The contiguous United States has been focused on marijuana legalization, with numerous states taking the plunge in 2018. As 2019 gets going, Hawaii has decided it is time to start debating the merits of marijuana legalization.

The bill would allow adults to legally possess an ounce of marijuana, while they will be allowed to grow as many as six plants where it is permitted.

The bill is sponsored by 12 members of the Senate, which only has 25 members total. It would fully legalize marijuana in the state of Hawaii, allowing adults over the age of 21 to possess and cultivate the drug.

The bill would allow adults to legally possess an ounce of marijuana, while they will be allowed to grow as many as six plants where it is permitted. Meanwhile, the bill would allow regulations to be made by the state Department of Taxation and does not lay out much in the way of plans to regulate or requirements for those rules.

The initial hearing on legalization saw 260 pages of written testimony submitted and also 12 speakers that were present in person to give their testimony. The Senate Judiciary Committee continued the hearing to Feb. 7 to give everyone time to process what they heard. Meanwhile, the bill will move to the Ways and Means committee if it is approved by the Judiciary Committee vote.

Meanwhile, nine members of the house have sponsored House Bill 708, which is very similar to that under consideration in the Senate. The House Bill has yet to face hearings, although plans are in motion to get that process started. The current tax rate outlined in the House Bill is 12%.

The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii is largely supportive of the Senate bill, which will be voted on next week by the Judiciary committee (Feb. 7). However, some recommendations they have submitted include expunging criminal records related to the drug and also use the revenue from marijuana sales to help communities that were hard hit by the push to charge those caught with drugs.

Medical marijuana is legal in Hawaii, and last year the state recognized the growing opioid epidemic by passing a bill that added opioid addiction as a condition that qualifies the patient for marijuana as a medical treatment.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige is a Democrat and not necessarily supportive of the measure, although legislators close to the governor say that he would strongly consider signing if the bill makes it to his desk. Meanwhile, the consensus is that, if the measure to fully legalize stalls, another bill that is on the table to simply decriminalize marijuana possession would definitely get the support it needs to pass.

The first committee meeting to hear the decriminalization bill is Feb. 5.

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