By Steve Elliott
The Hawaii state Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. The proposal now goes to the House.
The bill would make the possession of one ounce or less a civil violation. Lawmakers tacked on a $1,000 fine to emphasize that marijuana is still illegal, despite the shift from criminal to civil penalties, reports Anita Hofschneider of The Associated Press.
The bill is designed to reduce the backlog in Hawaii's criminal justice system, according to sponsor Sen. Clayton Hee.
Meanwhile, law enforcement officials, reluctant to give up the disproportionate power over everyday citizens which marijuana criminalization gives them, predictably oppose the bill. They claim decriminalization would make it harder to enforce laws against pot.
A bill to legalize marijuana in Hawaii died in the House earlier this session.