Hawaii News

Lawmakers to hear testimony on measure that would legalize recreational marijuana

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The discussion on legalizing marijuana begins as members of the State Senate take up the matter during a public hearing this morning during a joint Health and Human Services and Judiciary committees meeting.

Senate Bill 3335 legalizes adult-use cannabis as well as establishes the Hawaiʻi Cannabis Authority and Cannabis Control Board within the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to regulate all aspects of the cannabis plant. The measure also establishes taxes for adult-use cannabis sales.

If the measure passes, the bill would become law beginning Jan. 1, 2026.

Click here to watch the hearing.

Rep. David Tarnas

Rep. David Tarnas, D-Hāwī, Hala‘ula, Waimea, Makahalau, Waiki‘i, Waikōloa, Kawaihae, Mahukona, authored the companion measure House Bill 2600. He is interested to see what the joint Senate committee does with its measure.

Currently, the house bill doesn’t have a hearing scheduled. If none is set the measure won’t move forward.


Tarnas has spent 30 years working on legislation to legalize recreational marijuana. This year’s bills, he said, are the most comprehensive drafted over the years as lawmakers worked with the Department of the Attorney General to draft the bills.

Prior to the start of the session, the attorney general released a report and draft bill to lawmakers outlining concerns.

Marijuana is still considered a controlled substance by the federal government.

“The Department of the Attorney General does not support the legalization of adult-use cannabis,” said Attorney General Anne Lopez in January. “We acknowledge that with changing public perception in recent years, the odds that the legislature may pass legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis have increased substantially. Given that the legislature could theoretically pass a bill as early as this year, it is my department’s duty to warn the legislature of the risks, while simultaneously providing a framework that includes robust public safety and public-health safeguards.”

Despite the work put into this bill, Tarnas said there is still a lot of skepticism in the House.


Additionally, the Big Island lawmaker said Maui’s recovery following the devastating wildfires in August 2023 as well as the budget are important discussions and he’s not sure he’ll have time to work on his house bill.

Also moving through the legislature this year is House Bill 1596, which decriminalizes the possession of one ounce of marijuana. The measure passed out of the Judiciary Committee and is slated to be head on the House floor.

Tarnas said this bill works to reduce harm overall.

Those who support this year’s measures see it as a step toward not criminalizing people who use plant-based medicine.

If lawmakers pass SB3335, Hawai‘i will join the 24 states, including Washington D.C. and Guam, to legalize recreational marijuana. Hawai‘i is one of 13 states that has legalized medical marijuana.


Noah Phillips, chief compliance officer for medical marijuana dispensary Hawaiian Ethos, said the Big Island-based company has been watching legislation since 2015 when the medical dispensary program was passed.

Phillips didn’t want to weigh in on the specifics of the senate bill, however, Hawaiian Ethos supports decriminalization.

“We don’t think people’s medicine should be illegal,” Phillips said.

Every legislative session since the medical dispensary program was legalized, Phillips said they try to make incremental changes to the medical program, which is a work in progress.

Legalizing marijuana, he adds, furthers the medicinal marijuana program and access to medicine.

“Everyone has different opinions on cannabis good and bad,” Phillips said. “From our standpoint, what we see lacking in a lot of states is not fully integrating all the stakeholders.”

Stakeholders in this case are everybody, Phillips said. “You don’t necessarily need to be a user to be a stakeholder. It has an opportunity to help Hawai‘i as a whole.”

The goal especially in Hawai‘i, he added, is to create a program that is community-inclusive that brings everyone to the table from patients to growers to manufacturers to the taxpayer.

In other states, cannabis tax money has funded a variety of things including health care, general state budgets, substance abuse and drug education, funding salaries and needs for law enforcement, public schools and local governments.

“We’d like to see adult-use cannabis happen in Hawai‘i but we want good legislation, not fast legislation,” Phillips said.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Kauai Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat. Tiffany is an award-winning journalist, receiving recognition from the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. Tiffany grew up on the Big Island and is passionate about telling the community’s stories.
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