Decriminalization Bill Advances in Hawaii

Feb 08, 2011

committee, decriminalization, Hawaii, law enforcement, message, Senate

In addition to two medical marijuana regulation bills being considered in Hawaii, a separate bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana is moving through the state Senate. Last week, it passed through two Senate committees and is now headed to the full Senate for a vote before advancing further. Considering that 20 of 25 members of the Senate are co-sponsors, it should be a breeze.

The bill would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil infraction. This would carry a $100 fine, but would not come with a criminal record or jail time. It also removes the mandate for drug treatment for someone possessing the same amount. Teachers and school administrators would no longer be required to notify the police of student possession if they preferred to deal with an incident in-house, which would surely free up many law enforcement resources.

As usual, law enforcement and others opposed to this commonsense measure are complaining that such laws send a mixed message to children. And as usual, they are ignoring the message that is sent when adults tell youth to stay away from alcohol, while openly distributing, using, and advertising it ubiquitously. Yet, no one is calling for a return to alcohol prohibition. Maybe they think kids are stupid. Or maybe they are just afraid to admit they are wrong, and that there is no justification for making criminals out of adults who choose to relax with a substance that is safer than alcohol.