Hawaii has decriminalized possession of up to 3g of marijuana after Gov. David Ige allowed HB 1383 to pass into law without his signature.

The House approved the measure unanimously in May and it was sent to Ige’s desk after also gaining the green light from the Senate. Ige had the power to veto it and he admitted in a June press conference that it was “a very tough call”.

In the end, he did not endorse it, but he did not veto it either. The measure will now come into effect on Jan. 11, 2020.

The law removes the possibility of jail time or a criminal record for anyone caught with 3 grams of cannabis or less, although the potential for a $130 fine remains.

It will also expunge criminal records of anyone previously convicted of possessing up to 3g of marijuana, which could make it easier for those people to secure employment and housing. The law also establishes an evaluation taskforce designed to make recommendations on changing penalties around cannabis use.

Hawaii is the 26th state to either legalize or decriminalize adult-use marijuana, but supply remains illegal, so Hawaiians cannot obtain cannabis from safe, regulated sources, while the state cannot benefit from tax revenue.

It is seen as a somewhat conservative state in its approach to marijuana. It legalized medical cannabis in 2000, but dispensary sales only commenced in 2017 after years of legal wranglings.

Campaign group Marijuana Policy Project said the law represents “an improvement” for Hawaii, but insisted it does not go far enough towards liberalizing the state’s marijuana policy. It added that 3 grams is the lowest limit seen in any state that has decriminalized cannabis possession.

Hawaii is now one of 13 states to have a legal medical marijuana industry and to have decriminalized possession for recreational use, along with New Mexico, North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Maryland, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. North Carolina, Mississippi, and Nebraska have decriminalized it, but they have not permitted medical marijuana sales.

Montana, Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania have given medical cannabis the green light, but possessing marijuana for recreational use remains an offence in those states. Marijuana is fully legal in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, and Alaska. It remains fully illegal in 14 states.

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