Hawaii Moves to Decriminalize

Hawaii seems like a happening kind of place. It’s got beautiful beaches, volcanoes, it’s own airline… things seem pretty good.

But now, Hawaii has something else that a lot of states don’t have: a laxer policy on marijuana. On Tuesday, decriminalized small amounts of the drug, becoming the 26th state in the union to do so to some extent.

The new rule, set to take effect in early 2020, will remove jail as a potential punishment for possession of up to three grams of marijuana. Even so, a $130 fine is still possible. The move is a small step toward fuller liberty, but the smallest such limit of any state that has decriminalized.

“The amount is very small, when you talk with law enforcement personnel,” Hawaii Governor David Ige said. “Essentially they will proceed the way they always have.”

The Power of Decriminalization

While the amount is small, the direction is still right for decriminalization advocates.

Many believe that strict punishments on marijuana possession are draconian policies, particularly because they disproportionately target minority communities. A step towards legalization in any amount is a step away from such policies.

Of course, this change did not receive universal support. Even governor Ige himself did not sign the bill. But he stood aside and allowed his veto window to pass. It’s not a ringing endorsement, but it’s an acknowledgement that the policy received enough support to allow it to pass.

Currently, ten states, along with the District of Columbia, have fully legalized marijuana. Hawaii is nowhere near that point, but for pro-legalization advocates, it’s moving in the right direction.


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