Hawaii Discusses Cannabis Legalization: Governor Says Stoners Are Less Violent, Just Hungry - But Cops Predict The Worst

A group of community leaders and law enforcement officials have teamed up to express their opposition to legalizing recreational marijuana in Hawaii. Their concerns? The illicit market and increased crime.

Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm said two recent bills intended to legalize recreational marijuana would not get rid of the illicit market.

"We're looking at what Marijuana is today, and it is nothing like it is today," said Alm. "And in fact, states that have legalized have a bigger black market because you're gonna get more users."

Governor Josh Green, a physician has thrown his support behind the bills, calling cannabis a “lesser evil” as compared to harder drugs.

“Marijuana might blunt the effect of people on these heavy drugs, horrible drugs. It’s a relative sedative,” he said. “People are far less violent. They are more hungry. Apart from the snacking and stealing Cheetos it would probably do much less harm.”

Police chiefs from Maui and Kauai, who both worked in Nevada when cannabis became legal there seven years ago, did not agree with the governor.

"During our law enforcement careers in Las Vegas, Chief Pelletier and I witnessed firsthand how criminals exploited marijuana legalization to expand their criminal enterprises," said Kauai Police Chief Todd Raybuck.

Maui Police Chief John Pelletier was even more pessimistic. "You will have violent crime more than you have now, you will have homeless more than you have now. You are not prepared to do this."

Honolulu Police Chief Joe Logan speaking out against a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2024)

Former Hawaii Governor Speaks Out

Even former governor Linda Lingle broke her 14-year silence to oppose the bills. "The bottom line is it's a risk we just can't take. We have big issues to solve here. This would make those big issues almost impossible to ever solve."

However, those in the cannabis industry say the issues are solvable and legalization is not as ominous as it may appear.

Nikos Leverenz of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii sees an opportunity, stressing the potential for boosting the state's economy.

Ty Cheng, president of Aloha Green Apothecary added that the question includes how to reduce harm and ameliorate issues facing children.

"By legalizing and putting strict rules in place and good regulation, we have a much better chance of protecting public safety," said Cheng.

A joint legislative hearing for the bill is set for next week.

Photo: Oahu’s Halona Beach Cove, courtesy of Maureen Meehan 

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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