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Will Hawai?i Legalize Recreational Cannabis?


Legalizing recreational marijuana is a hot topic across the nation. Hawaii already allows medical marijuana...is this the year it legalizes recreational use? HPR Reporter Ku?uwehi Hiraishi posed that question to those at the 2019 Hawai?i Cannabis Expo.

Cannabis, marijuana, pakalolo...whatever you wanna call it was the center of attention over the weekend at the 4th Annual Hawai?i Cannabis Expo. Dispensaries, healthcare providers, vendors and enthusiasts were all on hand at the Blaisdell Exhbition Hall, where we posed this question...

AL MEDEIROS: What do I think about legalizing cannabis? I think its great you know its just a movement in the right direction. If we go full recreational and everything, we?re gonna have other options to grab cannabis from anywhere besides just going on the streets.

CASSIE ROBINSON: Why is this even a question? Why is it not just legal already? It seems silly.

LIONEL WRIGHT: This year, I would have to say no. And it’s just being realistic about Hawai?i and the state. Everything in Hawai’i takes two years.

MICHAEL GAROVICH: I think it should happen soon. It’s a little hypocritical that alcohol, tobacco is legal, and then you have marijuana over here. It’s a healthier alternative so I see no reason why it shouldn’t be recreational.

Those are the voices of expo organizer “Big Al” Medeiros, dispensary worker Cassie Robinson, Lionel Wright of Papak?lea, and cannabis farmer Michael Garovich.

While this group largely supported recreational marijuana, things aren’t as hopeful at the legislature. Last week, a Senate committee passed a measure to legalize recreational cannabis. The bill’s momentum came to a halt Monday when Senate leadership sent it back to committee, likely shelving the measure this session.

Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi
2019 Hawai'i Cannabis Expo

Still hope springs eternal back at the expo. Here’s Hawai?i Dispensary Alliance Executive Director Christopher Garth.

“I think 2021 will be the magic year,” says Garth, “It will have enough assurances at the federal level. But I will say this, I wouldn’t be surprised if federally we legalize adult use across the board before H awai?i moves into high gear.”

So far 10 states have legalized recreational cannabis.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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