A press conference of government officials was held in Hawaii. The meeting was organized at the initiative of Hawaiian Rep. Jeanné Kapela to announce her legislation, which will address criminal justice reform and other important issues related to cannabis.
All speakers at the press conference were unanimous in their opinion that state policy is outdated, and criminal prosecution of people who use cannabis causes immeasurable harm to the community - both to the convicted person and to the state as a whole.
For example, Nikos Leverenz of the Hawaiian Drug Policy Forum called the upcoming cannabis law 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 ongoing criminalization of cannabis and ancient drug laws,” Leverenz said. “At the same time, a properly regulated adult market will create many quality jobs and business opportunities across the state, including those related to canna tourism and cannabis science.”
This view was echoed by fellow conference attendee George Cordero of ACLU Hawaii, who spoke of the inhumane conditions in overcrowded Hawaiian prisons due to minor convictions for cannabis use, as well as the long-term effects of cannabis use on a personal file: “Having a conviction for marijuana in your track record can make it difficult to get a job, apply for a credit card, secure housing, a job for the rest of your life,” said Cordero.
Kapela herself noted that the time has long come to legalize the recreational use of cannabis in the state and now the state is literally standing “on the edge of history.” Kapela did not specify a timeline for when her bill would be proposed, but noted that "social justice and people" form the core of the cannabis legalization proposal.
Previously, in March 2021, the Hawaii Senate approved two cannabis reform bills that ultimately failed to pass.
Former Hawaii Governor David Ige has not been a strong supporter of cannabis legalization and has often voiced his doubts due to its illegal status at the federal level. However, in January 2020, he allowed a bill to be passed without his signature to decriminalize cannabis in the state.
However, in November 2022, newly elected Governor Joshua Green said he would sign the legalization bill into law.