Excerpted from a Marijuana Moment Blog by Ben Adlin

A pair of Senate committees in Hawaii has advanced a bill that would legalize marijuana in the state, adopting a number of amendments to the underlying proposal before sending it to the chamber floor where a vote is expected next week.

Last year the Senate passed a separate legalization bill that later stalled the House, but advocates are hopeful this year’s proposal could get further. Gov. Josh Green (D) said last month that legalization is a “big social issue that remains” to be addressed in the state, signaling that he’d likely sign a bill to end cannabis prohibition if lawmakers send him one.

There’s still more work to be done on this year’s more-than-300-page bill, which was formally introduced in both chambers in January and is largely based on a legalization plan unveiled by state Attorney General Anne Lopez (D).

One change adopted by the Senate Ways and Means and Commerce and Consumer Protection committees on Friday, for example, blanked out all the bill’s funding numbers “to reflect the ongoing discussion going on at the legislature right now,” according to the bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole (D), who also chairs the commerce panel.

The bill, SB 3335, faces a crossover deadline of next Thursday, March 7, meaning a Senate floor vote is likely in the coming days. Other changes adopted at Friday’s hearing adjusted provisions around hemp, criminal justice and licensing provisions.

People with past felony cannabis convictions, for one, would be able to apply for licenses and employment in the legal marijuana industry. They would qualify after 10 years from the end of their incarceration, probation or supervised release.

Another change approved by the committees clarified that possession and distribution of marijuana paraphernalia would be legal. Keohokalole told colleagues that activity is “already legal, so they’re conforming amendments to existing changes that the legislature has made.”

The name of the regulatory agency that would oversee the legal marijuana market also was modified slightly. The newly proposed name, the Hawaii Hemp and Cannabis Authority, would reflect the body’s handling of hemp matters in addition to marijuana.

“I think we’re really close,” Sen. Tim Richards (D) said at the joint hearing. “I’m going to be supporting with reservations, just because I think we still got a little bit we need to do, but I think we’re close.”

Sen. Sharon Y. Moriwaki (D), meanwhile, said she had “concerns about the cannabis,” saying the state still has work to do around medical marijuana. She also said that as the state works to discourage alcohol use, “I see this as kind of counter to that,” warning of “a lot of problems in the community.”

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