It’s time now to legalize cannabis for recreational use by adults in Hawaii.

The recreational use of cannabis is already legal in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Washington, D.C.

It is the right thing to do in terms of public policy, we need the significant tax revenue legalization will generate and it is inevitable that Hawaii will eventually follow the many other states who have already taken the step.

Why are we waiting? Delaying an action we know will be taken in the coming years achieves nothing while costing our state hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Most law-makers are by nature risk adverse and will tackle the big and potentially controversial issues only when pressed by their constituents to do so.

It is time now to press on this particular issue.

Please call or email your individual district Representative and Senator, today (before Friday, Feb. 17 if at all possible) to express your support for legalization and request a hearing for SB548 and HB1464.

Or, email ALL representatives and senators the same message at sens@capitol.hawaii.gov or reps@capitol.hawaii.gov

Hawaii should move forward now to pass into law HB1464 or SB548 or similar measures that legalizes the growing, use and sale of small amounts of cannabis by adults for recreational use. We can learn from the experience of states that have gone before us and adopt reasonable policies now to implement this long overdue and much needed public policy change.

Proposed measures to decriminalize the use and possession of small amounts are not enough and though well intended serve only to delay what is really needed – which is full legalization.

It is only through legalization that the fear, stigma and heavy cost of criminalization is avoided. Only through legalization will the jobs and much needed tax income be created. Decriminalization is a half step that accomplishes none of this.

Important facts for the skeptics:

  • Marijuana is not a so-called gateway drug. “…the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, “harder” substances.” National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • Legalization of Cannabis does not lead to an increase in crime. “Since 2009, when the medical marijuana industry in Colorado started to take off, both rates (property crime and violent crime) have fallen—by 3 percent and 6 percent, respectively.” Reason Magazine review of Colorado study
  • Legalization does not lead to increased use among young people. “Rates of marijuana use among Colorado’s teenagers are essentially unchanged in the years since the state’s voters legalized marijuana in 2012, new survey data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows.” Washington Post

Every single aspect of government is in need of additional funding and the legalization of cannabis could provide significant funds for schools, natural resource protection, affordable housing and much more.

I suspect a majority in the legislature agree that legalization is the right policy and that the State desperately needs the money and jobs it will generate, but they will only act when the citizen voice is loud and clear and demands action.

We all know this policy shift is inevitable and our state needs the benefits now.

Please call or email your state representative and senator today.

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About the Author

  • Gary Hooser
    Gary Hooser is a former member of the Kauai County Council.  He formerly represented Kauai and Niihau in the Hawaii State Senate where he served as Majority Leader and was Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii during the Abercrombie administration.  He also serves in a volunteer capacity as the President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action.