Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Legalization of marijuana in Hawaii deserves a vote
by Larry Geller
President Obama repeated at least three times during his State of the Union address that gun control deserves a vote in Congress. He was referring to the un-democratic way that congressional leadership manipulates issues by refusing to bring them to committees where they can be debated and voted upon.
In Hawaii, House leadership may have changed hands, but the hijacking of our democratic process remains the same under Speaker Souki, it seems. This session it appeared that Hawaii might join other states that recently passed legislation legalizing marijuana. The benefit to the state budget would be only one of several reasons that lawmakers might want to debate following Colorado and Washington in legalizing the drug.
House judiciary committee Chairman Karl Rhoads said Tuesday that he decided to kill the bill after learning from House leadership that the initiative does not have enough votes to pass the House.
[Star-Advertiser, House snuffs out bill to legalize marijuana in Hawaii, 2/12/2013]
The story headline illustrates the problem. The bill was “snuffed out” without a vote. The citizens of Hawaii were denied their representation in our state legislature.
Unfortunately, Hawaii is governed by a system that in many ways resembles Japan’s feudal Shogunate. What the Speaker decrees, the committee chairs obey. Members of the committee did not get to vote on the bill. Their ability to represent their constituents was stolen from them.
We voters also deserve to know, regardless of our position on legalization of marijuana, how our elected representatives would vote on this (or any other) issue.
A Capitol crime has been committed, but in truth, it is standard operating procedure. The ability of a committee chair to kill a bill should be curtailed. With regard to this bill, it should be recommitted to the committee for an up or down vote.
But don’t hold your breath. Those in power at our Legislature cannot be expected to relinquish it easily.
Thank you for your grasp of this unfortunate decision. Rhoads decision denied the democratic process!