Will Hawaii be the first state to decriminalize all drugs?

Emily Gray Brosious

Hawaii approves study on drug decriminalization(Photo credit: AGrinberg via Compfight cc)

Hawaii may call it quits on drug war policies.

Hawaii lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved a proposal to study the possibility of decriminalizing all drugs for personal use in the state, as reported by Civil Beat.

“Despite a longstanding policy that enforces illicit drug use and imposes some of the world’s harshest penalties for drug use and sales,” drug use continues to increase, the resolution argues.

The proposal, which cleared the House Committee on Judiciary with a 7-1 vote, argues that offering treatment to people with substance abuse issues is a better strategy than locking them behind bars.

The resolution suggests Portugal could serve as a model for drug decriminalization. The country decriminalized all drug possession in 2001, which led to an overall drop in drug use and substantially fewer drug-related deaths, according to Policy.Mic.

However, due to federal drug laws, Hawaii would be reliant on the federal government not to interfere if the state were to decriminalize all drugs.

The federal government has allowed states and municipalities to pass their own marijuana decriminalization and legalization laws without too much interference, so it’s entirely possible an all-drug decriminalization law would be treated the same way.

The Drug Policy Forum of Hawai’i (DPFHI) expressed support for the resolution in a statement to the House Committee of Judiciary:

DPFHI strongly supports this resolution urging the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) to study the effects of the decriminalization of drug possession for personal use in Hawai’i. The benefits of doing so are numerous: from decreasing the prison population, actually helping drug users with treatment rather than locking them up, and freeing up police resources to deal with more pressing issues.

If the resolution passes in the Senate, Hawaii’s Legislative Reference Bureau will be requested to conduct a study on the “feasibility and advisability of decriminalizing the illegal possession of drugs for personal use in Hawaii.”

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Gallery photo links (Creative Commons Attribution): Cocaine (1), Cocaine (2)

Gallery source links: Erowid, TIME, Oprah.com, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), WebMD, Newsday, Morning Consult

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