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Marijuana Legalization Will Be A Top Priority For Hawaii Legislature In 2019

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Considering the legalization of marijuana will be a top priority for Hawaii lawmakers this year, Senate President Ron Kouchi (D) said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the opening of the new legislative session, Kouchi talked about the chamber’s agenda going into 2019, which includes cannabis reform, raising the minimum wage and reducing homelessness.

Senate Majority Leader Kalani English (D) embraced Kouchi’s proposal, saying that legal marijuana could bring in significant tax revenue. The state has reached a “tipping point” as more states pursue their own adult-use cannabis systems, he said.

The state Democratic Party moved last month to list legalizing recreational cannabis as a “tier one top priority” for the 2019 legislative session.

But even in the legislature’s dominantly Democratic-controlled chambers, advancing marijuana reform has been an arduous process. Cannabis-related bills have consistently stalled, or been shot down, over the past two decades, Hawaii News Now reported.

And even if adult-use legalization legislation made its way to the governor’s desk, its fate would be uncertain. Gov. David Ige (D) said that he remains concerned about conflicting federal laws and that “[a]ny person coming to the islands has to know that they’re crossing a federal boundary which would make them subject to criminal sanctions.”

Ige has stood in the way of more modest reform efforts in the past, too. Last year, he vetoed a bill that would have allowed people with opioid use disorders to qualify for medical cannabis in the state—a move that was rebuked by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).

“With such a stark increase in prescription opioid use and dependence, heroin and synthetic drug overdose, and emergency room visits over the last decade, we must allow legal access to medical marijuana to help prevent opioid addiction and opioid-related deaths,” Gabbard, who ended up backing Ige’s unsuccessful primary opponent, said in a press release. “This legislation has the potential to save people’s lives in Hawaii… Understanding that people’s lives are at stake, I urge Governor Ige to reconsider and sign this legislation into law now.”

In spite of the obstacles, though, the Senate president’s assurance that considering legalization will be a legislative priority seems to signal that Hawaii is prepared at the very least to seriously weigh reform at a time when a growing number of states across the country are moving to end cannabis prohibition.

New York Gov. Cuomo Releases Marijuana Legalization Details

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Politics

Beto O’Rourke Proposes Drug War Reparations Funded By Marijuana Taxes

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Marijuana would not only be legalized under a plan proposed on Thursday by Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, but cannabis tax revenue would be used to directly repay formerly incarcerated people through a new “Drug War Justice Grant” program.

Unlike other contenders who have come around to supporting marijuana legalization in just the past couple of years, the former Texas congressman has long called for ending prohibition—and his new plan in many respects goes further than those rolled out by other campaigns.

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

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Politics

Support Grows For Marijuana Legalization Bill In Colombia

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Colombia’s legislature will soon take up a bill to legalize and regulate the production and consumption of marijuana for adults.

The legislation, which is being filed by Sen. Gustavo Bolivar of the opposition Colombia Humana party, seeks to end prohibition as a means of curtailing crime and supporting a public health-focused approach to drug policy.

Bolivar, an author who has written several books centered on drug trafficking, has characterized the bill as being about “regularization, not legalization,” but it would provide for legal sales to adults with restrictions similar to those imposed for tobacco and alcohol. There would be penalties for selling to underage individuals and smoking wouldn’t be permitted in public spaces.

The senator pointed to Uruguay, Canada and states in the U.S. as regulatory models for legalization.

“It has been proven that crime levels are lowered and public health is improved,” he said, according to Colombia Reports.

Sen. Alberto Castilla Salazar of the leftist Polo Democrático party said that his coalition supports the reform measure.

“Colombia must overcome prohibitionism and break the ties of illegal groups with the control of cannabis, so that it is the State that regulates, defines the forms and understands consumption as a public health problem,” he said on Tuesday.

Sen. Julián Gallo Cubillos of the FARC party said his coalition supports the legislation and that it represents “a new way to fight the scourge of drug trafficking.”

