HONOLULU - The push to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Hawaii moves one step closer to reality. The Hawaii State Legislature passed a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana Thursday.

The judiciary committee passed the measure with amendments. SB686 legalizes the personal use, possession and sale of marijuana in a specified amount. The bill also states that marijuana establishments will be required to pay excise taxes and income taxes.

To view the bill, click here. The bill needs to be heard next by the Ways and Means Committee; no date for that is scheduled yet.

One advocacy group says this could have deadly consequences on our roads MADD's Hawaii chapter says driving while drug-impaired is becoming a big problem, both here in Hawaii and across the nation. It's stepping up efforts to fight that this year. 

For decades, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has worked to teach people about the dangers of driving while drunk. Now, that D in MADD could also stand for Drugs, as in Mother Against Drugged Driving. 

Carol McNamee, founder of MADD's Hawaii chapter, says, "It's really a problem, across Hawaii and across the nation."

MADD says now it's also tackling the growing problem of driving while drugged. "There's a lot of drugs now, almost equaling alcohol," McNamee says.

McNamee cites statistics that show an increase in Hawaii's driving fatalities in which the drivers tested positive for marijuana or other drugs. "It's the younger drivers over-involved - people in their late teens and young adults," she describes.

She says toxicology reports show marijuana is one of the most common drugs found in drivers ages 16 to 28. The state transportation department says marijuana was involved in 22 percent of fatal crashes between 2013 and 2017. "Marijuana, methamphetamines, cocaine- that's what the younger drivers are using," elaborates McNamee.

MADD Hawaii is launching a major campaign to educate the public on the dangers of driving while drug-impaired. McNamee says she's been surprised in previous talks about how little people know. "People didn't know how much drugs were involved; didn't know you could be arrested for driving under the influence of drugs."

MADD has no official position on Hawaii's recreational marijuana bills, but McNamee says there's a deadly trend in states that have legalized recreational marijuana. "They're seeing an increase in fatalities on the highway, and they're seeing the younger group over-involved," she warns.
 
In 2015 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that drugs were present in 43% of Hawaii's fatally injured drivers, many of whom were teens and young adults. That's why MADD wants to get this message out: "People who might use marijuana could be at risk, especially if they are combining it with other drugs, including alcohol," says McNaMee.

MADD reminds people that driving while impaired from using alcohol or drugs is risky - and it's still on a crusade to keep our roads safe. MADD says drug impaired driving is a more complicated issue than alcohol impaired driving because there are no specific levels by which to measure impairment for marijuana.