Editorial | On Politics On Politics: Recreational pot legalization going up in smoke By Richard Borreca Special to the Star-Advertiser March 19, 2023 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Again, Hawaii is getting ready to not approve a bill to legalize the private use of a limited amount of marijuana. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Again, Hawaii is getting ready to not approve a bill to legalize the private use of a limited amount of marijuana. This comes after early action this year by the state Senate to approve a limited form of legalization. The Senate action was spurred on by Gov. Josh Green, who said he would approve legalization. All that was before the “Yes, but” concerns came forward. Two years ago the bill also moved but eventually did not win final passage. Marijuana use has been a “no big deal” in Hawaii for decades as the drug of choice, called pakalolo in local slang. While running for governor last year, then-Lt Gov. Dr. Josh Green said he was willing to sign a legalization bill — but since becoming governor, Green’s Cabinet has been quick to either say “no,” or offer serious concerns and conditions to legalization. “Here’s what I would do,” Green said in a campaign debate last year. “First of all, if marijuana is legalized, it should be very carefully monitored, and only done like cigarettes, or I’ve been very careful to regulate tobacco over the years. We should take the $30 to $40 million of taxes we would get from that and invest in the development and recreation of our mental health-care system for the good of all.” Now Green’s state Transportation Department says, “We have concerns regarding the legalization of marijuana for personal use as it could result in increases in impaired driving-related injuries and fatalities on our roadways.” The state Attorney General’s Office had a big thumbs down, saying in testimony it had “serious law-enforcement concerns regarding preventing unlicensed activity and notes that the bill has several provisions that could present confusion.” And the Health Department offered the concern that legalization would cost a lot of money, saying it “will require additional resources and may impact the priorities identified in the Governor’s Executive Budget.” Even a pro-marijuana group was against the bill, Senate Bill 669, with Kai Luke of the Cannabis Society of Hawaii saying: “Although we strongly support decriminalization and the opportunity for adults to purchase cannabis at a retail location, the structure and framework of this bill is ambiguous and needs some work.” And there are even worries about how much to tax pot sales, with the current proposal asking for a 10% charge. The “get rich by taxing marijuana” aspect is something that drives the Hawaii Tax Foundation nuts. “If the policy choice is to legalize the activity, then it should be sufficient to tax it like any other business. If we add an extra tax to discourage the activity, isn’t it being hypocritical? If we add an extra tax to pay for societal damage this activity causes, why aren’t we accepting that we are causing the damage by allowing the activity?” the Tax Foundation said in Senate testimony earlier this year. While supporters say allowing the use of cannabis for either or both medical and personal purposes is a growing trend, it runs against House Speaker Scott Saiki’s concern that the issue needs an organized study session, perhaps over the summer break. So add up a hesitant state administration and a divided state Legislature, and that means just saying “Yes” doesn’t mean “OK.” Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays. Reach him at email@example.com. Previous Story Editorial: Protecting abortion rights Next Story Column: Isn’t it time to stop making electricity more expensive?