Hawaii Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession

Gov. David Ige (D) declined to veto legislation that decriminalizes up to three grams of marijuana. The law will take effect in January 2020.

Hawaii decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana on Tuesday, becoming the 26th U.S. state to strip away at least some penalties for the drug.

Under the new state law, people in possession of up to three grams of marijuana will no longer face any jail time, though they can still be punished with a $130 fine. The law also allows the criminal records of people convicted of possessing three or fewer grams of marijuana to be expunged.

The new legislation becomes effective on Jan. 11, 2020.

Hawaii’s state legislature passed the bill in May before sending it to Gov. David Ige (D) to be signed into law.

While Ige didn’t officially sign the bill, he also didn’t veto the legislation by the required deadline, which resulted in the bill becoming law without his signature. The bill did not appear on the governor’s intent to veto list.

Two weeks earlier, Ige said he it was “a very tough call” allowing the decriminalization bill to become law.

While he ultimately decided against a veto, Ige said he wanted the bill to include provisions that provided more support for young people “who we would want to get into substance abuse or other programs to help them deal with drug use.”

The Marijuana Policy Project, a legal reform group, welcomed the new legislation but criticized the small possession amount.

“Unfortunately, three grams would be the smallest amount of any state that has decriminalized (or legalized) simple possession of marijuana,” the organization said in a statement. “Still, removing criminal penalties and possible jail time for possession of a small amount of cannabis is an improvement.”

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