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How to close budget shortfall? Some push for legalizing recreational pot.

Updated: Oct. 1, 2020 at 8:55 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As Hawaii faces a massive budget shortfall, some lawmakers think this is the year the state might legalize recreational marijuana.

“Going into the next session I think there’s a different attitude emerging, maybe looking at things that can raise money," said state Sen. J. Kalani English, a longtime proponent of legalization.

Eleven states have legalized marijuana and are taxing sales. Money generated from those taxes are used for general government expenses and are sometimes directed to schools and social services.

Last year, Washington state and Colorado each collected more than $300 million in taxes on the sales of recreational marijuana.

English believes the state can legalize weed safely. “I’ve always advocated for legalization (with) strong controls and strong taxation like alcohol and tobacco," he said.

Law enforcement officials disagree. They say legalization will increase drug addiction and crime.

House Speaker Scott Saiki believes that some of the tax revenue increases from legalizing recreational marijuana could be offset by these higher social costs. “It’s important that we not react and look at quick fixes. Quick fixes usually don’t work out for our state," he said.

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