HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that will decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The measure, which would apply to anyone found to be in possession of three grams or less of marijuana, would see offenders fined $200 instead of charging them with a criminal offense.
"This law keeps drug dealers behind bars where they belong, but also keeps regular people who just had a joint out of jail to avoid creating more hardened criminals, which makes crime worse," said Representative Chris Lee, chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
Under Hawaii’s current law, possession of marijuana is considered a petty misdemeanor -- with punishments of up to 30 days in prison and fines as high as $1,000.
Those found to be illegally in possession of more than three grams of marijuana would still have to face the existing punishment.
The bill also dismisses existing criminal charges against those who have held three or fewer grams of marijuana in the past.
Lee, who introduced the measure, says that aspect will remove marks on permanent records so that prior offenders will have a better chance of finding a job, going to school and taking care of their families.
“If we want to actually reduce crime and reduce substance abuse, then our taxpayer dollars are more effectively spent on treatment rather than jailing people at a cost of $146 per person per day,” said Lee.
The bill has passed the state House and now moves to the Senate.