Monday, March 04, 2024|
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A bill that would legalize adult-use recreational marijuana in Hawaii on Jan. 1, 2026, will receive a committee hearing this week.
Senate Bill 3335 will be heard 9 a.m. Tuesday by a joint session of the Health and Human Services and Judiciary committees.
The measure was introduced by Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole, an Oahu Democrat. Big Island Sens. Joy San Buenaventura, the Health and Human Services chairwoman, and Dru Mamo Kanuha are among the lawmakers who have signed on as co-sponsors.
The bill, if adopted as written, would allow the possession of up to 10 ounces of cannabis for personal use by adults 21 and older in a private residence — or up to 2 pounds in residences where multiple people are living.
The storage and transport of adult-use cannabis would require that it be stored in child-resistant, resealable packaging with original labels. The measure specifies that during transport, the cannabis “shall not be visible to the public, and shall not be removed from its sealed container or consumed or used in any way while in a public place or vehicle.”
The legislation also establishes the Hawaii Cannabis Authority and Cannabis Control Board as regulatory entities within the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and establishes taxes for adult-use cannabis sales.
The cannabis authority and board would have the authority to license and regulate cannabis cultivators and processors, retail cannabis stores and medical cannabis dispensaries, the latter being already legal in Hawaii. The authority and the board also would have the authority to license and oversee laboratories and their testing, to ensure that both adult recreational cannabis users and medical marijuana patients have product free of biological and chemical contaminants.
The legislation also would create a Cannabis Enforcement Unit within the newly created state Department of Law Enforcement and set legal parameters for cannabis-impaired driving.
As of Friday afternoon, no written testimony had been submitted about the bill, but Hawaii Police Department Chief Benjamin Moszkowicz said he was in the process of drafting testimony in opposition. He stated several objections, including “the impact on traffic fatalities and a potentially increased number of marijuana-impaired drivers on the roadways, which pose safety risks to everyone who uses the roadways.”
“With alcohol, there’s been lots and lots of excellent, government-funded research which indicates a person’s increased risk-taking starts at 0.05% (blood-alcohol content), certain things happen at 0.08%, and certain things happen at 0.10%, and those things diminish over time at a very predictable rate,” Moszkowicz said. “What I think the Legislature here is trying to do, and what other states have tried to do, is to apply a number to marijuana impairment.”
Moszkowicz said the “per se limit” of 10 nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol per milliliter of blood for legal impairment is problematic.
“Unlike alcohol, the peak effects of marijuana impairment start within five minutes of the person inhaling, whereas the blood concentrations (of THC) don’t reach the same peak at the same time. So, it’s not a direct correlation for the metabolites we’re looking at,” he said.
“So, what you could end up happening is that you have a person who is very impaired whose blood test is below the per se limit. And the opposite is also true. You could have someone — which is scary — who is a habitual user who is tolerant to the effects of marijuana. That person could be perfectly safe to drive a vehicle but have a per se number that is above the limit.
“So, you could end up convicting innocent people or you could set guilty people free if you take an arbitrary number and apply the alcohol model.”
Another issue Moszkowicz raised is the amount of cannabis he said could potentially fall into the wrong hands.
“This just blindly raises the amount of marijuana in the community, which could easily find its way into the hands of children, who are going to use it and experience dire consequences,” he said.
SB 3335 has a companion measure, House Bill 2600, introduced by Rep. David Tarnas, a Waimea Democrat, with fellow Big Island Reps. Kirstin Kahaloa, Jeanne Kapela, Nicole Lowen and Chris Todd among the co-sponsors. That measure hasn’t yet received a committee referral.
San Buenaventura didn’t return a call from the Tribune-Herald in time for this story.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.