The Attorney General recently drafted a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in the state and also provided the office’s position on the issue.
In November 2023, Hawaii’s attorney general, Anne Lopez, proposed a plan for a path to legal recreational cannabis in Hawaii (1). The plan outlined a 10% surcharge tax on recreational cannabis products, an increase in law enforcement, the role of the Hawaii Cannabis Authority, social equity programs, and health education programs directed at youth (1). Currently, only cannabis for medical purposes is legal (1). State-licensed medical cannabis dispensaries would be exempt from the proposed tax and would potentially be where recreational products are sold first (1). Sales of recreational cannabis were suggested to begin a year and a half after the proposal became law (1).
“The most important thing we can do is we can bring the people who have been growing and selling marijuana illegally into the legal market,” Lopez stated in regard to currently illegal growers (1).
On January 5th, 2024, the attorney general published a 315-page draft bill and a statement that clarified its position on the possibility of recreational cannabis becoming legal in the state (2). The main concerns are related to the risks to health and public safety (2).
“The Department of the Attorney General does not support the legalization of adult-use cannabis,” stated Lopez in the release (2). “We acknowledge that with changing public perception in recent years, the odds that the Legislature may pass legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis have increased substantially. Given that the Legislature could theoretically pass a bill as early as this year, it is my department’s duty to warn the Legislature of the risks, while simultaneously providing a framework that includes robust public-safety and public-health safeguards.”
The report reiterated that the six “pillars” in the original report are intended to be used as a guide to address the legal and safety concerns connected with legalizing recreational cannabis (2). Lopez also emphasized that the measures are directed at the Legislature to provide the best possible options if legalization does move forward (2).
For more perspectives on cannabis in Hawaii, read our recent interview with Josh Hanley, owner of Hawaii’s CARE Waialua.