On Tuesday, Hawaii officially became the 26th US state to decriminalize cannabis. The state's decriminalization bill was approved by the legislature on Monday, then sent to Governor David Ige (D), who refused to sign the bill. But he didn't veto it either, which means that decriminalization will take effect on January 11, 2020.
Under the new law, getting caught with three grams of marijuana or less will no longer be cause for jail time in Hawaii. Instead, individuals will face a fine of $130.
The bill's success is somewhat of a consolation prize for cannabis advocates in the Aloha State. Just a few months ago, a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in Hawaii failed to pass through the state legislature. Hawaii now joins New York, New Mexico and other states that have opted to decriminalize cannabis possession following unsuccessful attempts at broader marijuana reforms.
While decriminalization is certainly better than nothing, some advocacy groups have criticized Hawaii for underdelivering on the new law.
"Unfortunately, three grams would be the smallest amount of any state that has decriminalized (or legalized) simple possession of marijuana," the Marijuana Policy Project said in a statement. "Still, removing criminal penalties and possible jail time for possession of a small amount of cannabis is an improvement."
It's also disappointing to see the bill fail to win over Governor Ige, who has expressed concerns that broad legalization of cannabis would hurt the state's medical marijuana program.
But hopefully, the passage of the bill will be seen as a small but significant step toward larger marijuana reforms in Hawaii.