Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hawaii needs help on the drug policy front

On Saturday night in Maui I went to a local pub and watched the Vancouver Canucks game with a bunch of other tourists from British Columbia. There are lots of Canadian visitors to Hawaii right now, which is great for the state because it is experiencing tough economic times.

I came back to my condo and watched a cable rerun of Numb3rs. Oddly enough, the episode was about the unpredictable economic consequences of crystal meth enforcement in Maui. Charlie's plan was basically to arrest all the high level drug dealers at once. This was necessary in order to prevent a super duper version of crystal meth from spreading to the rest of the United States from Hawaii. Not surprisingly, Charlie's plan didn't work out. The show also explored the dangers of undercover operations conducted as part of the War on Drugs. The acting wasn't exactly Oscar quality but I enjoyed watching a little prime time drug policy action.

Unfortunately, things are not going well on the drug policy front in Hawaii. Early last week I wrote about the upcoming vote by a committee of the Hawaii county council. The purpose of the resolution was to encourage the state legislature to consider marijuana legalization. Unfortunately this vote was defeated in committee 7 - 2. This article summarizes what happened. Also, here are a couple of videos that illustrate some of the "facts" presented by the opposition. The first clip is Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rick Damerville, and the second clip (at the 1:58 mark) is fellow prosecutor Mitch Roth:

There is also testimony in these clips from a couple of DARE kids, although I don't have the heart to say anything about their involvement.

Clearly, Hawaii needs help on the drug policy front. Any thoughts on how we could assist the folks in this state? I'm touring the islands this week as a LEAP speaker, so I'm very interested in any ideas you might have on this subject.


  1. The DARE program does a really excellent job...Of making drugs seem totally awesome--from what I remember, anyway(that was about 10 years ago).

    As much as I hate to say it, a large dosage of pathos may be in order; just to get the conversation started. Some people don't respond to pure logical arguments (see: Fox News).

    If they're going to bring on 12 year olds to argue against drug legalization (in an incredibly insulting manner), you need 12 year olds to argue for it (ie children from families broken by drugs arrests/gang related violence).

    Obviously the opposition only has the mental capacity of middle school students, so you need to cater to their black and white view of the world before you dismantle it.

    Matt B.

  2. The firsts guy's cousin got it for selling MJ inprison?!! The testimony does not dwell on the fact that the cousin got MJ to distribute, while under "tight" security, in prison! Look how, well, their programs work! Don't they realize if they can't keep it out of the prisons, they sure as heck can't keep it out of the schools? Keep up the insanity, Hawaii. You are doing a fine job!

  3. Haha, Matt B's idea isn't too bad actually. I saw an interview with Barry Cooper -- who, while his aims are similar, has had a spotty relationship with LEAP -- in which he said that one of the things that really made him start to question his profession was the manner in which children were separated from loving, caring families because of drug arrests. And like Matt pointed out, it's no more of a rhetorical low blow than trotting out a bunch of DARE students (I won a DARE essay contest once and gave a speech, which should tell you exactly how meaningful those testimonials are).

    To me though, the real weak spot in Hawaii is the economy, and specifically the tourism industry. The state has virtually lived off tourism for decades, and they're seeing major problems getting tourists to come when nobody has the money to take trips. What better way to boost a sagging tourism industry than legal marijuana? Not only would this allow the state to extract revenue from transactions that were previously part of the black market, but it could mean a huge boost in raw tourism numbers for the state.


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