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Politics // The Right Price
Larry Price

Less Penalty For Pakalolo

You have to admire the work our legislators handle this time of the year. They have so many things to do before and during the crossover period, it’s mind-boggling.

To my surprise, all the significant gambling legislation fell by the wayside. I thought, with all the budget problems on the federal level, that a few gambling bills might sneak through. You know, to help boost tax revenue.

One of the bills that did survive was Senate Bill 472, RELATING TO MARIJUANA, submitted by Sen.

Clayton Hee, chairman of the Committee on Judiciary and Labor. All of the law enforcement community was against the bill becoming law, but the power of the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii and the Community Alliance on Prisons carried the day.

I don’t know anything about marijuana, so some of the language in the bill left me wondering how it would be enforced. The purpose of the bill is to establish a civil violation for possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana. The offense would be considered a petty misdemeanor that is punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and 30 days in prison.

So the measure decriminalizes the possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana, and fines would be credited to the general fund.

It was a popular bill, because it passed the third reading without a hitch.

The committee encourages further discussion for the purpose of clarity.

And while I understand the intention of the bill, I do have a question about enforcement.

How are members of the Honolulu Police Department who have to enforce this law going to recognize an ounce of marijuana?

Are they going to start carrying around a small scale right next to their taser guns and handcuffs?

Will it be included in reading the suspects their Miranda rights, like, anything you are carrying on your person may be weighed?

So let’s get this straight, so to speak.

If you are in possession of 1 ounce or less, you get arrested and fined $1,000. Nowhere in the bill does it say what happens if you light up a joint. Does it now become a criminal offense? Probably another law for that circumstance.

I have always wondered how they expect HPD officers to determine if someone is violating a smoking law because they are not more then 30 feet from a public building.

You don’t see police officers carrying around a tape measure, and none of the places I frequent has red lines at 30 feet from the property, like three-point arcs in basketball.

Not to worry, all the concerns for consistency and clarity will probably be worked out in conference committee hearings.

Let’s face it, an ounce of pakalolo is not much and probably not worthy of incarceration.

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