A bill to decriminalize marijuana is one step closer to becoming law

A bill to decriminalize marijuana is one step closer to becoming law

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Senate lawmakers Tuesday voted to ease the penalties for people caught with small amounts of recreational marijuana.

Under the latest decriminalization proposal, someone caught with three grams of pot or less would now have to pay just $30 instead of $200.

The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii is also pushing for the amount of marijuana to be increased from three grams to at least half an ounce.

Carl Bergquist, the organization's executive director, says the bill will not have as great an impact if people are still being arrested.

"If we have a low amount, we'll continue to arrest more people and sort of exaggerate the situation we're trying to address," said Bergquist. "We won't be able to expunge as many offenders, and their lives will continue to have that black mark on their record."

Opponents of decriminalization, which include the Attorney General's office, law enforcement, and religious groups, are still hoping to stop the bill.

The Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney's office says the proposal would also take away the Family Court's ability to help troubled youth.

"Basically, the family court won't have any jurisdiction to put these kids into services, into treatment, into counseling, and we feel that's imperative," said Deputy Prosecutor Tricia Nakamatsu.

The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety committees passed the bill. It now heads to the Ways and Means committee.

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