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Aloha. The concept of approving 24 Cannabis plants to be legally grown by all Hawai’i island residents began in the mid-1990’s when Roger Christie proposed a “Passover Resolution” to the Hawaii County Council. Under Hawaii State law, growing from one Cannabis plant up to twenty-four is a misdemeanor, and considered to be the average amounts grown for ‘personal use’. Also, the island has a ‘wine and beer model’ that allows for home manufacture of 200 gallons of beer and three hundred gallons of wine per household with zero regulation. Any more than that it strictly prohibited and illegal. The idea was that until we could end the ‘marijuana eradication program’ for good, at least let’s order the helicopters to ‘pass over’ the homes and gardens of those just growing it for personal, private use. Debate at the Council on the discussion was lively, and the resolution failed to pass.
In 2006 the idea of personal, private, home cultivation was back in the form of an initiative called the “Methamphetamine Eradication Act of 2006″, however it was very late in the election year to be able to collect the necessary signatures for a ballot initiative. Our Committee proposed that since the dangerous, deadly and violent methamphetamine epidemic in Hawai’i was the result of the ‘marijuana eradication program’, in order to reduce meth, or ‘ice’ on our island, it just makes sense to increase the growth of Cannabis! Roger worked with Jo’B Spence for many hours in crafting the initiative carefully with footnotes and exhibits. Steve Kubby, the famous medical Cannabis patient (kubby.com), helped with the title of the act. Richard Gallagher and Aaron Anderson assisted with the intention and the wording of the act. The five people officially registered on the Committee to sign for the ballot initiative were:
1. Roger Christie
2. Deborah (Jo’B) Spence
3. Dan Jeffries
4. Earnest (Aaron) Anderson
5. Richard Gallagher
Instead of bringing 5,000 valid signatures of registered voters to get a ‘certificate of sufficiency’, the Committee appeared in front of the County Clerk with only its five members for the County Council hearing on its merits. The argument was made that the island and its people were in an “emergency” situation with a methamphetamine, or ‘ice’, crime wave, and passing this legislation was justified in order to save lives and property. Again, the discussion was lengthly and lively, and again the initiative failed to pass. However, a telling comment was made by Council member Dr. Fred Holshuh. He said, “You’re too late to get enough of the voter’s signatures, or the County Council votes, to put this on the ballot for 2006, but you’re EARLY to get it on the ballot in 2008.” The seed was planted.
Roger re-crafted some of the intent and the language for a new initiative and at just the right time, Atom Lehmann entered the picture. He asked to be a volunteer for the THC Ministry, but I asked him if he’d like, instead, to help with our upcoming ballot initiative. He said ‘yes’.
To be continued …
Peaceful Sky Alliance was formed and incorporated March 3, 2009. This organization was founded after ‘Project Peaceful Sky’ saw the ‘Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Cannabis Ordinance’ pass by 34,957 votes on November 5, 2008.
The new ordinance passed by a clear majority of 53%. It represents the majority of voters here in Hawaii County who expressed a wish that the priorities of The Hawaii County Police Department and the Prosecution and Judiciary, be changed to reduce cannabis related arrests and prosecutions so that other problems such as the ice epidemic can be better addressed using the limited resources of our County Police.
The new ordinance is also called by the original number it had when it was first passed into law 08-181. This is the name that some County personnel have continued to call this ordinance.
History in The County of Hawaii:
For over 30 years, communities of Hawaii County have been heavily impacted by Police Helicopter Surveillance operations known as ‘Green Harvest’ programs. In separate sessions over the course of the thirty years since ‘marijuana eradication’ obtained a high priority status for law enforcement in Hawaii County, citizens have been testifying and making complaint to County Council representatives against these programs.
The county ‘Green Harvest’ programs required the use of County Police Personnel, Police Equipment and vehicles and county helicopters in order to conduct surveillance operations.The ‘Green Harvest’ programs by County Law Enforcement were extensive in the past and they involved County Police Personnel flying low over homes and neighborhoods in many sub-divisions on the island and caused disturbance for residents who complained of violations to their rights of privacy.
In addition, as a result of the arrests made as a result of aerial surveillance, objections have been made in the community that the resources of County prosecutions have been tied up in the prosecution of individuals over small amounts of cannabis product. Further, the fact that the arrests were the result of aerial surveillance was viewed as unconstitutional because it involved ’search and seizure’ without probable cause and was therefore unconstitutional and unlawful.
