Drug law reform can help to reduce prison populations and alleviate unnecessary and costly overcrowding. It can add to state tax coffers. And it can increase respect for the law. Nationwide, marijuana reform is by far the most popular type of criminal justice reform.
State Senate Bill 472, which would have decriminalized marijuana in Hawaii, was introduced in this year's legislative session. The bill would have changed the state's outdated approach to minor marijuana possession by making it a non-criminal, fine-only offense. Although it was approved in the Hawaii Senate, SB472 was unfortunately moved off to consideration in 2014 by the House. However, this reform bill remains alive for consideration during the 2014 legislative session.
Why decriminalize marijuana use in Hawaii?
- Marijuana arrests in Hawaii have gone up almost 50 percent since 2004. This places a huge burden on the law enforcement, courts and prison systems.
- A recent poll shows that most Hawaiians believe that jail time for marijuana offenses is inappropriate and favor legalized and regulated marijuana that can help raise tax revenue.
- If marijuana were decriminalized and its sale was taxed and regulated, Hawaii could put the current millions of dollars used in annual enforcement costs to better use.
Even a minor marijuana offense can severely damage a person's employment prospects and have an adverse effect on his or her life. The vast majority of Hawaiians understand that this is fundamentally unfair and irrational. The passage of SB472 would be a step toward a more balanced approach to marijuana offenses. For now, individuals convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana continue to face disproportionate punishment in the form of steep fines and the threat of jail time.
If you have been accused of a drug-related offense, consult a Hawaii defense attorney who can provide you with experienced and aggressive representation.