Senate Bill 669 also decriminalizes possession and use of small amounts of marijuana.

Another proposal to legalize recreational cannabis in Hawaii is scheduled for a key vote in the Senate Tuesday.

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Senate Bill 669 would allow residents to grow, consume and sell less than 1 ounce of cannabis within the state of Hawaii. It also establishes taxes for cannabis sales. 

If passed, Hawaii would be the 22nd state to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The bill still has to survive a vetting by the House, but this is the furthest such a bill has advanced. 

House Speaker Scott Saiki said that he thought it best for the state to wait on approving recreational marijuana use. Saiki would rather see a working group analyze the idea over the summer, he said during a recent appearance on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight Hawaii” program.

Senate Bill 669 would legalize recreational pakalolo. (Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat/2018)

The odds that SB 669 passes the House this year are slim. A similar measure that would have legalized cannabis in 2021 also died in the House. Some senators who support legalization hope the bill makes it further this time.

“Despite pronouncements from leadership of the bill being ‘dead on arrival,’ it was my understanding that the majority of representatives support it and want to see it advance,” Sen. Angus McKelvey said. “I’m hopeful that the bulk of the members of the House support it and want to continue to refine it and work on it.” 

Although Hawaii has approved medical cannabis consumption, there is still widespread illegal recreational use. Legalization would create another source of tax revenue for the state.

“I think it’s a positive move. I think it’s a progressive move, and I think it may deter some other recreational drugs,” Richard Drake, a Hawaii resident who supports the bill, said. “I see it’s working in other states, they’re getting revenue from cannabis. I think small growers can use it for a little personal use.”

States like Colorado and Oregon who were early adopters of legalization saw major tax revenue income for their respective states. 

In a 2021 report, the legalization of cannabis products reflected in state budgets reported a total of $10.4 billion in tax revenue from cannabis sales, not including revenue from medical marijuana distribution.

McKelvey said the black market is making profits off the sale of recreational cannabis in Hawaii right now, which is why legalizing and taxing marijuana sales could generate revenue toward important programs.

“I don’t think it’s a harmful drug,” said Amanda Murphy Ishikawa, another resident who supports legalization. “I don’t know if the effects of it are the kind that harm society, in my opinion. So I would say it’s a positive thing.”

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