With many states decriminalizing and even legalizing marijuana, where does Hawaii stand? Two new reports commissioned by the Drug Policy Action Group (DPAG) sought to answer this question, and the latest findings were presented at a January 10, 2013 Honolulu press conference. Barbara Ankersmit, President of QMark Research shared the results of a statewide poll of Hawaii voters’ attitudes toward marijuana and marijuana laws. Pamela Lichty, President of the Drug Policy Action Group, presented highlights from a new report on the potential economic impacts of marijuana legalization authored by David Nixon, Associate Professor at the University of Hawaii College of Social Sciences Public Policy Center.
Respected local polling firm QMark Research was commissioned to conduct a statewide, statistically significant poll of 600 Hawaii voters. The poll occurred between November 19 and December 4, 2012. Among its findings:
• 78% support a dispensary system for medical marijuana.
• 69% think that jail time for marijuana offenses is inappropriate.
• 57% favor legalized, taxed and regulated marijuana, 20% higher than the last poll conducted in 2005.
Independent University of Hawaii (UH) economist David Nixon was commissioned to update a 2005 study on the state of marijuana law enforcement in Hawaii. He was asked to examine the costs of current law enforcement policies and to predict the economic impacts if Hawaii were to decriminalize or legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana. Among his findings:
• Hawaii has seen a surge in marijuana arrests since 2004. Possession arrests have increased almost 50%, and distribution arrests have almost doubled.
• Hawaii’s marijuana laws overly impact males under the age of 25 and people of native Hawaiian descent. These groups were arrested in numbers disproportionate to their share of the population.
• By decriminalizing marijuana, Hawaii could redirect over US$9 million annually in law enforcement costs.
• By legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana, Hawaii could conservatively add an additional estimated US$11 million in yearly revenues.
Pam Lichty said: “From the survey findings, it’s clear that Hawaii voters are open to reconsidering local marijuana laws. The data in both of these reports will help our communities craft more effective, less costly approaches for the future. The Drug Policy Action Group, the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, and our allies will advocate for the policy reforms that people in Hawaii want.”
Vanessa Chong, Executive Director of the ACLU of Hawaii, added: “In Hawaii as across the nation, arrests for marijuana possession are one of the most common ways that individuals get caught up in the criminal justice system, at great social and economic cost. These studies provide important, updated facts for the Hawaii community as we consider new directions.”
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