Advocates Announce New Coalitions as Hawaii Marijuana Decriminalization Bill passes Senate Floor Vote

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Photo courtesy of Reason

REPORT FROM THE ACLU AND THE DRUG POLICY ACTION GROUP – HONOLULU, HAWAII – As SB 472 SD2, a bill to decriminalize marijuana, was unanimously approved by the Hawaii Senate, and two bills to improve Hawaii’s medical marijuana program are poised for passage in the House, Hawaii advocates have announced the launch of two statewide coalitions to reform local marijuana laws.

Fresh Approach Hawaii is a group of local organizations, businesses and individuals active on all aspects of local marijuana law reform: informing the community and policy makers, advocating for legislative measures to legalize and decriminalize marijuana, and bills to improve Hawaii’s medical marijuana program. The group can be found on the web at, and on Twitter and Facebook.


The Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii works confidentially with patients, caregivers and doctors to safely access Hawaii’s 13 year-old medical marijuana program, holds statewide meetings for the medical cannabis community, and advocates at the legislature for improvements to the program. They can be found on the web at, and on Twitter and Facebook.

Pam Lichty, President of the Drug Policy Action Group, said: “Hawaii voters want a fresh approach to marijuana laws. Our recent polling reveals that 81% of Hawaii voters support our medical marijuana program, and that 58% think that possession by adults of small amounts should not carry criminal penalty. The trend around the nation is to ditch counterproductive marijuana laws that divert law enforcement resources from addressing violent crime. With today’s action, it’s clearer than ever that Hawaii is right in step with that direction. The formation of these two coalitions creates a more formal channel for people to directly engage with these issues, and to advocate for meaningful marijuana policy reforms.”

Vanessa Chong, Executive Director of the ACLU of Hawaii added: “The coalitions offer interested individuals a way to get the facts about reform and take action including pressing government leaders for change. Hawaii lawmakers have an opportunity to re-direct spending of taxpayer dollars away from costly and discriminatory policies and toward reasonable and more effective measures while preserving public safety. The persistent and disproportionate impact on communities of color can sensibly be reduced by removing criminal penalties for low-level possession (Senate Bill 472 (SD2)). The current price tag to the criminal justice system of $24,000 a day for enforcement could then be focused on other public concerns. This would be a strong step for Hawaii (alongside 14 other states) in the right direction.”

The coalitions are currently working on the three live bills to reform Hawaii’s marijuana laws in the 2013 State Legislature. These bills all passed floor votes on 3/5/13 and will cross over to be heard anew in the House (for SB 472) and the Senate (for HBs 667 and 668). Bills to legalize marijuana for adult use in Hawaii died earlier this session, but are still live for consideration in the 2014 legislature. Updates can be found on

· Senate Bill (“SB”) 472 SD2 to remove criminal penalties for adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.

· House Bill (“HB”) 667 HD2 to improve Hawaii’s medical marijuana program.

· HB 668 HD2 to move administration of the medical marijuana program from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health.

The Drug Policy Action Group, founded in 2004, is a sister organization to the 20 year old Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii. Its mission is to advocate for effective, non-punitive drug policies that minimize economic, social and human costs and to encourage pragmatic approaches based on science and concern for human dignity.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii is our nation’s guardian of liberty working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.





  1. I smoked my first joint in December, 1967, at the tender age of 21.

    Now, a mere 44 years later, I still smoke pot. I have never 'graduated' to 'harder' drugs. Nor, have I ever harmed anyone.

    I am living proof that this prohibitionist propaganda is a fallacy…a blatant lie.

    The worst experience I had with marijuana was spending 5 years in Federal Prison for a pot offense.

    While there, I watched armed bank robbers come and go in as little as 20 months.

    When I went to the parole board after more than 3 years 'behind the wall,' I pointed this out to the panel members. Their response: "You must understand that yours was a very serious offense."

    I laughed about that for another 2 years (as I still sat in prison)…then wrote my book:

    Shoulda Robbed a Bank.

    I would be honored by your review.

  2. I'm sorry, but what's this new formed group for? A new place to serve up "BS"? We have a democratic Gov., a democratic control House & Senate. How is it that cannabis isn't better off today than 13 years ago when Hawaii introduced medical cannabis. I mean why is the Medical Cannabis program still under the "Public Safety" umbrella? Isn't that alone a conflict of interest?

    I've been smoking cannabis since mid to late sixties. Been breeding cannabis off and on for past twenty years. I wanted to start Hawaii's first cannabis seed bank exclusively for Hawaii residents only. I even wrote Gov. Abrecrombie with my intentions. But I didn't get the support I wanted & needed to push forward with this idea.
    I'm now watching closely and trying to figure out why we can't have "ballot initiatives", to remedy the problem. You all see the numbers from the polls conducted this past year. Yet our local politicians refuse to follow the will of the people!?So what do we do,what can we do? I watch closely. But once again Hawaii has gotten cold feet . I wonder if our state would have taken a more bolder approach had our local politicians knew already what Eric Holder's intentions are?

    We, the people who support medical cannabis & recreational cannabis to some degree also needs to get in the face of people like of Dr./Sen. Josh Green and others bent on keeping Hawaii from reaching it's goals of helping the ones who need & want medical cannabis.

  3. it’s clearer than ever that Hawaii is right in step with that direction. The formation of these two coalitions creates a more formal channel for people to directly engage with these issues, and to advocate for meaningful marijuana policy reforms.

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