How the Marijuana Legalization Debate Might Spread to Hawaii

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BY RONALD FRASER – For the time being, Hawaiians can consider last November’s defeat of Proposition 19, a California ballot initiative to legalize and regulate the personal use of marijuana, as none of their business.  But as this debate spreads outward from California it will, sooner or later, reach Hawaii.


Having started the war on marijuana, the federal government is the enforcer of the status quo — even as opinion polls show the public’s desire for change.  So, it is up to the states, one-by-one, to replace failed drug war policies with something that makes sense.  To see how the future marijuana legalization debate might spread, let’s consider the work of professor Everett M. Rogers.

Based on hundreds of case studies, Rogers says the launch of a new idea requires an adventuresome idea champion willing to deal with a lot of uncertainty.  A handful of “early adopters” will follow suit.  Then, after waiting and carefully watching what happens, the majority of the potential “late adopters” are likely to give the new idea a try.  A few “laggards,” might never adopt it.

Proposition 19 nearly passed in 2010 with 46% of the vote.  Let’s assume in 2012 a similar initiative wins 51% and California becomes the first state to legalize marijuana.

Shortly thereafter, if Rogers is right, states already familiar with marijuana policy issues — including Hawaii — will take a fresh look at marijuana legalization.

Hawaii citizens became familiar with marijuana issues during the debate leading up to approving the use of marijuana for medical purposes state wide, and prior to Hawaii County officially setting a low law enforcement priority on the possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use.

Other potential early adopters include Alaska and Nevada, where past attempts to legalize marijuana failed but medical marijuana laws have been adopted, and those states that have approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes: Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington State and the District of Columbia.   Legislatures in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Minnesota passed medical marijuana bills only to have them vetoed by the governors.

States that have reduced the possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use from a criminal act to a finable civil infraction are also early adopter candidates.  In addition to several of the above states, these include: Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina and Ohio.

After watching what happens in these early adopter states, according to Rogers, the remaining “late adopter” states will finally consider whether or not to legalize and regulate the personal use of small amounts of marijuana in a manner similar to the way alcohol and tobacco are now regulated.

The marijuana legalization debate in California is a public education process in which fear of the unknown is being replaced with understanding.   Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance, puts it this way, “The greatest challenge is to break the taboo on vigorous, honest and open debate about all drug policy options, that’s what drug war advocates most fear.”  And that is exactly the service Proposition 19 delivered last year in California.  It got people talking about the issue in an open and honest way.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, scores of newspapers across the state ran hundreds of news and editorial stories, some in favor and some against legalization.  Millions of voters were called upon to think long and hard about the costs and benefits of legalization.

The California State Firefighters Association, the Association of Drug Court Professionals, and the National Black Churches Initiative opposed the initiative.  Supporters included many state and local elected officials, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Black Police Association.

As long as no one knows how to curb America’s urge to use alcohol, tobacco — or marijuana — legalization and regulation is a common sense alternative to the current, endless drug war.  Wars, both foreign and domestic, are easy to start and hard to stop.  For this reason, California is doing the entire nation and the people of Hawaii a great service by seeking common sense drug control policies that will greatly reduce criminal violence, increase tax revenues and permit sensible regulation of a substance that is now acquired through illicit, underground channels.

Ronald Fraser, Ph.D., writes on public policy issues for the DKT Liberty Project, a Washington-based civil liberties organization.  Write him at:





  1. If History Serves me right, Didn’t our government make alcohol(ManMade) illegal not too long ago. But yet you are quick to point a finger to a person that consumes something Natural. Why haven’t there been public government sponsored studies for Marijuana. Because it opens our minds and makes us realize that the government is screwing us over.

    The government nearly wiped out(by infecting them with smallpox) a whole peaceful civilization because they needed 100,000 acres per person. Some may say Native Americans were not peaceful, But,how would you feel if I got you drunk and stole your Harley Davidson with no consequences and laughed at you? Laughter is Universal.

