LAWMAKER SEES HAWAII ATTORNEY GENERAL'S PLAN TO TURN ILLEGAL DRUG DEALERS INTO LEGAL TAX-PAYING ENTREPRENEURS AS ONE THAT WILL GO UP IN SMOKE
News Release from Rep Gene Ward, Nov 30, 2023
HONOLULU – Hawaii State Representative Gene Ward (R-18 Hawaii Kai-Kalama Valley) has grave concerns over Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez's newly released nearly 300-page roadmap to the legalization of recreational marijuana.
One of Ward's many trepidations comes from the plan's intent to take tax revenue, the most frequently referenced benefit to legalization, and circulate it back into tackling a problem we know will inevitably be created – the growth of an illegal black market.
Ward points to struggles other states have faced as it comes to the illegal growth and distribution of marijuana for recreational use. Within the five years following legalization, California has seen a near collapse of legal growers who were crushed by competition of the illicit market, as well as a marked rise in serious crimes, firearm seizures, drug cartels, and the involvement of hostile foreign actors, many of Mexican and Chinese national origin. In fact, California has even been forced to cut or delay taxes on marijuana just to assist the outmatched legal industry.
In nearly every location where recreational marijuana is legal, criminal syndicates, far more than the state government, are cashing in on the "green gold rush." The plan from our Hawaii Attorney General wishes to acclimate nefarious groups into a legal framework. Though practice tells us time and again they will instead likely engage in the severe undercutting of prices of legalized products offered by permitted farmers who follow the rules and pay taxes.
"Hawaii was the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use at the will of the State Legislature," said Ward. "Though recreational marijuana is a much different issue and is one our people are entitled to decide for themselves. That is why this upcoming session, I will be introducing legislation to put the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana on the ballot. If this is something we are going to do, let the people decide."
Twenty states have left the issue up to the people, with the vote in many cases coming down to narrow margins. In Oklahoma, where voters rejected legalization earlier this year with the greatest percentage of opposition yet seen in the nation at nearly two-thirds opposed to the initiative, a stunning 75% of illegal pot farms shut down by law enforcement were connected to Chinese investors and organized crime.
Ward encourages great caution to those optimistic by the plan's funding of "social equity programs" and "encouragement" to make current illegal growers law-abiding. Here, Representative Ward hopes common sense will prevail, asks we learn from the experiences of other states, and requests we recognize the sheer fact that taxation and regulation are not structures most illegal growers and distributors will adhere to kindly.
"As a state, we have failed to enforce fireworks laws. We are failing to confront a worsening fentanyl crisis. And now we think we can open the floodgates on recreational marijuana with minimal consequences." Ward says. "I implore my colleagues in the Legislature to think long and hard about an upcoming choice we may have to make and if it comes down to it, give our people the final say in what could be one of the most consequential decisions made in our state's history."