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Legalization Limbo: Hawaii Attorney General Lopez Takes a Stand, Yet Stays Neutral on Cannabis for Adult Use

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In a recent development, Hawaii’s Attorney General Anne Lopez clarifies the state's position on marijuana legalization, emphasizing a nuanced approach. While her office unveiled a draft bill in November, Lopez makes it clear that the Department of the Attorney General does not support the legalization of cannabis for adult use. However, the office remains neutral, refraining from active opposition, as long as any advancing legislation incorporates specific “key elements.”

Attorney General Lopez's office sent lawmakers a revised 315-page draft bill and a 38-page report addressing related issues on Friday. She emphasizes that the draft bill is not an endorsement but a legislative option for the consideration of the Legislature. It prioritizes public safety and health protections.

Despite stating that the department does not support adult-use cannabis legalization, the report suggests a neutral stance, provided legislation includes identified “key elements” and avoids provisions contrary to these elements.

Hawaii lawmakers have introduced legalization legislation in recent sessions, with the Senate passing a reform bill in March. Anticipation grows for 2024 as the potential year for legalization.

Attorney General Lopez has navigated a careful stance on cannabis legalization since her appointment in 2022, initially indicating it's the legislature's decision. Over time, her position shifted to support providing regulatory frameworks.

Advocates appreciate the comprehensive approach in the draft bill, emphasizing Attorney General Lopez's efforts. Legislative leaders have expressed positive views, calling it the “best version to date.”

Advocates stress the need for equity-focused changes to address the impact of cannabis criminalization. With the Department of Health potentially unsupportive, coordination between Governor Green's administration and legislative leadership is deemed crucial.

A separate legalization bill that advanced in the Senate in March includes provisions for expungements. However, it faces challenges in the House as the legislative session progresses.

Governor Green's administration signals a shift in attitudes towards legalization, with advocates feeling more emboldened. The Governor has expressed willingness to sign a bill legalizing cannabis for adults and considers potential uses for tax revenue from marijuana sales.

As Hawaii continues to navigate the complex landscape of marijuana legalization, the nuanced position of the Attorney General underscores the evolving dynamics in the state's approach to cannabis policy.

This story was first published by Marijauna Moment.