Cannabis legalization – Hawaii plans to legalize marijuana in 2023

While some states on the mainland sell cannabis for recreational use, in Hawaii, advocates and legislators are preparing for adults to be able to use cannabis in their state.

Hawaii plans to legalize marijuana in 2023

Jeanné Kapela

On 11 January 2023, members of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii and ACLU of Hawaii spoke at a press conference held at the Capitol in Honolulu. The meeting was prompted by Hawaii Rep. JeannĂ© Kapela’s announcement of her Cannabis legalization, which will target criminal justice reform and other important issues.

The first speaker was DeVaughn Ward, MPP’s Senior Legislative Advisor, who opened the conference and spoke about the importance of introducing effective legislation as soon as possible. “Cannabis prohibition has done immeasurable harm to our communities,”

Ward said. “cannabis legalization c is an opportunity to stop the harm to our residents and the waste of limited public safety resources.”

Then, Nikos Leverenz of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii described the upcoming cannabis legalization as a “critical opportunity” for lawmakers to address the needs of those affected by the war on drugs. “Hawaii’s cannabis policy should focus on the needs of those affected by the continued criminalization of marijuana and draconian enforcement of drug laws,”Leverenz said. “At the same time, a properly regulated adult-use market will create many high-quality jobs and business opportunities throughout the state, including those related to cannabis tourism, cannabis crafts and cannabis science.”


He also noted that in his official statement to the press, he asked that if the red state of Missouri can legalise cannabis, what is stopping Hawaii from moving forward. He explained that cannabis would flourish in Hawaii, especially if it brought in artisan cannabis growers, an industry that could contribute to a strong tourism sector for the state. “Hawaii has a rare opportunity this year to move forward and protect public health and create quality jobs and economic opportunities throughout the state, including our neighbouring island communities,” – he concluded.

George Cordero of ACLU Hawaii spoke about the inhumane conditions of incarceration in Hawaii’s overcrowded prisons due to a low-level marijuana conviction, as well as the long-term effects of having marijuana on your personal record. “Having a marijuana conviction on your record can make it extremely difficult to get employment, to apply for a credit card, to secure housing, to work for the rest of your life,”

Cordero said. “That’s why clearing people of marijuana convictions is a necessary condition of this legalisation measure.”

Cannabis legalization
Cannabis legalization – Hawaii 2023

The band took the stage. “We all know and the people of Hawaii know that it is high time to legalize recreational use of marijuana for adults in Hawaii. We stand on the precipice of history this year,” – she explained. “As recommended by the task force dedicated to addressing cannabis policy, we now have a roadmap for the legalisation of recreational cannabis in our islands,” – Kapela said, referring to the report released by the Hawaii Department of Health’s Cannabis Task Force in December 2022.

Kapela did not specify when her bill would be proposed, but clarified several key points, including helping with the state’s mass incarceration dilemma by issuing a mass expulsion programme. “Social justice. People. That’s what forms the heart of our proposal.” – she explained.

Previously, in March 2021, the Hawaii Senate approved two cannabis reform bills that ultimately did not move forward.

Former Gov. David Ige was not a strong proponent of legalising marijuana and often stated his hesitation due to its federally illegal status. However, he allowed a bill to pass without his signature in January 2020, which decriminalised marijuana in the state.

Governor Josh Green

However, newly elected Gov. Josh Green said in November 2022 that he would sign the legalisation bill. “I think people have already moved past this culturally as a concern,” Green said during the October 2022 debate. “But here’s what I would do. Firstly, if cannabis legalization, it should be very carefully monitored, and only done like cigarettes, or I’ve very carefully regulated tobacco over the years. We should take the $30-40 million in taxes we would get from that and invest in developing and rebuilding our mental health system for the benefit of everyone.”

You can watch the full speech on Jeanne Kapely’s Instagram

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