Could Hawaii follow other states in legalizing recreational marijuana use?

Could Hawaii follow other states in legalizing recreational marijuana use?
Published: Nov. 10, 2016 at 10:01 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 11, 2016 at 9:53 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Eight states have now passed laws governing recreational use of marijuana, and marijuana advocates believe it's only a matter of time until Hawaii does the same.

"I think it makes perfect sense because so many people, whether they want to admit it or not, have or do cannabis regularly," said Paul Klink, of the Honolulu Wellness Center.

Lawmakers will probably introduce pot bills in the coming legislative session. But House Majority Leader Scott Saiki thinks passing one isn't likely until medical marijuana dispensaries are opened and the industry's procedures are finalized.

"Our state medical marijuana program is still not really off the ground, even though we authorized dispensaries a couple of years ago," he said.

Hawaii lawmakers must consider that in three states where recreational and medical pot are legal, demand for medicinal weed dropped. Dispensaries in Washington state report the pool of patients fell to 13,000 from an estimate of 100,000.

"Sometimes the dispensaries will see a dip in business when they go from medical use to recreational use. But the only clients that they're losing are the ones that were probably getting it on the black market to begin with," Klink said.

Meanwhile, Alan Shinn, executive director of the the Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii, thinks a lot could change when Donald Trump becomes president. "What's his policy on just drug control in general? On marijuana? We really don't know. That may play into this whole scenario," he said.

Two years ago, a recreational marijuana bill did make it fairly far along in Legislature. But it was snuffed out after a public hearing.

"There are generational changes in the House that are occurring as far as the membership goes," Saiki said. "So there might be more members that are more open to exploring this."

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