HONOLULU, HI – A marijuana decriminalization bill aimed at reducing minor marijuana possession offenses to a non-criminal, $1000 fine-only offense unanimously passed a vote on the floor of the Hawaii Senate Tuesday by a 25-0 vote.
The bill, Senate Bill 472 SD1, which establishes a civil violation for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, with offenders subject to a fine of $1000, now advances to the House.
The bill originally called for fines up to $100, but was amended to a set fine of $1,000.
The bill is co-sponsored by thirteen of the state’s 25 senators, and received a favorable recommendation by a Senate committee last week.
Currently, the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for non-medical purposes is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana could free up police and judicial resources, and could save state and county governments in Hawaii an estimated $9 million annually according to a University of Hawaii study released in January.
The same study found that arrests for simple marijuana possession have increased by 50% since 2004.
Recent polls show that Hawaii residents, who have been allowed the use of medical marijuana since 2000, strongly support further marijuana law reform. A poll released in January found strong support for decriminalization (58%), medical marijuana dispensaries (78%), and for the existing 13 year old medical marijuana law passed by the legislature in 2000 (81%).
A bill to legalize and regulate the adult possession and recreational use of marijuana in Hawaii died in a House committee earlier this month.