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Hawaii Decriminalizes Marijuana

Hawaii on Tuesday decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, making it the 26th state in the U.S. to legalize or decriminalize the drug.

The bill was approved by Hawaii's Democrat-controlled state legislature and sent to Governor David Ige in early May to be signed into law. While Ige did not sign the bill into law, he did not veto it either by the required deadline, effectively allowing it to become law on Tuesday.

The new law takes effect on January 11, 2020. It provides for the expungement of criminal records pertaining solely to the possession of three grams or less of marijuana.

The law decriminalizes the possession of up to three grams marijuana and establishes that the possession is a violation still punishable by a monetary fine of $130. However, possession of up to three grams of marijuana will no longer be punishable by jail time.

The law will also establish a marijuana evaluation task force to make recommendations on changing marijuana use penalties and outcomes in Hawaii.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a legal reform group, welcomed Hawaii's decision to decriminalize the possession of marijuana.

"While three grams is the smallest amount of any state that has decriminalized simple possession, removing criminal penalties and possible jail time is still an improvement," the Marijuana Policy Project said on Twitter.

Marijuana decriminalization is different from marijuana legalization. Under decriminalization, possession of marijuana will no longer carry jail time, while it will continue to carry a fine. Under legalization, there are no penalties for marijuana possession, while sales are also usually allowed.

In the U.S., eleven states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana. However, Washington D.C. and Vermont have not allowed sales for recreational purposes. Fifteen additional states, including Hawaii, have only decriminalized.

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