Proposal to Tax Marijuana at 15 Percent is Opposed by Some Legalization Advocates

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Photo courtesy of Reason

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – “Kona Gold” … “Maui Wowie” – these are just some of the nicknames for locally-grown Marijuana that island residents grew up with. Hawaii, like most states, bans Marijuana use unless the consumer has a medical Marijuana permit. But at the Hawaii legislature, there is a major push in the ongoing 2013 legislative session for the 50th state to join Colorado and Washington State in revoking the prohibition.

While law enforcement opposes legalization, calling Marijuana a “gateway drug” that can cause users to become violent, the proposal has energized many who believe the substance is no more dangerous that alcohol or cigarettes.


However, within advocacy circles, there is controversy over whether the drug should be taxed and regulated or simply legalized.

The Libertarian Party of Hawaii, which has long advocated for decriminalization of Marijuana, is calling for an “intelligent approach” to reforming Marijuana laws.

Unlike other advocates that have suggested Marijuana be taxed and regulated like cigarettes, Libertarians do not support many of the rules, Ryan said.

“We are particularly troubled by a special 15 percent tax included in HB699, and a ban on public consumption, in both House bills. No logic is presented for the ban on public consumption. Nor is it clear why the 21 year old legal age was chosen. It is 18 for tobacco,” said Tracy Ryan, president of the Libertarian Party of Hawaii.

SB467, HB699 and HB150 would create a legal marijuana licensing system, but none of the proposals would repeal the current criminal statutes, Ryan said, and instead refer to “affirmative defense” if a person is following all of the regulations.

“Bills that aim to ‘legalize’ marijuana are worthy of support, but should not be written so poorly, as to lead to problems and confusion when passed into law,” Ryan said.

“This is sloppy,” Ryan said. “A better way to repeal a law is to include all the text to be repealed in the legislative bill, with the language to be removed struck through. Marijuana advocates must insist on this step as a minimum to accomplishing the goals set by the legislators. Please remember that our legislation will only create new statutory material, and will not have the weight that a constitutional amendment, such as that passed in Colorado, would.”

The Drug Policy Action Group is a major force behind the legalization effort. At a January 2013 press conference, the group share the results of a poll conducted by QMark Research on the public’s attitudes toward marijuana and marijuana laws. Out of 600 people polled between November 19 and December 4, 2012,  78% supported a dispensary system for medical marijuana; 69% believed jail time for marijuana offenses is inappropriate; and 57% favored legalizing, taxing and regulating Marijuana. That was a 20% jump in the number of people who favored Marijuana legalization in a 2005 poll, the group said.

At the press conference, attorney Pamela Lichty, President of the Drug Policy Action Group, also unveiled a new report on economic impacts of Marijuana legalization.

Authored by David Nixon, an Associate Professor at the University of Hawaii College of Social Sciences Public Policy Center, the report documented  a “surge” in Marijuana use in Hawaii since 2004 documented by possession arrests that have increased almost 50% and distribution arrests that have almost doubled.

Decriminalizing Marijuana could save taxpayers $9 million a year in law enforcement costs, and if it was taxed, bring in another $11 million a year in revenues, Nixon said.

Nixon also maintains in his report that current laws “overly impact males under the age of 25 and people of native Hawaiian descent – groups that were arrested in numbers disproportionate to their share of the population.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has joined the push for legalization. Vanessa Chong, Executive Director of the ACLU of Hawaii, said: “In Hawaii as across the nation, arrests for Marijuana possession are one of the most common ways that individuals get caught up in the criminal justice system, at great social and economic cost. These studies provide important, updated facts for the Hawaii community as we consider new directions.”

Lichty said from the survey findings, it’s clear that Hawaii voters are open to reconsidering local Marijuana laws. “The data in both of these reports will help our communities craft more effective, less costly approaches for the future.  The Drug Policy Action Group, the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii and our allies will advocate for the policy reforms that people in Hawaii want,” Lichty said.






  1. How many puffs of Marijuana does one have to inhale to be legally stoned? No one thought that far ahead yet. Legalize it, then deal with the enormous problems that will follow later on….

    • RD, you gotta ask shaft about that.
      By his own admission a qualified expert on the subject, I'm sure.

  2. Hawaii is such a backwards state. How can they have legalized medical marijuana, but nowhere for the patients to get it except off the streets?

    I hope they legalize it though. HPD needs to worry about catching those meth addicts and criminals.

  3. How does everyone feel that cops can now smoke Marijuana when they get home from their shift? Fire Department, and Airline Pilots too.

    • How about those cops, fire fighters, and airline pilots that currently go home and drink alcohol?

    • How do you feel stating such a question of idiocy. For one, every single one of those groups you listed has a contract that specifically addresses such behavior and the penalties involved. Additionally, Fed firearms rules forbid anyone who is under the influence or has a MM card from owning firearms.

      Seriously, where do you come up with this crap? You must be smoking some yourself.

  4. I'd be happy our police officers and other people in such hard stressful jobs now have a better way to relax after work. Making them nicer the next day and much happier 🙂 I think it will help everyone!

  5. Drug testing will be a thing of the past. Now all Public service jobs will be worked by stoners.

  6. 1. If the common term was "RE-Legalization" instead of just "legalization", it would be learned by more that cannabis was as legal as bananas…or air, for that matter…since humans climbed down from the trees. Also, it would suggest the topic of WHY it was made illegal decades ago…namely…to protect the environmentally-damaging, health-damaging competing interests of big timber-paper-pulp, synthetic (petroleum-based) fabrics and plastics, pesticide-intensive cotton, chlorine (cannabis needs no dioxin-creating chlorine for pesticides or processing), etc., and for their investors. And, of course, police state entities like the ban because it clues them in to who blindly obeys illegitimate laws or not…not to mention distracting from Truly Harmful corporate crimes. Private prison benefits of criminalization came along later…devastatingly.

    2. Creating extraordinarily high tax rates for pot…assuming this is only about "recreational marijuana"…is a neat way for police and officials to enjoy yet another inevitable crime area…tax dodging and black marketing etc. Of course, the idea of taxing Medicinal Marijuana is as cruel and counter-indicated as taxing any other medicine.

    3. And, what's this "recreational" term anyway? Is chocolate a "recreational food"? Is a weekend road trip "recreational driving"? Is intimate contact between those unable to have children "recreational sex"? We never hear of "recreational tobacco" or "…alcohol"…even though both have medicinal uses.

  7. California is making a lot of money from those dispensories. I don't see why we can't do the same thing. Maybe that can help pay for the stupid rail!

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