Blowing Smoke On Cannabis Legalization – Pulling back the curtain on SB767

Your calls to Representative Nakashima encouraging him to give a fair hearing to SB767 relating to the legalization of cannabis – definitely worked.

As a result of the many calls that were made to his office, Representative Nakashima is walking back his previous statements, telling people now he will give SB767 “all due consideration should the Health Committee decide to pass it to JHA/CPC …”

For those who may have missed it, according to an article in Civil Beat Hawaii Senate Votes To Legalize Marijuana, Raise Minimum Wage, ”House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Nakashima said he is not inclined to hold a hearing on the legalization bill, which means the measure will probably die for the year.”

So now, today the calls and emails must be made to the Chair of the Health Committee, Representative Ryan Yamane whose contact information is here</a.

Please call/email Rep. Yamane before the end of the day on Wednesday, March 17, and request politely, professionally, and firmly – that he promptly schedule and pass out SB767. Your message can be brief and to the point. I don’t really think you need talking points for this one 😉

It is interesting that the House has decided to refer this measure to the Health Committee. The Senate did not refer the measure to its Health Committee, as it more appropriately fits in the Consumer Protection & Judiciary Committees.

It’s also interesting that when the 2019 decriminalization bill HB1383 was passed in the House, the Health Committee was not involved in the discussion at all. It’s also useful to note that Representative Yamane was one of 16 House members who voted NO on HB1383 which ultimately decriminalized possession of an infinitesimal 3 grams of cannabis.

Though HB1383 passed in 2019 with a supermajority (35/16), Finance Chair Sylvia Luke characterized it as a “close vote” in recent conversations on Civil Beat .

Soooo – If I was a jaded cynic and wanted to speculate on Speaker Saiki’s intent, I would say referring SB767 to the House Health Committee and Representative Yamane, is a move intended to ensure cannabis is not legalized. It adds one more committee to the process, thus one more roadblock to the passage, and it protects Representative Nakashima (his Vice-Speaker) from the political fallout of being blamed for the decision.

A brief political vulnerability analysis, IMHO, warrants this conclusion:

Representative Nakashima represents Hamakua, North Hilo, and South Hilo. The Big Island, in general, is considered “cannabis-friendly.” He has been challenged in several primary elections in recent years, and he has one of the highest percentages of “blank votes” of any House Democrat. When he last ran for reelection, almost half the voters (47.7%) did not vote for him even though his name was the only one on the ballot.

Representative Yamane has served for nearly 18 years has never had a primary challenger. His blank vote percentage when running unopposed is at 25% and he has 3 X the campaign bankroll as Representative Nakashima ($54,000/$12,500). And his district, Mililani, Waipio Gentry, and Waikele is not exactly a hotbed of pro-cannabis advocacy.

Small additional wrinkle: The Health Committee has a total of 8 members. 50% of the committee, Representatives LoPresti, Gates, Tam, and Kapela are members of the “House Progressive Caucus.” It will be interesting to see if they make a formal request to Health Chair Yamane to schedule SB767 for a hearing.

And of course, there is always House Rule 11.3:
“If a chair of a standing committee refuses a request of a majority of the committee members to set for public hearing a bill or resolution referred to the committee, the majority of the committee members may petition the Review Panel established under Rule 2.1(14) to compel the chair to set the bill or resolution for public hearing.”

Contact information for the entire House Health Committee is here. In addition to contacting Chair Ryan Yamane , if you have the time and are motivated to help move this important issue forward, please send a message to each member.

Now you know…while perhaps not the entire story…at least a good chunk of it.

Gary Hooser

About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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