Marijuana: Hawaii legislator introduces pot bill nearly identical to Amendment 64

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Could what is basically a carbon copy of Colorado's Amendment 64 help make the Aloha State the next one to pass laws legalizing the cultivation, sale and possession of marijuana in small amounts?

If Hawaii House Speaker Joseph Souki is successful, it just might.

Last week, Souki, a Democrat who has been in office since 1982, introduced House Bill 150. Like the amendment that Colorado voters just passed, Hawaii's bill would allow people 21 and over to possess and purchase up to an ounce of marijuana at a time, as well as paraphernalia. Like A64, the Hawaii bill would not create a user database and would only require a government-issued ID for purchase.

Currently, possession of an ounce or less in Hawaii is a misdemeanor charge carrying thirty days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine, while paraphernalia possession is a felony, with a punishment of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Hawaii does recognize medical marijuana, however, and patients are allowed to cultivate up to seven marijuana plants (only three can be in flower) and possess up to three ounces at a time.

Amendment 64 sponsor and newly hired Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mason Tvert says he's unsure whether the Hawaii proposal's language was taken directly from Amendment 64, but a quick read-through pretty much confirms it. Calls to Souki were not immediately returned.

Language in the Hawaii measure also allows for personal cultivation, but the number of plants is not yet set in stone; it's actually left blank in the most online versions of the bill.

Otherwise, the personal-cultivation section is nearly identical to Colorado's -- particularly the portion that calls for growing to take place in an enclosed, locked space. That means wonderful outdoor Hawaiian would either have to be grown indoors, in a greenhouse, or in some sort of locked cage. If you've ever been to Hawaii, you know how ridiculous that sounds, as the entire chain of islands is among the world's most perfect growing environments.

Other parts of Hawaii's HB 150 that resemble Amendment 64 include passages allowing the transfer of one ounce or less "without remuneration to a person who is 21 years of age or older," and language that prohibits open or public cannabis consumption.

In Hawaii, the county government is the foundational form of government office; there are no city governments. Two counties comprise single islands -- Hawaii and Oahu -- and the three remaining counties are groupings of smaller islands. The bill calls for all marijuana businesses to be handled by county governments, which also have the ability to ban marijuana businesses entirely -- as in Colorado.

According to a recent poll, 57 percent of Hawaii voters agree that marijuana should be regulated and small amounts made legal for adults over the age of 21.

"In Hawaii, as across the nation, arrests for marijuana possession are one of the most common ways that individuals get caught up in the criminal justice system, at great social and economic cost," says ACLU of Hawaii executive director Vanessa Chong. "These studies provide important, updated facts for the Hawaii community as we consider new directions."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana rule-breaking after Amendment 64 not a problem at resorts, says ski industry group" and "Marijuana: Differences among members of council's recreational pot committee, chair says."

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