A Hawaii House Lawmaker Talks About The Next Steps For The Senate-Passed Bill To Legalize Marijuana
A Hawaii House lawmaker says that the bill to legalize marijuana that passed the Senate last week is an “incredible compromise” that has all of the key parts that her chamber needs to move forward.
Rep. Jeanne Kapela (D) talked about the next steps for SB 669 at a virtual town hall hosted by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) on Monday. The Senate passed SB 669 with changes before a crossover deadline.
Kapela sponsored a different legalization bill that didn’t make it through the House by that deadline. She said that the bill passed by the Senate was a “really good starting point for us,” especially since it was changed to include language about social equity and expungements, which were important parts of her own proposal.
“It shows that we can all work together to come up with a bill that really meets the needs of medical patients,” she said. “It also protects small cannabis farms and, hopefully, the people who will be able to join a strong legalization system.”
Kapela also told people who liked the bill to contact their state representatives with “clear and concise” messages that were backed up by evidence and said they wanted the bill to move forward.
That could be important, given what House Speaker Scott Saiki (D) said recently: he doesn’t want to move the bill quickly, but instead wants to work on the issue over the summer so that lawmakers can come up with a “comprehensive” reform plan that answers all of the remaining questions, “including the federal restrictions and the law enforcement concerns.”
Kapela, for her part, said, “As lawmakers, it’s our job to make laws that promote social justice through systemic changes.”
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“Social justice has to be at the heart of any bill that allows people to use cannabis for fun,” she said. “Ending mass incarceration and starting the biggest mass expungement program ever seen on our shores here in Hawaii are exactly the kinds of systemic solutions we should be looking for, and I think this bill tries to do that, which is great.”
She also said “there’s always something we can do to make things better, and that’s part of the legislative process” to show that she might be open to making more changes to the bill.
The lawmaker said, “At the end of the day, we won’t win this battle by throwing stones.” “We’ll win this by working together to make a program that will really help Hawaii and change the way people think about marijuana use for generations to come.”
MPP’s DeVaughn Ward, who ran the town hall on Monday, said that advocates are “at a critical point in the legislative session, and it’s kind of do or die.”
Nikos Leverenz from the Drug Policy Forum on Hawaii, Frank Steifel from the Last Prisoner Project, and Scott Greenwood from the ACLU of Hawaii were also at the town hall.
The advocates talked about how they would like to see the bill changed or how it could be changed in the future. For example, they talked about giving native Hawaiians more chances to work in the industry, making expungement rules stronger, letting adults have more cannabis, and giving consumers more protections in areas like employment and renting.
Greenwood said, “This is the best chance we have in this state to get personal-use laws and decriminalization, as well as large-scale changes to the criminal justice system, all in one package.” “Is the bill as it is right now perfect? It’s not there yet, but it’s about 90% there.”