House will Consider Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession Study finds Hawai‘i would save $5 Million
February 05, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 4, 2009
CONTACT: Jeanne Ohta, Executive Director, Drug Policy Forum of Hawai‘i
House will Consider Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession - Study finds Hawai`i would save $5 Million
(HONOLULU: February 4) Up to $33 million in new revenues and cost savings could be generated by a system of taxation and regulation to replace prohibition of marijuana in Hawai‘i, a study has found.
Pam Lichty, President of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai`i (DPFH) said, “hard times force us to rethink out-dated policies.”
A joint House committee on Public Safety, Human Services, and Health has scheduled a hearing on House Bill1192 that would make the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a civil offense carrying a $100 fine.
The hearing will be held Thursday, February 5, 2009, 5:00 p.m. in Conference Room 309 at the State Capitol.
Public support for changing marijuana laws is growing. In November 2008, 58% of voters in Hawai`i County voted to make marijuana possession the “lowest law enforcement priority.” That initiative directs law enforcement officials to treat the adult personal use of marijuana as its lowest law enforcement priority and prohibits the county from accepting or expending funds for marijuana eradication and for enforcing potential offenses for adult personal use.
Also in November 2008 65% of Massachusetts voters approved a decriminalization initiative which makes possession of up to an ounce of marijuana a civil citation punishable by a $100 fine. Eleven other states have decriminalized possession of marijuana. Including Hawaii, six state legislatures are currently considering similar legislation.
In the report, first released by DPFH in 2007, University of Hawai‘i West Oahu Economist Lawrence W. Boyd concludes that ending law enforcement control of marijuana distribution would save the $10 million spent by police and the courts each year to enforce existing marijuana laws. Instituting a system of taxes and regulations similar to that for alcoholic beverages would create both savings and new revenues of up to $23 million annually.
Boyd's analysis also shows that the $10 million spent in enforcement has failed to reduce the availability of marijuana in Hawai‘i; in fact, marijuana prices have dropped, indicating efforts to restrict supply through law enforcement have failed. Approximately 65 percent of marijuana cases are dismissed, not prosecuted, or stricken, making the risk of arrest or punishment for marijuana use low. “As this study shows, maintaining criminalization of marijuana possession has had no effect on usage rates,” said Lichty, “we can no longer afford failed policies that drain taxpayer dollars away from important needs in Hawai`i. The first step in realizing these savings, decriminalizing marijuana possession, would save $5 million.”
The full report is available online click here
The Boyd report provides additional data supporting a nationwide study by a Harvard University economist, Dr. Jeffrey Miron. That report estimated savings of up to $14 billion from replacing policies of marijuana prohibition. In response more than 500 economists, including several Nobel Laureates, called for "an open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition," adding, "We believe such a debate will favor a regime in which marijuana is legal but taxed and regulated like other goods." Three of those economists are from Hawai‘i institutions: David Hammes, professor of economics, University of Hawai‘i-Hilo; Gerard Russo, associate professor of economics, University of Hawai‘i-Manoa; and Ken Schoolland, associate professor of economics and political science, Hawai‘i Pacific University. Dr. Miron's report and the economists call can be found here
The Drug Policy Forum of Hawai‘i is a non-profit organization founded in 1993 to encourage the development of effective drug policies that minimize economic, social, and human costs, and to promote the consideration of pragmatic approaches to drug policy.
The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii
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