Hawai’i Senate defeats decrim improvement, sends expungement bills to governor

Apr 23, 2024


Hawai’i Senate defeats decrim improvement, sends expungement bills to governor

On April 22nd, 2024, in a shocking turn of events, the Hawai’i Senate defeated the House-passed version of SB 2487, which would have expanded the state’s paltry decriminalization law. The Senate had previously approved an earlier version of SB 2487, 24-1. It had also passed full legalization, which died in the House Finance Committee. 

Sen. Angus McKelvey was one of the 14 senators to flip from “yes” on March 5’s vote to “no” yesterday. He claimed, “The Senate sent a very good, reasonable recreational legalization bill with guardrails over to the other chamber,” saying SB 2487 could “explode” the illicit market, “undercutting and creating all the safety hazards that the bill we sent over should have addressed.”

As a result of the Senate’s 9-15 vote, hundreds of Hawai’i residents and visitors will continue to face traumatic arrests, possible jail time, and life-altering records for personal use of cannabis. Hawai’i has the lowest threshold for decriminalization — three grams, or under 1/8 ounce. The fine is a hefty $130, which is unaffordable to many who struggle to make ends meet. Possession of over three grams can result in up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. 

In brighter news, two state-initiated expungement bills — both of which were narrowed down in the legislative process — are headed to  Gov. Josh Green’s desk. HB 1595 would create a pilot program to wipe away arrest records that didn’t result in conviction for simple possession in Hawai’i County. Meanwhile, SB 2706 would set up a Clean Slate Expungement Task Force to look into broader state-initiated expungement. 

Ask Gov. Green to sign these important but limited expungement bills.

While this legislative session included significant setbacks, Hawai’i came the closest it has ever made it to legalization. In prior years, legalization bills did not even receive a House hearing. This year, it passed the Senate and three House committees. 

Opponents — largely in law enforcement — spent an inordinate amount of time scaremongering to defeat progress. We hope you’ll continue to fight for cannabis justice and freedom. This is an election year. Be ready to get engaged and make your voice heard as candidates ask for your vote.