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Hawaii becomes 26th state to decriminalize marijuana

Hawaii Gov. David Ige declined to veto the bill, allowing it to become law.

Marijuana laws through the years

Hawaii has become the 26th state in the nation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana — but its governor cautioned it does not mean the state is ready to say aloha to legalizing recreational use of cannabis.

While Hawaii Gov. David Ige declined to sign the decriminalization legislation, the change in law will take effect in January because he took no action by Tuesday’s veto deadline.

Under the new law, people caught with small amounts of marijuana will no longer face a misdemeanor charge that had been punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Now people caught with 3 ounces or less of weed can still be hit with a citation carrying a $130 fine, but no jail term.

Ige did not put the bill on his notice of legislation he was considering for veto, but said during a news conference last month that there are things about the bill “I don’t like.”

“That was a very tough call. I did go back and forth on decriminalization,” he said.

The governor said one thing he disliked about the bill is that it does not include a provision to help young people who want to get into substance abuse programs.

He also said the new law does not mean Hawaii, which was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 2000, is on the verge of joining the bandwagon of states that have legalized recreational cannabis.

“We continue to learn from other states about the problems they see with recreational marijuana, and most of the governors that I talk to that have recreational laws have acknowledged significant problems with those measures,” Ige said last month.

Eleven states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational use of marijuana.

Illinois became the latest state to legalize the recreational use of weed last month when Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law the first bill to legalize weed that was passed by a state legislature. Ten previous states approved the recreational use of cannabis through ballot initiatives.

The Illinois law also allows residents of the state convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana to petition to have their records expunged if the offense was not associated with a violent crime.

Ige, a Democrat, noted that there were several bills voted down by the legislature this session to legalize recreational marijuana in the state.

“Hawaii can benefit from not being at the head of the table, that we would be smart to engage and recognize what’s happening in other states, acknowledge the challenges and problems that it has raised and allow us to look at how we would implement it here in a much better controlled fashion,” Ige said last month.

While Ige took a hands-off approach to decriminalizing pot, he vetoed two other marijuana bills passed by the legislature.

He struck down legislation that would have made it legal for people to transport medical cannabis from island to island, and another bill that would have created an industrial hemp licensing program.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige declined to veto the bill, allowing it to become law.

Hawaii decriminalizes small amounts of marijuana for January 2020

A bill legalizing the use of recreational marijuana was signed into Illinois law. Veuer’s Justin Kircher has the details. Buzz60

Hawaii has become the 26th state to decriminalize possession of marijuana, a measure that will take effect Jan. 11, 2020.

The new law will eliminate criminal penalties for possession of three grams or less of marijuana. Possession of those small amounts will only be punishable by fines of no more than $130.

According to the Marijuana Police Project, three grams is the smallest amount of any state that has decriminalized possession.

In a June press conference, Democratic Gov. David Ige said the decision was “a very tough call” on which he went back and forth before ultimately deciding in favor of decriminalization by supporting House Bill 1383.

Ige previously opposed bills this year that would have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Law enforcement officials told Ige 3 grams is small enough amount that “essentially they will proceed the way they always have,” the governor said.

Hawaii’s current law says possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is punishable by 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, according to NORML. Three grams of marijuana is equal to .11 ounces.

The state legalized medical cannabis in 2000, but dispensary sales began just two years ago. A new medical marijuana dispensary, Hawaiian Ethos, just began sales in Kailua-Kona late June. It’s the second dispensary to open on the Hawaii Island, the first opening in August 2017.

Contributing: Associated Press

Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT

The measure will eliminate criminal penalties for possession of three grams or less of marijuana.