Hawaii Senators Pass Adult Use Cannabis Bill

On March 7, the Hawaii Senate voted 22 to 3 to pass a bill on adult use of cannabis. Also known as the SB669 SD2, the bill would create a framework for cultivation, manufacture, sale and taxation. It would allow residents to possess up to 30 grams, grow up to six plants for personal use, and also decriminalize small amounts of cannabis.

The bill was first introduced Jan. 20 by Sen. Joy A. San Buenaventura, Sen. Stanley Chang, Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole and Sen. Angus LK McKelvey and has gone through numerous committee hearings. Sen. Keohokalole chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection, which has addressed changes including imposing penalties for unlicensed cultivation, protecting employers who want to ban employees from using cannabis, preventing cannabis stores from opening within 1,000 feet of youth-related areas, and other changes to address cannabis licensing that does not allow for monopoly development.

“Today marks a significant step forward in the legalization of adult-use cannabis in Hawaii. These changes reflect the Senate’s commitment to ensuring a fair and well-regulated cannabis market that provides safe access for both adult consumers and existing medical patients,” Keohokalole said. “If legalizing adult-use cannabis is something that the governor supports, we hope that his administration, which has hitherto opposed any proposal to legalize adult-use cannabis, will work with us to make it happen.”

After it was passed with amendments by the Senate, it was submitted to the House of Representatives for consideration that same day.

On Jan. 11, another cannabis law for adult use, HB-237, was introduced by Rep. Jeanné Kapela of Hawaii. This bill would also create a regulatory framework for legalization, but would also include language that would allow out-of-state patients to benefit from medical cannabis laws and would exempt the sale of medical cannabis from general excise tax collection. In addition, Kapela introduced HB-283, which would prohibit employers from discriminating against prospective employees or current employees because of their medicinal cannabis use. Neither HB-237 nor HB-238 survived the hearings that took place in late January.

A recent poll released in late January by the Hawaii Cannabis Industry Association found that 86% of adult Hawaiians support the legalization of adult-use cannabis, while just 9% oppose it and 5% say they don’t know. The survey also found that adult use was slightly more popular than medical use, in a comparison of 45% versus 41%. In all, the state could collect up to $81.7 million in taxes and $423 million in gross receipts if cannabis legalization were passed.

An additional report from the Dual Use Cannabis Task Force also released its findings in January, saying cannabis tax revenues could reach between $34 million and $53 million.

Kapela focused on the data provided by this task force report to create the bill she introduced. “We all know, and the people of Hawaii know, that it is high time adult recreational cannabis use was legalized in Hawaii. This year we stand on the precipice of history,” said Kapela. “Following the recommendations of a task force looking at cannabis policy, we now have a roadmap for the legalization of recreational cannabis on our islands.”

Aside from the speed with which lawmakers are supporting cannabis legalization, efforts to legalize therapeutic psilocybin have also become popular. One such bill, SB-1454, was introduced in January and passed unanimously in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on February 6. It aims to establish regulations to create a “therapeutic psilocybin working group” to study the medical benefits of psilocybin for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and end-of-life mental distress.

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