A further injustice that county residents objected to was the practice in our County’s ‘Office of The Prosecuting Attorney’ of confiscating assets of land and property in addition to pursuing harsh sentences for anyone found guilty of possessing cannabis plants or plant product. The confiscation of land and assets has caused additional hardship for those already facing court appearances and jail terms.
Adam Leyman, president of the Peaceful Sky Alliance and former director of Project Peaceful Sky, is credited with drafting the ‘Lowest Law Enforcement Cannabis Priority Ordinance’, in cooperation with Roger Christie and Hawai’i County Clerk Casey Jarman who presented it to Council on August 13, 2008. With very little time to the cut off for the ballot initiative, the ‘Lowest Law Enforcement Cannabis Priority Ordinance’ was accepted by Council and was placed on the Ballot, to be voted on November 5, 2008. It was to be known throughout the community during the election as ‘Ballot Question 1’
In the campaign months that followed, supporters of the initiative were seen holding signs throughout the island communities. Signs, posters, radio spot ads and even a dvd concerning the proposed law were circulated, asking people to vote ‘yes’ to ‘Ballot Question 1’.
Key Findings are that Cannabis is not a dangerous drug & Cannabis arrests are tying up valuable law enforcement resources.
The following findings come from Federal Studies or are of great significance and suggested that a new set of priorities need to be set by County Government concerning Cannabis. These represented further reasons that citizens have sought to redirect the policy decisions and priorities of The Hawaii County Police Department away from prioritizing arrests for cannabis. These findings are a feature of the ordinance itself:
(a) The Institute of Medicine has found that Cannabis (marijuana) has medicinal value and is not a gateway drug.
(b) According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the use of Cannabis (marijuana) directly results in 0 (zero) deaths per year.
(c) According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), the marijuana eradication program has not stopped Cannabis cultivation in the County of Hawaii, rather the program has only decreased the availability of the plant, which increases it’s ‘street value’, resulting in more crime.
(d) The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) also reported that a large increase of the use of methamphetamine, crack cocaine, and other hard drugs was related to the marijuana eradication program’s implementation.
(g) The citizens of the Cities of Hailey, Idaho; Denver, Colorado; Seattle, Washington; Columbia, Missouri; Eureka Springs, Arkansas and Santa Barbara, Oakland, Santa Monica, and Santa Cruz, in California, and the citizens of Missoula County, Montana, all voted for Cannabis (marijuana) to be placed as law enforcement’s lowest law enforcement priority within the past five years.
Peaceful Sky Alliance, advocating for change:
The Peaceful Sky Alliance recognizes that as with any significant change in law, we believe this ordinance is, a change in the values and priorities of County Officials, Law Enforcement, Prosecution and Judiciary personnel is also necessary. This is why The Peaceful Sky Alliance will play a role in educating the community as to the changes that are required by County Personnel in order to see this Ordinance successfully implemented.
Just days after the voters successfully passed the new ordinance, retiring Police Chief Lawrence Mahuna made the following comments in an interview published on November 7 in West Hawaii Today newspaper.
“If you’re pro-drug, or pro-marijuana, you’re automatically pro-terrorist,”
Here, apparently chief Mahuna was trying to link the idea that some ‘terrorists’ get money to buy weapons from selling Cannabis. Mahuna also said in this interview that he also believes those who receive medical marijuana permits are abusing their rights to use the drug. “Out of 1,300-plus medical marijuana certificates (on the Big Island), I may have seen one that was in compliance,” he said. He said that regardless of the initiative, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. “We’re compelled to enforce the law,” Mahuna said, adding that “absolutely nothing” will change regarding how police deal with marijuana. He said it would be no different than if voters approved an initiative that made domestic violence incidents a low police priority. “I couldn’t do that,” Mahuna said. He said he believes many residents who voted in favor of the initiative weren’t fully informed on its concept.
Many people expressed concern and outrage that our retiring Police Chief would make these assertions because they seemed to be very derogatory and not at all in step with the Ordinance that had just passed. As a result, The Police Commission hearing concerning the qualifications of the new Police Chief was well attended and there was much public testimony about how imperative it was that that new successor to Mahuna shows a more cooperative and conciliatory attitude toward the change in County Law that necessitates a change in police priorities. The Police Commission, in making the selection of Mr Harry Kubojiri, the new police chief of Hawaii Police Department, requested of Mr Kubojiri that he work to support the implementation of the Ordinance of ‘Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Cannabis’
What this incident illustrates is that there is a deeply held belief in County Government that cannabis is a dangerous drug and that a voter ordinance does not deserve the same respect that an ordinance coming from Council or as a State or Federal Law. It surprised many voters that our County Police Chief would have such a deep predjudice against cannabis users, that he would compare them to terrorists. This attitude of Mahuna’s shows the importance of community education and education within the Police Department itself in order to help change the priorities of County Government and Police personnel.
