Pointing to Obama, Hawaii lawmaker aims to decriminalize marijuana

By Stephen C. Webster
Sunday, January 17, 2010 21:51 EDT
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A Hawaii lawmaker plans to introduce legislation this week that would decriminalize adult possession of marijuana, and he’s pointing directly at the Obama administration to justify his decision, according to a published report.

But State Sen. J. Kalani English, a Democrat, isn’t stopping there. A second bill slated for introduction this week would also legalize and levy a tax on medical marijuana dispensaries, which are currently prohibited even though marijuana for medicinal use is not.

“My point is we already legalized medical marijuana, so we should allow the counties to (regulate) the dispensaries . . .” he told The Honolulu Advertiser. “(President Barack) Obama directed the Department of Justice to honor states’ rights, as it should be. It’s a complete reversal of the previous doctrine that the federal trumps the states.”

The paper noted that Hawaii is facing a $1.2 billion budget shortfall for fiscal year 2011. While English did not predict how much revenue would be obtained by taxing medical marijuana, he told the Advertiser that it would be “significant.”

In February, 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that it would be the Obama administration’s policy to not arrest medical marijuana patients, allowing states to determine how best to handle the issue.

The decision marks a shift from the Bush Administration, which was more draconian in its approach to hunting those who sought to dispense marijuana for medical purposes.

Over two dozen states are currently weighing marijuana law reforms ranging from decriminalization to outright legalization.

In California, which will likely vote on legalization in November, 2010, lawmakers predict marijuana taxes would raise at least $1.5 billion in their first year.

However, even if California does legalize marijuana, the plant is still prohibited on the federal level. President Obama has said that he opposes legalization.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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