As Hawaii lawmakers advance a bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, students said they will remain unaffected by the change. The bill will require perpetrators to pay a fine rather than be criminally prosecuted.
Pononui Cabrinha, a senior majoring in vocal performance from Laie, said the bill won’t affect him since he has never been involved with drugs. “I don’t think it’s going to change much. People are still going to have marijuana, and I don’t think it’s going to make people fear being arrested,” he said.
Under current Hawaii legislation, marijuana is a ‘Schedule I’ hallucinogenic substance under the Hawaii Uniform Controlled Substances Act, according to Norml.org, a site dedicated to the reform of marijuana laws. It is also listed as a detrimental drug.
The House and Senate judiciary committees are moving forward on the bill after a separate bill to legalize marijuana in Hawaii died in the House earlier this session, according to AP. After the Hawaii State Senate voted unanimously in favor of the bill on March 5, it was pushed to the House for consideration.
The bill creates a civil violation for the possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana. In order to survive the shift from the criminal to the civil realm, lawmakers want to add a fine to emphasize the use of marijuana is still illegal.
Cherisse Lemmon, a junior studying music from Oregon, said, “No one wants to pay that amount of money, but people who were using marijuana before are still going to use it now. It’s not going to change anything.”
Senator Clayton Hee, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, says the purpose of the bill is to diminish the judicial backlog for marijuana criminal cases. Hee wants to set the civil fine at $1,000. Currently, people who are criminally prosecuted for marijuana possession pay just an average of $100.
Despite the implementation of the fee, Pamela Lichty, president of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, said those who are found in possession of the illegal drug won’t be intimidated. “Imposing a $1,000 fine on the offense sends out a mixed message,” she said to AP.
Law enforcement officers at the Honolulu Police Department testified the bill would make it harder for them to enforce the laws against marijuana because they won’t be able to arrest offenders or require them to present IDs.
Cabrinha felt the bill wouldn’t impact an officer’s ability to enforce the law. “I knew a lot of people growing up who smoked marijuana and they were never afraid of getting arrested. And even if they did get caught, they weren’t arrested,” he commented.