Federal Policy on Drug Crimes is changing..
The Peaceful Sky Alliance notes that on June 19, 2009, former Seattle Chief of Police was appointed as New Drug Tsar by President Barack Obama. Mr Gil Kerlikowske was the Police Chief in charge of implementing a ‘Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Cannabis Ordinance’ for the city of Seattle. The report of findings concerning this Seattle ordinance and it’s implementation by Seattle Police and Prosecutions was that the ordinance allowed a savings of time, money and resources for the Seattle Police Department and also saw teenage use of cannabis reduced.
Mr Gil Kerlikowske is on record speaking frankly to ‘The Wall Street Journal’ May 14 about the need for Law Enforcement divisions throughout the country to make new priorities that don’t include ‘adult personal use of cannabis’ for purely economic reasons.
“… when I talk to my colleagues around the country and they look at what are your resources for law enforcement, targeting adults for small, personal amounts of marijuana, it isn’t high on the radar screen when you have ‘X’ amount of bodies. You can look at most prosecutors across the country and they have filing standards. Police departments aren’t going to say no, don’t arrest, but are you going to take an officer off the street for four hours or are they going to choose to take themselves off the street for four hours to book somebody for a small amount of marijuana?”
It appears that in appointing Mr Kerlikowske, the Federal Administration is signaling a new set of priorities in law enforcement. Mr. Kerlikowske is quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying “Regardless of how you try to explain to people it’s a ‘war on drugs’ or a ‘war on a product,’ people see a war as a war on them. We’re not at war with people in this country.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124225891527617397.html
“The other part of breaking down the barrier is to completely and forever end the war analogy, the war on drugs. Since I used to stand in front of the helicopter for President Nixon who brought the term in vogue, it’s fitting that I’m almost back in the same spot and trying to put an end to the war analogy.”
Peaceful Sky Alliance, along with the new Drug Tsar Mr. Gil Kerlikowske, recognizes that the ‘war on drugs’ does not need to include the reasonable use of cannabis by adults on private property here in Hawaii County and our aim is to help our County Government implement this ‘Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Cannabis Ordinance’ here in Hawaii County.
Another sign that the drug war is losing ground with the American public and certain cornerstone institutions has come in November 2009, a year after the ordinance passed, when the American Medical Association has publicly announced a review of the scheduling of medical marijuana as a ‘dangerous drug’ on the same schedule as Heroins and more dangerous than crack. This is a huge ‘break through’ for the AMA and for the American public because the ‘war’ waged on Cannabis all this time has been predicated on a huge big lie that most Americans have had trouble believing. The idea that Cannabis is more dangerous than Crack and is so addicting as to pose a danger to society is obviously untrue if one looks at who has admitted to using Cannabis. A whole long line-up of Presidents have ‘copped’ to using Cannabis as well as the fact that leaders in the field of design, art, computer engineering, science, music etc. Well now the AMA are saying they aren’t going to endorse that lie. It doesn’t belong as a schedule one. In fact, they went so far as to say they want to see more research into the medical benefits of Cannabis.
Meanwhile the County isn’t catching on…
The year 2009 has been a rough transition year for the Kenoi Administration who missed an opportunity to get behind the ordinance making Cannabis offenses the lowest priority for law enforcement. It’s been a rough year for the Police Department too because it is clearly distressing to them to think that the days of flying over the island spying on everyone’s backyard and dipping down to ‘pull’ Cannabis plants are over. It’s been hard for them to think that the funding for these activities are now illegal for Hawaii County. That might be why they have resorted to sneaking money into the budget in spite of the law, the 35,000 voters who voted for it and in spite of being called to explain themselves in Council in October of this year.
Here’s the memorandum sent to Chairman of Public Safety, Parks and Recreation spelling out that after months of flying and running ‘missions’ for marijuana eradication, there remained over $200,000 for doing more of just that.. What fellows? Right up through Christmas you are going to fly? What about ‘lowest priority’ don’t you understand?