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‘Maui Wowee’: County Council sees potential financial boost from pot industry

Marijuana buds, rolling papers and lighter
Source: Honolulu Civil Beat
Council members are hoping other Hawaii counties express support for marijuana legalization too. Legislative leaders and Gov. David Ige have long opposed the idea.

Maui, HAWAIIAN ISLANDS — Maui County Council members who overwhelmingly passed a resolution earlier this month supporting the legalization and taxation of marijuana see economic hope in a budding cannabis industry.

The council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the legalization, regulation and taxation of adult-use cannabis, although council member Yuki Lei Sugimura says she’s now changed her mind and opposes legalization.

But other council members said the pandemic-induced economic downturn and decline in tourism inspired support for the resolution, citing the tax revenue that it would bring.

While the resolution has no legal impact, a bill to legalize cannabis is on its way to a joint session of the state Senate Judiciary Committee and the Ways and Means Committee after it cleared the Public Safety Committee last week.

“The need is greater than ever to immediately incentivize and develop other revenue generators,” states the resolution introduced by council vice chair Keani Rawlins-Fernandez of Molokai.

Senate Bill 767, which would legalize cannabis, notes that in its first year of legal cannabis sales, “Colorado collected $67,594,323 in taxes and fees from medical and retail cannabis.”

“This isn’t the first time our main economic driver has been impacted like this,” said Rawlins-Fernandez, who also chairs the council’s Budget, Finance, and Economic Development Committee. “With the September 11th attacks on the Twin Towers, we experienced this. In the 2008 recession, we experienced this. … And here we are again, and it seems we haven’t learned from our past. We talk about diversifying our economy, but we haven’t done enough.”

Despite the unanimous vote, some council members have their reservations.

Read more at Civil Beat