LIGHTEN UP: Hawaii lawmakers may consider easing access to medical marijuana. Photo courtesy of Reason
Photo courtesy of Reason

Report from the Marijuana Policy Project – The Hawaii House Committee on Judiciary will convene Friday to hear testimony on the bill introduced by House Speaker Joseph Souki (D-8) to regulate and tax marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. The hearing on H.B. 699 is scheduled to begin at 2:00 p.m. HST in House conference room 325.

In summary, H.B. 699:

  • removes criminal penalties for the private possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and for the home-growing of up to five marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked space;
  • establishes a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities;
  • enacts an excise tax of up to 15 percent on the wholesale sale of marijuana applied at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store or product manufacturer (sales tax will also be applied at the point of retail sales); and
  • requires the department of taxation to establish rules regulating security, labeling, and health and safety requirements, as well as rules governing how best to prevent diversion of marijuana to those under 21.

The initiative does not change existing laws regarding driving under the influence of marijuana or the ability of employers to maintain their current employment policies. It also preserves the rights and responsibilities of patients and caregivers under Hawaii’s medical marijuana law.

“Most Hawaii voters recognize that marijuana prohibition has been just as ineffective and problematic as alcohol prohibition,” said Pam Lichty, president of the Honolulu-based Drug Policy Action Group. “By regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol, our state can control its production and sale, generate millions of dollars in new tax revenue and savings, and allow law enforcement officials to focus on serious crimes.”

A QMark Research poll released earlier this month found 57% of Hawaii voters believe marijuana should be regulated, taxed, and legal for adults. According to an economic analysis performed by University of Hawaii economist David Nixon, the state would generate $20 million per year in new tax revenue and criminal justice savings.

H.B. 699 is modeled after the Colorado ballot initiative voters approved in November, and it is similar to the measure adopted by voters in Washington state. Private adult marijuana possession is now officially legal for adults under state and local laws in both states, and their respective legislatures are in the process ofestablishing a system of regulated marijuana cultivation and retail sales. Similar proposals are expected to be introduced this year by lawmakers in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

“Voters and elected officials nationwide are fed up with laws that criminalize adults simply for using a product that is objectively less harmful than alcohol,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project. “Prohibition has failed, and it is time for a more sensible approach to marijuana. H.B. 699 proposes just that.”

The Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana-policy-reform organization, has been responsible for changing most state-level marijuana laws since 2000. For more information, visit