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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s Law enforcement community, led by Honolulu prosecutor Steve Alm, is lining up against the attorney general’s plan to legalize adult use of marijuana.
Although leading lawmakers gave the proposal a warm welcome, Alm says opponents now have ammunition from the experience of other states.
Alm said the law enforcement community was shocked when Attorney General Anne Lopez, the state’s chief law enforcement officer, dropped opposition to legalization.
“And when we met with them, I told Anne that, you know, that, she said, ‘the train has left the station.’ We don’t think the train has left the station,” Alm said. During her confirmation hearing, Attorney General Lopez promised a marijuana legalization plan with a law enforcement perspective.
Lopez’ Special Assistant on the issue, David Day, said that was part of the process.
“The Department of Law Enforcement, which is that state’s leading law enforcement agency, worked collaboratively with the Department of the Attorney General on this bill,” Day said.
Despite that, along with police and prosecutors, Alm predicts opposition from health experts, educators, and even the visitor industry.
“Because it’s not broken,” Alm said. “Now, to me, there is no impetus to changing the system.”
Alm said medical marijuana laws and decriminalization have already made marijuana available to almost anyone and that research in other states is showing that super-potent cannabis is causing everything from traffic deaths to mental illness.
“Teenagers go to the emergency room thinking they’re going crazy,” Alm said. “Because it’s such a strong drug, it’s a different drug entirely.”
Day said the Attorney General is aware of the risks.
“What we’ve tried to do is present a bill that tries to mitigate as many of those risks as possible,” Day said.
In an interview with Hawaii News Now last week, Lopez said the bill provides health oversight, education, and requirements for testing and labeling about potency. “So that we can ensure that the right people are able to purchase it and not children and not teenagers,” Lopez said.
The bill also offers grants and assistance to illegal growers to entice them out of the black market. Alm said that hasn’t worked in other states, and neither will the attorney general’s promise to beef up enforcement against illegal growers.
“It’s total BS,” Alm said. “They’re talking about what a dedicated team from law enforcement. Right now, they have HPD that has almost 2000 members.”
Although many hoped this would be the year marijuana would be legalized, the opposition of law enforcement, combined with the overwhelming needs of Maui County, could put this issue off another year.