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Legalizing Recreational Cannabis and Supporting Local Farmers

For the last 22 years medical cannabis has been legal in Hawai’i, but not without challenges to access by patients and caregivers alike. With a narrow list of qualifying ailments and required registration with the state, access to cannabis remains elusive for residents and tourists alike. Since 1996, 19 states have now legalized cannabis for adults over 21, and a whopping 38 (including Hawai’i) have allowed medical cannabis use with positive effect. It is time for Hawai’i to consider the case for legalizing cannabis for adult use for its economic and social benefits.

In the 26 years since medical cannabis legalization began in California, 37 states have followed suit to surprisingly positive effect and since 2012, 19 of those states have added adult-use laws. The majority of U.S. adults now support cannabis use for adults according to Pew and Gallup polls, and federal legalization efforts are gaining momentum with each session of congress.

In the states that have legalized, fully or in-part, cannabis legalization has been linked to falling opioid addiction/harm/death rates, and positive impacts on public health and safety due to shifting resources once dedicated to marijuana policing to other public needs and reducing the number of people incarcerated for simple possession. This is good for our Ohana, especially our Keiki and Kapuna who rely on the support of others, by reducing the stigma of cannabis use and focusing enforcement elsewhere.

From tax revenues to re-allocation of obsolete enforcement funding, legalizing adult-use of cannabis sets the stage for true economic benefits for Hawai’i. States that have taxed adult-use cannabis are reporting revenues in the tens of millions of dollars per month. Depending on the state’s taxation scheme, those monies are used for education, children’s programs, infrastructure and much more! Funds once used to house those serving sentences for possession, court costs and enforcement are now re-allocated to other public funding priorities. 

If Hawai’i were to get ahead of federal legalization and establish its own adult-use program and infrastructure, this would open doors for Hawai’i to diversify its export revenues once federal legalization occurs, making our economy more resilient. 

Committee to Elect Jonathan Lee
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