ACLU of Hawaiʻi Statement on Cannabis Reform Bill

In Hawai’i and throughout the United States, there is increasing support for comprehensive drug reform, including cannabis legalization. Yet, too many people continue to be arrested and convicted for marijuana possession, needlessly entangling them in the criminal legal system that can ruin lives and disproportionately affects Native Hawaiians and communities of color.

The ACLU of Hawaiʻi supports comprehensive equitable policies to legalize, tax, and regulate adult use of cannabis. These reforms redress the devastating effects of marijuana prohibition policies.

As highlighted by the Hawai’i Correctional System Oversight Commission, Hawaiʻi’s jails and prisons are severely overcrowded.  Too many people with minor drug related convictions are living in inhumane conditions of confinement and are separated from loved ones, here in Hawai’i and in private for-profit prisons thousands of miles away. 

Along with the harm of incarceration a minor drug possession charge has long term negative ripple effects. Having a marijuana conviction on your record can make it hard to get a job, a credit card, or find housing for the rest of your life.  This is why clearing people’s records of marijuana convictions is a necessary addition to this legalization measure.

We would like to applaud Representative Kapela and other lawmakers for co-sponsoring this sensible legislation.

This measure is a starting point to ensure a diverse and inclusive legal cannabis industry. It provides a process for people unjustly convicted of marijuana-related charges to adjust their sentences.  In addition, creates a pathway for reinvestment in communities devastated by disproportionate arrests for drug possession and mass incarceration.

These reforms help us reduce racial disparities in our criminal legal system, and create new opportunities for agriculture and economic development in Hawai’i. By regulating cannabis, we can raise millions of dollars of revenue for essential services like schools and proven crime prevention programs that put community safety first.

– George Cordero, Legal and Legislative Assistant