Yesterday I walked to the Napili Market on Maui to buy the local and Honolulu newspapers, my morning ritual during our vacation at a Napili Bay condo.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser had a interesting column about marijuana by Richard Borreca. Mildly jet-lagged today after flying home on Friday, I decided my easiest blogging bet was typing in Borreca's piece -- see below-- which was hidden behind a Star-Advertiser paywall when I Googled it.
I enjoyed reading about how Hawaiian attitudes regarding marijuana are steadily moving in the legalization direction, so wanted to share his column with others.
Here in Oregon, voters legalized recreational marijuana in November 2014. On July 1 of this year Oregonians can legally possess cannabis. It can't be sold in Oregon yet, but Washington state has pot stores and is a short drive across the Columbia River.
(Yeah, technically it's a federal offense to transport marijuana across state lines, but Portland police will be looking the other way).
Both Hawaii and Oregon have legalized medical marijuana. Oregon did so in 1998, Hawaii in 2000. So it wouldn't be surprising to see Hawaii follow in Oregon's footsteps in a few years and legalize recreational marijuana.
Sure seems like a smart move.
As Borreca notes, Hawaii already has some strong "brand recognition" in this area. Maui Wowie, for example. The islands are a wonderful place to kick back and relax. Adding legal pot would be a extra plus for the Hawaiian tourism industry, for sure.
Here's Borreca's column:
Attitudes toward marijuana in Hawaii continue to evolve
Richard Borreca, Honolulu Star-Advertiser columnist
June 19, 2015
Hawaii has gone from the dull-throated roar of National Guard helicopters sweeping over homes searching for illegal marijuana plants to an ambivalent shrug at the thought of a neighbor puffing a small amount of the same prohibited weed.
Hawaii's thinking about marijuana splits from hating to loving the stuff.
When former Hawaii Attorney General Warren Price was declaring war on marijuana with Operation Green Harvest in 1989, he proclaimed that marijuana in Hawaii "has grown from a backyard problem to the largest industry in Hawaii."
Combining military resources, National Guard helicopters and county police forces, the operation ripped up an estimated 6.3 million plants, according to reports in 1996.
Critics, including a 1990 Legislative Auditor's report, said the drug enforcement effort was based on "unsystematic, intermittent planning geared to federal funding."
By 2008, Big Island voters overwhelmingly voted for a ballot initiative directing police to make marijuana enforcement the "lowest priority." In 2014 the state Supreme Court ruled the initiative illegal, noting that county ordinances can't overrule a state law saying marijuana is illegal.
Hawaii continued to be of two minds about marijuana as the Big Island County Council in 2008 voted to reject three federal grants totaling $528,000 for marijuana eradication.
And by 2012, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration had closed its Big Island office and airport hanger, saying it was just saving money, but Hawaii County Police Department Maj. Randy Apele was quoted in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald saying that the county doesn't carry out aerial enforcement anymore.
While police and military police were rappelling from choppers to hack away at the pakalolo [cannabis], folks in Hilo were seeing the illegal weed's cash sales prop up an economy devastated by closing sugar plantations.
"I'm against legalizing marijuana and I never smoked it, but yet, I would have to say it helped the local economy," says Big Island Democratic Rep. Clift Tsuji.
"It was a cash crop," the former Hilo banker recalls.
Because it was also a cash business, there are no real figures for how much marijuana contributed to the economy, but longtime Hawaii islanders all have stories of growers buying big new shiny trucks with cash.
Conventional legislative wisdom has it that if Gov. David Ige approves a bill passed this year to set up medical marijuana dispensaries, it will make extensive marijuana farming legal.
Marijuana is illegal according to both state and federal laws, with possession of less than an ounce considered a misdemeanor punishable by 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The feds classify it as a Schedule I drug under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act.
After years of negotiating, the University of Hawaii was able to get a U.S. Justice Department permit to import hemp seeds from Australia. Hemp is a far less potent variety of the cannabis family that includes marijuana. UH hopes to start its research at a Waimanalo test site.
Actual testing with marijuana is not allowed because it is a federally prohibited plant, but if the situation changes, Hawaii should be in a position to realize major medical and economic benefits even before any action is taken on legalization.