis for adult use in 2022. With Missouri and Maryland legalizing marijuana in November, there are now 37 states allowing cannabis for medical use, and 21 legalizing for adult recreational use.
The lesson here is pretty straightforward. As Tenth Amendment Center Executive Director Michael Boldin noted, “When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations, or mandates down our throats.”
SB1043 and SB669 have been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, while HB1216 has been referred to the House Judiciary & Hawaiian Affairs Committee. Once hearings are scheduled, they must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.