Liberal Hawaii decides again not to legalize marijuana
by Audrey Mcavoy
Hawaii is among the bluest of states, but when it comes to legalizing marijuana, it is out of step with liberal stalwarts such as California and Vermont. A bill that would legalize marijuana in the islands faces significant obstacles from leaders worried about contradicting federal law and jeopardizing Hawaii’s existing medical marijuana program. It faces a Friday, March 1, 2019, deadline to pass committee. (AP Photo/Marina Riker, File)
On the political spectrum, Hawaii is among the bluest of states. Democrats control all the levers of power at the state and federal levels, and voters back Democratic presidential candidates over Republicans by some of the widest margins in the U.S.
The state has committed to the Paris climate agreement that President Donald Trump rejected and was the first state to require people to be 21 to buy cigarettes. The tourist haven even banned certain types of sunscreen because they can harm coral reefs.
But when it comes to legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use, the islands are out of step with liberal stalwarts such as California and Vermont that have already done so, and other left-leaning states such as New York and New Jersey that are racing toward joining them. On Friday, a legalization bill that made it farther in the legislative process than previous efforts died when lawmakers failed to consider it in time for a deadline.
Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English has introduced marijuana legalization bills for the past 15 years—but Hawaii has a track record of moving slowly on social issues. For example, other states moved far more quickly to sanction gay marriage and medically assisted suicide.
Half the Democrats in the state Senate co-sponsored English’s measure, helping spur speculation this would be the year legalization becomes reality.
But the effort fizzled as other leaders worried about contradicting federal law, which continues to classify marijuana as an illegal drug, and jeopardizing Hawaii’s existing medical marijuana program.
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