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Pot bill exempts those under 18 from penalties

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People younger than 18 wouldn’t face penalties under a Senate bill headed for a vote by the House that would decriminalize the use of small amounts of marijuana and set a $100 civil fine, Hono­lulu police say.

Maj. Jerry Inouye,head of HPD’s Narcotics and Vice Division, said, "There are no provisions for penalties for juveniles under the age of 18."

Inouye made the comments Tuesday after a draft of Senate Bill 472 approved by the House Judiciary Committee last week was made available. The bill would reduce the maximum fine for possessing less than an ounce (20 grams) of marijuana and would treat the offense as a citation. Currently, possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana is a petty misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

On Monday the House Judiciary Committee, headed by Rep. Karl Rhoads (D, Chinatown-Iwilei-Kalihi) successfully obtained a procedural change that will result in the bill moving to the House floor for a vote.

Rhoads said he expects a floor vote by the full House by the end of the week.

The lawmaker said he doesn’t see the proposal as a major change from the current law.

However, Inouye told the Star-Advertiser that the bill sends "the wrong message to Hawaii’s youth. We know that marijuana is harmful and results in learning disabilities and affects cognitive abilities. We don’t want to expose it to our young people."

Inouye said the bill also creates enforcement problems. When a person is issued a citation, he or she could give the police officer a false name because the person doesn’t undergo booking procedures that result in identification, he said.

However, the Senate bill probably will end up in a House-Senate conference committee because the Senate version of the bill kept the maximum fine at $1,000, and enactment of the bill was set for July 2050 — a tool used by legislators to force it into conference committee to correct the date.

Joining the Honolulu, Hawaii County, Kauai and Maui police in opposing marijuana decriminalization were the Hono­lulu prosecutor’s office, the departments of Attorney General and Public Safety, andCoalition for Drug-Free Hawaii.

Marijuana would still be illegal under federal laws.

Earlier in the session, the American Civil Liberties Union, Community Alliance on Prisons, IMUAlliance, Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, Drug Policy Action Group, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and several individuals supported the bill.

Hawaii is one of 18 states and the District of Columbia that allow marijuana for medicinal use. As of March 3 there were 11 states with pending legislation to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, according to the website

(In November, Colo­rado and Washington voters approved ballot measures legalizing marijuana.)

Two bills dealing with the medical use of marijuana remain alive at the Capitol and also could end up in House-Senate conference talks.

In the Senate, legislation would transfer oversight of medical use of marijuana from the Department of Public Safety to the Health Department by June 30, 2014. House Bill 668 will be heard by the Senate Health and Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs committees at 3 p.m. today in Conference Room 229.

Inouye said the Police Department opposes the transfer bill because the change may result in the lack of accessibility to records that determine who are legitimate medical marijuana users.

The House Health Committee will take testimony at 8:30 a.m. today in Conference Room 329 on SB 642, which police say would expand medical marijuana use.

Inouye said the amended Senate bill would increase the number of patients a caregiver could supply to three from one. It also increases the amount of marijuana a patient and caregiver can maintain.

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