    The rules we need to set for our government is” If you can’t get the Public/ Your local publics concerns resolved in a timely manner( one -two years), then you need to be replaced. No Terms, Power of voting can be monstrous. Big Business now controls our government because Our senators/congressmen need to send their children to overpriced universities and live in 5 bdrm/5bth homes for 2 people. While their Housekeeper/Nanny/Chauffeur is struggling to keep her job, kids in school, out of gangs, food on the table and a roof over their head.
    FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE IS NEAR. Congress has consistently given themselves raises but refused to raise Minimum wage. Big Business has consistently raised consumer prices while lobbying congress to keep minimum wage down. (HP/EDS imposes more pay Cuts). Why hasn’t Congress considered Cutting their OWN retirements/health benefits when cutting public services like local pools/Park activities. Big Business Should No Longer control what you think. Be independent and make your own decisions and quit watching so much TV. You don’t need those $90 pair of jeans that are on sale for $50. If you want a boat, pitch in with your Family and buy one debt free. If you can’t get along to make a few decisions like who gets the boat then you have collapsed to Big Business because you need your own.

    Write your Senator/Congressman about your concerns. If they don’t respond, Vote for someone else or run for office your self.
    The 80’s & 90’s were the governments way of getting a civilization drunk on greed and non essential needs. Look at China, Most Young Adults in China don’t even know what happened in Tiananmen Square, because they’re too busy texting or listening to their ipods. Quit trying to keep up with the Jone’s/Hernandez’s,Roth’s. Keep your focus on your family. If you do this and set this great example then your children will learn from this and we will change us back to a caring Nation one generation at a time. Look how fast we changed from the 40’s and 50’s. (only fifty years ago)

    Marijuana Consumers don’t start fights, they are too stoned. Marijuana Consumers don’t speed, they are too paranoid to drive. (different strokes for different folks). Marijuana Consumers eat more, therefore contributing more to the economy. Alcohol Consumers eat more after they’re finished drinking, and have caused more deaths in the world than Marijuana just to get to the restaurant before all the other drunks get there when the bars close.

    If The DWI unit got smart they would stake out Ihop or Jack in the box between 1:30am and 7am(After hours Club). This will aggravate all those drunks who will then speak up about their rights to consume an item that is killing them.

    I just want to make a living for my family, come home every now and then and smoke a nice fat bowl. Not stand in Line shoulder to shoulder with a stranger at a bar for 10 minutes for an overpriced drink that’s going to kill me anyways.
    Big Business says this is cool but not staying at home with your family and watching your children grow up is cool. I understand we need to be social but there are more casual/safe ways of doing that. What happened to neighborhood back yard bar B q’s?

    Back to the subject. How many People do you know have died from marijuana overdoes? I can not find one person’s name in history who suffered/Enjoyed this kind of death. How many people have died from an accidental sleep aid overdose( no ad plugs here)? How many people have died from liver failure because of acetaminophen? Remember Different Strokes for Different folks.

    Government is in the pockets of Big Business. Pharmaceutical Companies don’t want it legalized because it will make a lot of their products useless and maybe even cheaper or Obsolete. We are all Lab Rats (standing in line at bar)and Our so called democratic government is standing over us and laughing with Big Business right next to them. Remember the Native Americans.

    Remember to take the time today or soon(put that J down) and write your Senator/Congressman and let them know how you really feel about legalizing Marijuana.
    Don’t just write a one liner, then they will just think your an UnEducated Marijuana Consumer. Sort of Like a Teenager telling Adults they knows everything. Who would take that serious?

    GOOGLE WHO IS YOUR CONGRESSMAN/SENATOR AND MAKE SURE YOUR ON A DOTGOV SITE. otherwise I’d give the URL/website to write them. CL’s Rules not mine.

    I don’t claim to be smarter than anyone else or better than you, but have observed and learned that our government is taking advantage of an Ignorant(uneducated) world.

    People that respond to this will try to discredit alot of this, but You are a smart person, be independent and make your own decision from what you believe. Not from what someone else thinks. Remember the Jone’s?

    I’m just here to make a point, not be right or wrong.



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