New survey shows support growing to legalize marijuana in Hawaii

New survey shows support growing to legalize marijuana in Hawaii
Published: Feb. 1, 2014 at 2:17 AM HST|Updated: Feb. 1, 2014 at 4:16 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new survey shows that more Hawaii voters would support reforming the state's marijuana laws.

"Exposure to new data and nationwide trends have brought their attention around to this need for marijuana law reform," said Michael Attocknie of the Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii. "

In one part of the survey, 66 percent of 400 Hawaii voters polled supported legalizing the use of marijuana for adults and collecting taxes from pot sales. That's up from 57 percent in 2012. Just 37 percent favored legalization in 2005.

The survey followed the recent legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Colorado and Washington state.

The poll also said 77 percent believe jail time is inappropriate for marijuana possession, up eight percentage points from 2012.

"Right now, arrests for small amounts of marijuana is one of the most common ways that individuals get caught up in the criminal justice system," said Vanessa Chong, executive director of the ACLU of Hawaii.

The poll also found that a big majority -- 85 percent -- supported a dispensary system for medical marijuana. House Speaker Joe Souki has introduced a measure that would establish one.

"For Hawaii to consider a regulated dispensary system would allow some of the most vulnerable individuals in our community to safely and legally access marijuana as their medicine," said Chong.

Despite the poll number, opponents say there are still several issues. For example, legal marijuana sales started in Colorado at the beginning of the year. And the Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii said it has already heard of problems there.

"Drugged driving has increased greatly," said coalition executive director Alan Shinn. "The number of referrals of our youth to treatment centers has increased for marijuana."

Shinn is also skeptical about raising tax dollars through the legal sales of marijuana. "The tax revenues that are generated from marijuana will be greatly outweighed by the social costs, and we know that from alcohol and tobacco," he said.

The Hawaii Drug Policy Action Group commissioned the telephone poll of 400 registered Hawaii voters, which was conducted by QMark Research from Jan. 17 through Jan. 23. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

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