Honolulu, HI: The Hawaii Legislature this week passed a comprehensive
sentencing reform bill mandating probation and drug treatment in lieu of
incarceration for first-time, non-violent drug offenders. The soon-to-be
law, which was originally proposed by Gov. Ben Cayetano (D) in 2001, is
similar to voter initiatives recently passed in Arizona and California.

Under the new legislation (Senate Bill 1188), first-time drug possession
offenders will be ordered to participate in community-based supervision
and treatment instead of jail. Upon completion of the diversion program,
defendants will have their arrest and criminal records expunged.

The act also states that probation and parole violators shall be
sentenced to treatment instead of incarceration.

Pam Lichty of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii (DPFH) suggested that the
success of the bill was due in large part to a recent DPFH television
campaign to educate the public about the need for treatment over
incarceration for non-violent drug offenders.
Lichty also noted that minor marijuana offenders would not be forced to
undergo treatment under the bill because possession of up to one ounce of
pot is already a non-jailable petty misdemeanor under state law.

According to statistics released today by the California Department of
Corrections, that state's law has diverted nearly 4,000 drug possession
offenders from jail in the past year.

For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup of NORML at
(202) 483-5500 or the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii at (808) 988-4386.
Text of the legislation is available online from the Hawaii Legislature's
website at: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov.