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New Poll Shows Majority Of Hawaiians Support Marijuana Legalization


hawaii marijuana skylineBy Phillip Smith

A poll released Thursday shows 57% of Hawaiians favor the idea of taxing and regulating marijuana. That’s a startling 20% increase in support in just seven years—a 2005 poll by the same group asking the same question had only 37% support.

The QMark Research poll was conducted for the Drug Policy Action Group and consisted of telephone interviews with 603 respondents. It has a margin of error of +/- 4.07%.

The poll showed 45% strongly supporting tax and regulate, with another 12% saying they had “somewhat strong support.” Only 40% opposed legalization, a figure that has declined by 20 points since the 2005 poll.

The poll also found strong support for decriminalization (58%), for medical marijuana dispensaries (78%), and for the medical marijuana law passed by the legislature in 2000 (81%). The law allows patients to use marijuana, but makes no provision for them to obtain it except by growing it.

The poll numbers were released at a press conference conducted by the Drug Policy Action Group, a sister organization to the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, and the ACLU of Hawaii. Also introduced at the press conference was a study (available at the poll link above) by University of Hawaii economist David Nixon on the economic impact of marijuana law enforcement in the state.

Nixon found that Hawaii spends $9 million a year on marijuana law enforcement and foregoes $11 million a year in potential revenues under legalization. He also found that marijuana arrests are increasing in the state, with possession arrests up nearly 50% since 2004 and distribution arrests almost doubling.

“From the survey findings, it’s clear that Hawaii voters are open to reconsidering local marijuana laws,” said the Action Group’s Pam Lichty. “The data in both of these reports will help our communities craft more effective, less costly approaches for the future.  The Drug Policy Action Group, the ACLU of Hawaii, and our allies will advocate for the policy reforms that people in Hawaii want.”

“In Hawaii as across the nation, arrests for marijuana possession are one of the most common ways that individuals get caught up in the criminal justice system, at great social and economic cost,” said Vanessa Chong, executive director of the ACLU of Hawaii. These studies provide important, updated facts for the Hawaii community as we consider new directions.”

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  1. My experiences with “We the people” has been disappointing, but I read your petition, agree with the logic of it, and went ahead and signed it. Who knows, this may be a good way for the right thing to eventually be done. I wish you the best of luck on getting the required number of signatures.

  2. I think part of this is because about ten years ago Gov. Cayatano signed a medical cannabis law and then there was no followup policy or effective protocol for people to use it. The public frustration grew over the eight years of Gov. Lingle who acted like if she didn’t approve she didn’t need to do anything. Now we have Gov. Abercrombie a known hippie peace freak pot smoker back in the day, and we still have no progress from the Hawaii state government to create implementation of a decade old law.

    A little different twist: After the Nov. victories in the states of Washington and Colorado, I got caught up in the excitement a signed a FEDERALLY LEGALIZE MARIJUANA petition to President Obama. The reply was disappointing, but they did make a valid point that these petitions required Congressional action. So I wrote a petition which focuses on Executive actions that need to happen. I encourage you to check this out and sign, it will only take about five minutes.


    This petition is over a day old and has 22 signatures, the threshold for this petition to be “publicly searchable” is 150 signatures so the urgency now is to get 129 more signatures to reach that threshold.


    There were 173,185 signatures (combined there may be duplicates) on the three petitions that were responded to from the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The one I signed was to Federally Legalize Marijuana which started 11/8/12 – after the election and specifically mentioned the voter results from the states of Washington and Colorado, that petition received 44,049 signatures before it was closed. Each of those three did indeed require legislative action to accomplish the substance of the petitions.

    What is unique about this current petition is that it lists specific actions that can and should be taken by the Executive branch WITHOUT legislation.

    Again, please don’t delay to sign ASAP and promote with URGENCY of the deadline of 2/10/13 to have 25,000 signatures!


  3. In case there’s still work to be done?
    There’s work to be done until Cannabis is legal for any adult that wants to enjoy a little harmless recreation. There’s still work to be done in order to dispel the ignorance and fear that has been planted by the prohibitionists and replace it with the truth and a social environment that nurtures the individual potential within each of us and the promise of a global community.
    After all is said and done, it’s still legal to dream of better days.

  4. Lived in Hawaii for few years, good to be back in America again.

    MMJ in Hawaii is a joke, not a single dispensary for patients to facilitate safe access. Cannabis is scarce and most of the people providing the ‘medicine’ are sketchy at best. The uptick in the support for cannabis legalization is mostly due to the recent changes in Washington and Colorado law (people of Hawaii don’t lead, they mostly follow).

    My experience with the island culture was that they are slow to change as their isolation insulates them from any meaningful timely reform. Most of the people I encountered were resistant to change or progress, mostly clutching onto the life they currently lead while being fearful of any change that will take their simple life away. Island fever is not why most people end up leaving – life becomes too simple to be interesting.

    Cannabis use is frowned upon by most of the Japanese and Chinese people in positions within government (Filipino, Samoan and other Pacific Islanders have been relegated to the labor force). Not to mention that there is a very large Christian presence (a church on almost every city block in Honolulu – even the Mormons have a compound on Oahu) that are still demonizing the beneficial herb. Most people in Hawaii are wary of questioning their religious beliefs or leaders.

    Strangely, the Hawaiian climate would allow 365.25 days of growing cannabis and hemp. Cannabis could become the island state’s number one source of revenue since agriculture is at best a dying industry. Shipping containers arrive full (commodities from Japan, China and USA) and depart either empty of filled with trash bound for California (if it’s not burned in the many incinerators that provide power). They could export cannabis flowers, seeds and raw hemp in those empty shipping containers headed back to civilization.

    Hawaii isn’t really relevant politically. I suspect Hawaii will languish along with Texas in making any meaningful reforms concerning cannabis. I hope that I am wrong.

  5. DavidTheExpert on

    Indeed. That’s what I’d like to think. Perhaps Colorado and Washington were truly the catalyst that woke up the nation and made them realize that yes, prohibition really has failed again, and there are better options. I just like to err on the side of pessimism in case there is still work to be done.

  6. And people that live in (insert any state here) are not Americans.
    Native Hawaiians prefer legal Hawaiian Woodrose over illegal Cannabis anyday. Everyone knows that!

  7. Could it be that the general public is just better informed of the seriousness of our rates of incarceration and the resulting harms this produces on society and individuals? Your question and many more like it will come up and be answered in the national discussion that is taking place now about the very real and lasting effects the prohibition against Cannabis has caused upon (and cost) us all.
    Cannabis should be legalized and taxed at both the state and federal levels.
    End the prohibition against Cannabis.

  8. Could be “hometown boy makes good” Choomgang Obama has made 20% reconsider their opinions.

  9. People who live in Hawaii are not Hawaiians. You need to change your headline.It would be a good idea to contact the OHA and ask what they think on cannabis legalization.

  10. DavidTheExpert on

    The question is, what would explain that 20% increase in support? Public opinion couldn’t change that drastically so quickly without some sort of catalyst, could it? I’m just worried that perhaps the data is skewed. Or maybe the data from 2005 was skewed and it should have been higher.

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