The proposal has also garnered the support of former President Juan Manuel Santos, who has been an outspoken advocate for ending the war on drugs. His Liberal party could make or break the legislation depending on where members fall.

While left and center-left lawmakers seem largely united around legalizing marijuana, the issue will likely face resistance from President Ivan Duque, who last year signed a decree banning low-level possession of cannabis and cocaine despite court rulings that such activity is permissible.

As Colombia Reports noted, however, Duque’s far-right Democratic Center party is in the minority.

“We’ll have to see how many senators are left to former president Juan Manuel Santos and see how public opinion receives the idea that marijuana can be consumed in public spaces,” Sen. Paloma Valencia, a member of the president’s party, said.

If the country does opt to pursue a regulated cannabis program, it will join Mexico, where lawmakers are readying legislation to legalize marijuana for adult use following a Supreme Court ruling establishing that a ban on possession and cultivation for personal use is unconstitutional.

Former White House Drug Czar Offers Marijuana Legalization Advice To Mexico

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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Politics

Marijuana Offenses Would No Longer Get Immigrants Deported Under New Congressional Bill

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The fourth highest-ranking Democrat in the House introduced a bill on Wednesday designed to protect immigrants from being deported or denied entry into the U.S. over low-level marijuana offenses.

Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) filed the Removing Marijuana from Deportable Offenses Act, which stipulates that “any offenses involving the use, possession, or distribution of marijuana shall not be considered as grounds of inadmissibility.”

It would further allow immigrants who’ve been denied a visa or deported due to cannabis offenses to reapply or have their visa reissued.

In a press release, Luján said that the legislation is necessary in order to combat what he described as the “despicable” weaponization of marijuana against immigrant communities by the Trump administration. According to Human Rights Watch, 34,000 immigrants were deported from 2007 to 2012 for cannabis possession.

“The federal government should not be wasting resources to wreak havoc on immigrant families when there are children held in border camps that are desperate for legal services, hygiene products, and basic humanitarian care,” he said. “Providing care for these children and families should be where the Trump administration devotes its funding – not working as a deportation force.”

“I’m proud to be fighting for this legislation to hold President Trump accountable and defend our immigrant communities from senseless and hateful policies,” he said.

The legislation is identical to a companion bill that Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced in June.

“This Administration’s efforts to use marijuana possession as a tool for deportation is misguided and does not make our communities safer,” Booker said. “Limited law enforcement resources should not be wasted on deporting people for something two of the last three presidents have admitted to doing.”

Earlier this year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a memo stating that immigrants are ineligible for citizenship if they use marijuana or engage in cannabis-related activities, including employment in a state-legal cannabis business, because such activity is not consistent with “good moral character.”

So far, the House version has 21 cosponsors, including Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Lou Correa (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

“We’re the closest that we have ever been to ending marijuana prohibition across the United States; it’s vital that individuals and communities that continue to bear the brunt of prohibition do not get left behind—that includes noncitizens,” Queen Adesuyi, policy coordinator for Drug Policy Alliance, said. “Marijuana has been one of the leading causes for deportation, destroying the lives of countless individuals and families over a substance that is now the center of an industry bringing in billions in profits.”

FWD.us President Todd Schulte called the proposal “commonsense legislation that will help keep families together and ensure taxpayer dollars aren’t wasted on cruelly deporting individuals with low-level offenses.”

“The status quo of marijuana criminalization is irrational and discriminatory towards tens of thousands of otherwise law-abiding aspiring Americans who pose no safety risk to the United States,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “Public opinion and policy surrounding cannabis are rapidly shifting, which is why we must ensure that those who strive to achieve the American Dream are treated with dignity.”

Also this week, Luján became of cosponsor of separate far-reaching legislation to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and divert funds toward programs to begin repairing the damage of the war on drugs.

Read the text of Luján’s marijuana and immigration bill below:

Lujan marijuana bill by Marijuana Moment on Scribd

Key Congressional Chair Says Marijuana Banking Vote Will Happen Over Groups’ Objections

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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