Following similar laws in New York and California—enacted in 2014 and 2015 respectively—the Aloha state had been left as perhaps the largest remaining market for ivory remaining in the U.S. (Washington State and New Jersey have also passed legislation). Investigations consistently found thousands of items for sale online and in stores, most without documentation proving legality. In fact, undercover investigations revealed ivory retailers admitting that their products were not legally sourced and willing to help buyers circumvent federal border controls. The problem in Hawaii was highlighted last month when a local Oahu gifts retailer pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle ivory into and out of the country.
Hawaii citizens were overwhelmingly supportive of the bill, demonstrating full throated support at every committee hearing and every vote. A 2016 poll revealed that 85 percent of Hawaii residents and voters backed the legislation, while well-known proponents such as Pierce Brosnan and Mick Fleetwood were vocal proponents.