Hawaii Bill Would Legalize Marijuana for Recreational Use, Set Foundation to Block Federal Prohibition

HONOLULU, Hawaii, (Mar. 7, 2015) – A bill introduced in the Hawaii Senate would legalize marijuana for recreational use. Passage would not only legalize marijuana in the Aloha State, but would also take a big step toward thwarting federal cannabis prohibition in practice in the state.

Sen. Kalani English (D-Maui) introduced Senate Bill 2581 (SB2581) along with four co-sponsors. The bill would permit individuals twenty-one years and older to do the following:

(a) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, the personal use of marijuana is permitted.
(b) Personal use of marijuana shall not be the basis for arrest, seizure, or forfeiture of assets.
(c) The possession, use, display, purchase, transfer, or transport of marijuana, marijuana accessories, or marijuana paraphernalia for personal use shall be immune from criminal prosecution.
(d) The possession, growing, processing, or transporting of not more than six marijuana plants, with three or fewer being mature, flowering plants, and possession of the marijuana produced by the plants on the premises where the plants are grown shall not be subject to criminal prosecution; provided that the growing takes place in an enclosed and locked space and is not conducted openly or publicly, and that the plants are not made available for sale.
(e) The transfer or sale of one ounce or less of marijuana with or without remuneration to a person who is twenty-one years of age or older is permitted.
(f) The consumption of marijuana products is permitted.
(g) Assisting, advising, or abetting another person who is twenty-one years of age or older in any actions described in this section is permitted.

If SB2581 is successful, Hawaii would be the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through the state legislature rather than the ballot initiative process.

EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION

Passage of SB2581 would remove one layer of laws prohibiting the possession, cultivation or use of marijuana, but federal prohibition would remain in place.

Of course, the federal government lacks any legal authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

While the Hawaii bill would not alter federal law, it would take a step toward blocking in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By erasing the state laws, the Hawaii legislature would essentially sweep away the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

If the state legislature passes SB2581, Hawaii would join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition. Colorado, Washington state and Alaska have all legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, and 23 states now allow cannabis for medical use. With nearly half the country legalizing marijuana, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more. The feds need state cooperation to fight the “drug war,” and that has rapidly evaporated in the last few years with state legalization, virtually ending the ban.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” policy analyst Michael Boldin said.

NEXT UP

SB2581 has not been assigned to a committee assignment as of publication. It must pass its committee by a majority vote before it can move on for consideration in the full Senate.