Hawaii is the 26th state to decriminalize marijuana, even if their policy on the drug is one of the most conservative ones in the country.
In 2019, Hawaii became the 26th state in the U.S. to decriminalize marijuana. On January 11th of this year, the law that prevented the incarceration of people over the possession of marijuana went into effect.
Residents of Hawaii with three grams or less of marijuana will now face a $130 fine as their sole punishment. Under this law, possession of larger amounts of the drug, distribution of it and repeat offenses could still lead to more severe punishments.
While three grams of marijuana isn’t much when compared to other states that have decriminalized marijuana or embraced similar policies, experts and lawmakers still believe that this is a necessary and welcome first step towards marijuana legalization.
“Unfortunately, three grams would be the smallest amount of any state that has decriminalized (or legalized) simple possession of marijuana,” said the Marijuana Policy Project in a statement. “Still, removing criminal penalties and possible jail time for possession of a small amount of cannabis is an improvement.”
David Ige, governor of Hawaii, debated heavily on the topic, calling it “a very tough call.” He’s always had a conservative perspective on marijuana legalization, vetoing bills that would legalize industrial hemp and that would allow for the inter-island transport of medical cannabis.
Ige’s opinions on the bill that would decrimiailize marijuana were mixed and don’t mean that Hawaii will legalize the drug anytime soon. Regarding the proposal, he said that he would have preferred is it included measures aimed at young people, preventing them from getting involved with substance abuse or helping them deal with their drug use.
“We continue to learn from other states about the problems they see with recreational marijuana, and most of the governors that I talk to that have recreational laws have acknowledged significant problems with those measures,” he said on a press conference in Honolulu last year.
Although Hawaii’s stance on marijuana is a slightly conservative one at the moment, decriminalizing the drug is still a win for advocates, one that might eliminate unnecessary arrests, the racial disparity that these trigger, and many of the harms caused by prohibition.