In the wake of laws in Washington and Colorado to legalize small amounts of marijuana and regulate it like alcohol, a new poll shows that 57 percent of Hawaiians favor a similar law. This is a 20 percent jump from the last time a poll was conducted in 2005. A whopping 69 percent think jail time for marijuana is inappropriate, and 78 percent support a medical marijuana dispensary system to bolster the state’s medical marijuana law. Arrests for mere possession of marijuana have increased 50 percent since 2004, and disproportionately affect people of native Hawaiian descent.
An accompanying study on the budgetary implications of passing such a law found that decriminalizing marijuana would save state and county governments $5 million per year, and that legalizing and regulating the industry would save another $5 million, in addition to generating $4 million to $20 million in new revenue. Of course, Hawaii would probably not be alone in taking up a measure to legalize marijuana. Oregon and California have already held referenda on the question, and drug policy advocates are eyeing a number of other states where political will has strengthened since November, several of which have already decriminalized possession.