Hawaiʻi leans left politically, but it has been slow to join its fellow Western states on cannabis. In fact, Hawaiʻi’s cannabis laws look more like North Dakota’s than California’s. Recent developments suggest some progress is being made, but much remains to be done.
Democratic Governor David Ige, who has generally been an opponent of legalization, vetoed two cannabis bills this weeks. One would have permitted transportation of (state-legal) medical marijuana between the islands. This veto is likely based on the fact that airspace and some areas of the water are under federal jurisdiction, and marijuana remains federally illegal. The second would have created an industrial hemp licensing program. Governor Ige based this veto on concerns that the law was inconsistent with federal law.
On the other hand, Governor Ige did not veto a bill that would decriminalize small-scale marijuana possession. By not vetoing the measure, he allowed it to become law. The bill removes jail-time as a punishment for possession of three grams or less, replacing it with a $130 fine.
Decriminalization is relatively standard fare at this point—North Dakota also just decriminalized possession of up to half an ounce. Nevertheless, there was the possibility that Governor Ige would veto that as well, so this is a step in the right direction. We will continue to monitor Hawaiʻi’s (and North Dakota’s) cannabis progression here.