History of Cannabis and CBD: Hawaii
In January of 2020, the official policy to decriminalize marijuana will go into effect in Hawaii, making it the 26th state to get close to legalizing the plant. The landmark decision removes the possibility for jail time as a penalty of up to three grams of marijuana, yet users can still be charged a small $130 fine.
The conversation surrounding the decision is a reflection of Hawaiian officials’ frequent back-and-forth relationship concerning cannabis and CBD.
For the island state, the new policy is considered a liberal breach from recent right leaning tendencies in the legislature. Although it narrowly passed, the democratic Governor David Ige refused to sign it yet didn’t veto it either, essentially letting the new law take effect.
Additionally, the decriminalization policy is one of the strictest of its kind. Three grams is, without a doubt, the smallest amount of any state that has decriminalized possession of marijuana.
Now, the question is: how has Hawaii’s historic relationship towards marijuana informed it’s lackluster support for decriminalization?
Cannabis, CBD, and Hawaii
As early as 1842, marijuana was referred to by the local press as “pakalolo” or crazy tobacco. Interestingly, Hawaii was one of the first territories to push for prohibition efforts or regulation against marijuana use, since cannabis grows wildly all along the island.
For decades, the conversation on marijuana was closed. Public officials funded crop destruction efforts on the islands; however, locals continued to smoke cannabis freely and it became part of the native lifestyle.
Slowly, a contentious relationship between colonial law enforcers and natives formed that persists to this day.
It wasn’t until 2000 that the Hawaiian Governor Ben Cayetano signed Act 228 into law, allowing medical marijuana cardholders access to cannabis plants and growing seeds. It would take over a decade until formal dispensaries would start to pop up on the islands, after a vicious legislative battle.
In July of 2015, the Hawaii Department of Health was appointed with administering the dispensary program. Part of this plan paved the way for an industrial hemp program that allowed that Department of Agriculture to oversee all academic research into CBD.
Later that year, the agricultural committee in the House of Representatives passed legislation that removed all criminal sanctions against the planting, possession, and sale of industrial hemp and its derivatives.
Ultimately, this got Hawaii up to speed with federal policy and allowed for CBD vendors to freely market their products. Since then, the THC-free cannabis industry has grown massively throughout the state.
Among the states that end up decriminalizing marijuana, Hawaii has been one of the most conservative. Lawmakers are hesitant and hail from a political tradition of believing that cannabis could harm general consumers throughout the island.
Experts believe that the upcoming growth of the CBD market could change legislators’ minds. The “green rush” may become too lucrative to pass up.