Hawaii Senate Passes Marijuana Legalization Bill

Hawaii’s Senate has passed legislation to legalize and regulate adult-use marijuana in the state, sending the proposal next to the House of Representatives.

The legislation, SB 3335, would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and up to five grams of cannabis concentrates and would establish a framework for licensed, regulated sales.

Senators voted 19-6 to approve the legalization bill on Tuesday, advancing a version with amendments made in committee last week.

The Senate also passed a separate cannabis decriminalization bill, SB 2487, on a 24–1 vote, with only Sen. Kurt Fevella (R) opposed. Under that measure, possession of more than 15 grams of marijuana would be a third-degree violation, while possession of more than 30 grams would be a second-degree violation.

Last year the Senate passed a separate legalization bill that later stalled the House, but advocates are hopeful this year’s proposal could get further. Gov. Josh Green (D) said last month that legalization is a “big social issue that remains” to be addressed in the state, signaling that he’d likely sign a bill to end cannabis prohibition if lawmakers send him one.

This year’s current more-than-300-page bill was formally introduced in both chambers in January and is largely based on a legalization plan unveiled by state Attorney General Anne Lopez (D).

Advocates have complained that the AG-written bill wrongly frames marijuana as a law enforcement issue, though they say recent committee changes have been an improvement.

“Although this is an imperfect bill that still contains far too many elements of criminalization, it’s welcome news to have a viable adult-use legalization bill that can be improved upon when it reaches the House,” said Nikos Leverenz, of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai’i and the Hawai’i Health and Harm Reduction Center

Committee amendments made last month, for example, would legalize cannabis paraphernalia and add non-discrimination provisions around issues such as state benefits and child custody.

The latest version also modifies an earlier ban on people with prior felonies from operating in the regulated industry, now specifying that the ban does not apply once 10 years have passed from the end of a person’s completed sentence.

As for how the state would spend money around legalization, however, that’s an open question: Last month’s amendments included blanking out all appropriations values in the legislation, which will force lawmakers to renegotiate those numbers.

Leverenz said that as the bill moves forward, his group and other and other members of the Hawaii Alliance for Cannabis Reform are hopeful that House members will consider advocates’ proposed amendments.

“It will also be important for reform advocates to engage skeptical members of the House, including many freshman lawmakers,” he added, “who have placed far too much currency in the monotonous, less than fact-based rhetoric from the criminal legal lobby.”

Among other changes, the latest version of the bill would also bring the regulation of hemp—especially extracts and cannabinoid products—under control of the Hawaii Hemp and Cannabis Authority.

Here’s are the key provisions of the bill, SB 3335:

The proposal would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and up to five grams of concentrates as of January 1, 2026.
Home cultivation would be legal, with adults allowed to grow up to six plants and keep as much as 10 ounces of resulting marijuana.
The measures would create the Hawaii Hemp and Cannabis Authority to license and regulate adult-use cannabis businesses and the state’s hemp industry.
That body would be overseen by a five-member appointed Cannabis Control Board, led by an executive director who would need to have experience in public health or cannabis regulation.
Cultivators, processors, medical dispensaries, adult-use retailers, craft dispensaries and independent testing laboratories would be licensed under the plan, with regulators able to adopt rules around special events, social consumption and other special use cases.
Adult-use cannabis products would be taxed at 14 percent, while medical cannabis would be subject to a 4 percent tax. Industrial hemp would continue to fall under the state’s general sales tax.
Tax revenue from marijuana sales would be divided between a law enforcement-focused fund and another that would promote “cannabis social equity, public health and education, and public safety.”
People with convictions for activities made legal under the bill would be able to petition to have their records expunged.
People with past felony convictions for cannabis would be eligible to be licensed or work in the legal cannabis industry after 10 years from the end of their incarceration, parole or supervised release.
The mere use of cannabis would not be grounds for revoking parental custody, preventing parole or probation or withholding state benefits or entitlements.
Driving under the influence of cannabis would remain illegal, with the bill setting a legal limit of 10 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.
The bill would provide state-level tax relief for licensed marijuana businesses, allowing them to take deductions that they’re barred from doing at the federal level under Internal Revenue Service code 280E.
People with felony convictions on their criminal records could not enter the industry as a licensee or employee until 10 years after their sentences are complete.
The possession, manufacture and sale of cannabis paraphernalia would be legal among adults.
The bill also would create new criminal penalties for people under 21 found in possession of marijuana, who could face up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 for possession of up to three grams.
The bill currently includes an effective date of December 31, 2050 “to encourage further discussion.”

Democrats in control of Hawaii’s Senate said in January that cannabis legalization is one of their top priorities this legislative session, framing the reform as a means to boost the state’s economy.

State residents, for their part, seem to support the change. A Hawai’i Perspectives survey published last month by the Pacific Resource Partnership found 58 percent support for legalization.

In November, the AG’s office defended an earlier version of the legislation it put forward earlier that month after Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm said law enforcement are firmly against legalizing marijuana. David Day, a special assistant with the attorney general’s office, said at the time that Alm’s concerns were overblown and the legalization measure that’s been put forward deliberately took into account law enforcement perspectives.

Advocates struggled under former Democratic Gov. Dave Ige, who resisted legalization in part because he said he was reluctant to pass something that conflicts with federal law. But since Green took office, activists have felt more emboldened. Green said in 2022 that he’d sign a bill to legalize cannabis for adults and already had ideas about how tax revenue could be utilized.

Last April, the Hawaii legislature also approved a resolution calling on the governor to create a clemency program for people with prior marijuana convictions on their records.

As for other drug policy matters, lawmakers last month advanced a bill that would provide certain legal protections to patients engaging in psilocybin-assisted therapy with a medical professional’s approval. The measure would not legalize psilocybin itself but would instead create an affirmative legal defense for psilocybin use and possession in the case of doctor-approved use under the guidance of a trained facilitator.

The proposal has support from some state agencies, such as the Disability and Communications Access Board and governor’s Office of Wellness and Resilience (OWR), as well as a variety of reform advocates, including the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, the Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center and the Clarity Project.

Opponents include some medical groups, including the Hawaii Medical Association and Hawaii Academy of Family Physicians, which said there’s still too little information about the safety and efficacy of psilocybin.

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