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Hawaii Governor Signs Bill Creating Expungement Task Force That’s Expected To Consider Marijuana Conviction Relief

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Hawaii’s governor has signed into law a bill to create a task force charged with crafting legislation that would expunge certain criminal records, likely including some past marijuana arrests and convictions.

Gov. Josh Green (D) signed the so-called Clean Slate Expungement Task Force bill on Tuesday, a day before a signature deadline for measures passed this session by lawmakers. The legislation does not explicitly mention cannabis, but marijuana-related offenses are widely expected to be included in the task force’s discussions, and organizations named as members of the new body have focused significantly on cannabis this session.

Reform advocates welcomed the news, saying that removing blemishes from peoples’ criminal records would help remove barriers to housing, education and employment.


“I believe in redemption. I believe in second chances,” Rep. David Tarnas (D), the bill sponsor, said at a press conference alongside the governor on Tuesday. “And in Hawaii, we have a system for record clearance and expungement, which is very challenging. There are tens of thousands of individuals who qualify to have their records expunged, and yet it is so difficult to do that. Very few people do it.”

The new law will “bring together people in a task force to figure out what is the best way for us to have a comprehensive framework for all clemency efforts in the state, including pardons, expungement and record sealing, so that we make it more accessible to people.”

Carrie Ann Shirota, policy director for ACLU of Hawai’i, told Marijuana Moment that the group strongly supports Clean Slate laws that expand expungement and record-sealing through the use of technology.

“SB 2706 creates an Expungement Task Force that brings us one step closer to ensuring that all people have access to opportunity,” she said. “Having a record should not be a barrier to helping individuals provide for themselves and their families, nor should it be a life sentence to poverty. At its heart, Clean Slate is about a shot at redemption and facilitating workforce development.”

Research shows that a year after record clearance, people are more likely to be employed and earn higher wages, Shirota added.

The new body will include state officials—including the attorney general, chief justice, public defender and some prosecutors—as well as representatives from various advocacy groups, including ACLU, the Last Prisoner Project (LPP), the Hawaii Innocence Project and others.

In a statement to Marijuana Moment, LPP said it’s “honored to be part of the expungement task force to ensure all Hawaiians with cannabis charges have their records expunged.”

“Our appointment to the Clean Slate task force will help ensure the state-initiated cannabis expungement bill signed by Governor Green is implemented with fidelity,” said LPP Policy Manager Adrian Rocha, “and can serve as the foundation for broader record relief moving forward.”

The task force will have interim reports, including proposed legislation, due at least 40 days before the starts of Hawaii’s 2025 and 2026 legislative sessions. A final report with recommended legislation is due at least 40 days before the 2027 lawmaking session.

Nikos Leverenz, board president for the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai’i, said he expects the law to bring relief to many people in Hawaii, but he stressed that there’s still work to be done.

“It’s heartening to see that this task force is comprised of a broad cross-section of community stakeholders in addition to government officials. Hopefully the forthcoming task force’s work will invite public observation and participation online,” he said, adding that enforcement of drug laws, “as with other aspects of Hawaii’s criminal legal system, disproportionately impacts Native Hawaiians.”

“The task force’s work can help improve the life prospects of many, but its work shouldn’t be done in isolation,” added Leverenz, who also served on Hawaii’s Dual-Use of Cannabis Task Force and a separate state Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct. “Hawaii should take note of the recent statement from the American Medical Association regarding the decriminalization of drug possession and work more broadly toward the decriminalization of behavioral health and poverty. One example: While paraphernalia is ostensibly decriminalized, far too many are still charged with felony ‘promotion of a dangerous drug’ for unusable traces and reside and find themselves in a probation system that has the longest average term in the nation.”

Lawmakers sent SB 2706 to the governor’s office in April, but Green didn’t act on the proposal for months.

In the meantime, he signed a separate bill into law, HB 1595, to create a single-county pilot program that will expunge certain non-conviction marijuana records.

As originally introduced, that measure from Tarnas would have directed state officials to automatically expunge tens of thousands of arrest and conviction records for low-level marijuana possession. But the Senate Judiciary Committee later gutted the proposal, replacing the statewide plan with a pilot program in Hawaii County that would apply only to non-conviction arrest records.

Hawaii County comprises the Big Island and is the state’s second most populous after Honolulu County. It’s home to about 14 percent of the state’s population.

Advocates have said the limited reform measures represent victories despite the legislature’s failure to pass a marijuana legalization bill this session. A separate bill to expand the state’s existing law decriminalizing small amounts of cannabis also failed to pass this session.

Following the failure of the broader legalization push, Green said in April that he has “a possible solution” to the situation: vastly expanding the Hawaii’s existing medical cannabis system to allow people to register based on any health concern rather than needing to have one of a specific list of conditions.

“This would make it very available—that’s marijuana—for those who choose it in their lives,” the governor said in an interview with Hawaii News Now, “and it would still keep kids safe, which has been everyone’s priority.”

At the same time, Green reiterated his support for full recreational legalization. “I think for adults who can responsibly use marijuana, it should be legal,” he said.



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