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Committee passes marijuana decriminalization bill in Hawaii

A measure that would decriminalize the possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana passed its first committee hearing on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 758 would increase from 3 grams to 1 ounce the minimum amount of marijuana that a defendant must possess to be charged with a petty misdemeanor. It would also permit persons previously convicted of possessing 1 ounce or less of marijuana to have the conviction expunged from their criminal record.

The proposal was taken up by the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental, and Military Affairs, which is comprised of Sens. Clarence Nishihara (D-Oahu), J. Kalani English (D-Maui), Rosalyn H. Baker (D-Maui), Gil Riviere (D-Oahu), Kurt Fevella (R-Oahu).

More than a dozen agencies, groups and individuals provided testimony is support of the measure, five testified against the bill and one, the state Judiciary, provided testimony with no position.

Providing comment in opposition to Senate Bill 758 were the Attorney General’s Office, City and County of Honolulu, Honolulu Police Department, state Department of Transportation and the Maui Police Department.

Honolulu Police Department Chief Susan Ballard and Major Phillip Wilson, of the narcotics/vice division, said the bill’s passage “would create an increased availability of marijuana, making it more accessible, especially to juveniles.” [Read more at Hawaii Tribune-Herald]

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