FAQ: Why decriminalize marijuana?

Why should I care about marijuana law reform? 

Hawaii’s failed marijuana laws:

  • Cost taxpayers millions of dollar each year
  • Unfairly target minority & low-income people
  • Do not decrease marijuana use by young people
  • Are not supported by Hawai‘i voters

Decriminalization frees up law enforcement resources for serious and violent crimes:

  • Decriminalizing adult possession of an ounce or less of marijuana could save state and county governments in Hawai‘i an estimated $9 million annually.1
  • Nationally, approximately $8 billion is spent every year arresting and prosecuting individuals for marijuana violations.2  Almost 90% of these arrests are for marijuana possession only.3
  • Since 2004, possession arrests in Hawai‘i have increased almost 50% and distribution arrests almost doubled.1

Far more harm results from the criminalization of marijuana than from marijuana use itself:

  • Juveniles in Hawai‘i are 70% more likely to be arrested than adults.1
  • Native Hawaiians are 70% more likely to be arrested than others, despite similar use rates across all groups.1
  • Convicted marijuana offenders:
    • Can be denied federal student aid;
    • Can lose their professional licenses;
    • Encounter barriers to employment, housing, and adoption.
    • These penalties disproportionally affect young, low income, and minority individuals.2

Will decriminalization increase marijuana use? NO.

  • There is no evidence to support claims that criminalization reduces use or decriminalization increases use.4
  • Studies find that decriminalizing marijuana has had no effect on marijuana use among young people.5
  • Harsh marijuana laws do not deter use.6

Do Hawai‘i voters support decriminalization? YES.

  • 58% of voters believe that marijuana possession for personal use should carry a fine instead of jail time.



1. Nixon, David.  Update to: Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Decriminalization and Legalization in Hawai’i. University of Hawai’i, Dec 2012. http://freshapproachhawaii.org/economic-perspectives/ 

2. Duncan, Cynthia.  “The Need for Change: An Economic Analysis of Marijuana Policy.” Connecticut Law Review 14 (July 2009)

3. United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s combined Uniform Reports.  Crime in the United States: Table: Arrest for Drug Abuse Violations.  U.S. Department of Justice: Washington, DC. 2010.

4. Reinarman, Cohen, and Kaal. “The Limited Relevance of Drug Policy: Cannabis in Amsterdam and San Francisco.” American Journal of Public Health 94.5  (May 2004)

5. Williams, Jenny. “The Effects of Price and Policy on Marijuana Use: What Can Be Learned from the Australian Experience?” Health Economics 13 (2004): 123-137.

6. Connecticut.  Connecticut Law Review Commission.  Drug Policy in Connecticut and Strategy Options: Report to the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut Assembly.  State Capitol: Hartford, 1997.

7. QMark Research & Polling.  November 19 –December 4, 2012.  Survey of 603 adults statewide, MOE +/-4% http://freshapproachhawaii.org/economic-perspectives/

8. National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine.  “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base”.  National Academy Press: Washington, DC, 5, 6. 1999.