Ending the war on drugs: The debate shifts to decriminalization

As published in the Honolulu Star Advertiser on May 1, 2016:

"Thirteen years after Hawaii legalized medical marijuana, the state is finally forging ahead with licensing marijuana dispensaries, issuing licenses to eight applicants on Friday. As it has in other states, that policy shift could usher in a new era of social norms...

It’s unclear whether Hawaii will go that route. But already, at least a few policymakers believe the notion of decriminalizing personal use of marijuana — as well as other illicit drugs — and focusing more on treatment, is worthy of study and serious discussion.

ʻAt first glance it comes off as a pretty radical ideaʻ — the idea of decriminalizing personal drug use, said state Rep. Jarrett Keohokalole (D-Kaneohe, Kahaluu, Waiahole), but ʻthings become ripe for discussion based on circumstances.ʻ In Hawaii, drug use often is an underlying factor that feeds the nation’s highest per-capita rate of homelessness, underscoring the need to move the discussion toward treatment rather than imprisonment, he said.

It was Keohokalole who introduced House Concurrent Resolution 127, adopted Thursday, which asks the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) to study decriminalizing drug possession for personal use in Hawaii. The final version of the resolution limited the study to marijuana and other harmful drugs — excluding dangerous drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine. The resolution asks for an LRB report before the start of the 2017 legislative session.

HCR 127 references a 2009 Cato Institute study that reviewed drug decriminalization policies in Portugal, where drug use has declined and resources have shifted to treatment rather than incarceration."

Read more here.

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