A recent poll of 603 Hawaiian voters revealed that 57% favored decriminalization of possession and use of the marijuana plant in that state. The respondents self-identified as Republicans, Democrats and Independents, and about 60% of them were Caucasian and had college degrees. Native Hawaiians generally feel the same way, saying that if Hawai’i were to revert to a Kingdom, “pakalolo” would be legal there.
Hawai’i spends about $12 million a year on enforcement of current laws, which includes searching for crops in barely accessible areas of the state, including the Puna district on the Big Island, a popular growing area. With projections of up to $11.3 million in annual revenue, popular opinion is turning towards legalization and taxation.
The Drug Policy Action Group study also shows that arrests for possession are up almost 50% and even more for distribution arrests. Those arrests are lopsided, too, with Native Hawaiians being 70% more likely to be arrested. Young men are much more likely to be targeted, with arrests of those under the age of twenty-five twice as high as for older men. The different islands are also unevenly treated, with Oahu residents between 40% and 140% less likely to be arrested for possession. While one might think that the increases in arrests is due to increased use, the study shows that to not be the case, stating that arrests are being driven by factors other than consumption.
The state could either choose to decriminalize, which would make possessing small amounts a civil infraction, or legalize. Legalization would impose taxes, regulation and possible licensing. Legalization would also save the state more on enforcement costs, according to the study. If Hawai’i decides to allow recreational marijuana use – it already allows medicinal use – it would join Colorado and Washington state in the experiment.
T. Steelman is a life-long Liberal. She has been writing online about politics since 2007. She lives in Western Washington with her husband, daughter, 2 cats and a small herd of alpacas. How can anybody be enlightened? Truth is, after all, so poorly lit…