HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The future of cannabis in Hawaii -- that was the controversial topic of a forum held Thursday night at the Hawaii Democratic Party headquarters.
Elected officials, healthcare professionals, and drug policy advocates provided updates about what's happening with cannabis at both the state and federal levels.
"The rates of drug DUIs in Colorado are actually down and the rates of teen use has not risen in the legalized states like they thought they would. So the data is coming in and it's looking pretty good. The sky has not fallen," said Pamela Lichty, President and Founder of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii.
State Senator Will Espero says he believes the legalization of marijuana won't happen any time soon here in Hawaii under the Trump Administration. Instead, he says the state should focus on expanding the list of qualifying health conditions for its medical marijuana program.
"Insomnia, depression, and stress -- if those three were added to the list, you would add thousands, if not tens of thousands, of potential users," said Espero.
For decriminalization, Espero says the Senate has passed measures before, but blames the House for stalling efforts. He claims House members are not as open-minded.
State Rep. Kaniela Ing agrees with that statement, but says he's noticed a shift in attitudes for some of his colleagues over the years.
"Legislators are more interested now in how we can make a quick buck and bring in revenue," Ing said.
Meanwhile, via Skype from Maui, U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard gave an update on what's happening in Congress. She recently co-sponsored a measure that would federally decriminalize marijuana so it's regulated like alcohol and tobacco.
"This is a bipartisan bill and we are continuing to try to build bipartisan support around it. It's really critical given the position the Attorney General (Jeff Sessions) has taken," Gabbard said.