Media Awareness Project



DrugSense FOCUS Alert #270 August 8, 2003

Drug policy reform activists know all too well that entrenched interests riding the drug war gravy train use misinformation to justify the continuation of failed drug policies that do more harm than good. Thanks in large part to the efforts of MAP volunteers, drug war lies are no longer accepted at face value. It's no coincidence that newspaper editorials have been increasingly critical of drug war propaganda ever since the advent of the Internet.

This week no less than three editorials in the state of Hawaii called into question a federal prosecutor's use of bogus statistics to try and convince state lawmakers to weaken Hawaii's constitutional search-and-seizure and wire-tap requirements. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Honolulu Advertiser and The Maui News all criticized the federal government's deceptive effort to undermine civil rights. The Maui News editorial is especially noteworthy in that it recognized a pattern of misinformation throughout the history of the war on drugs.

Write a letter today to thank The Maui News for exposing drug warrior misinformation. For extra credit, write the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Honolulu Advertiser to thank them too. Be sure to mention that the recent use of phony statistics to sway Hawaiian lawmakers is not an isolated incident, but rather part of a pattern of taxpayer-funded deception that has been going on for decades.

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The Maui News policy on letters: "The Maui News welcomes and encourages letters to the editor. The letters should be brief and to the point and on subjects of general interest. Letters must be signed and include an address and phone number where the writer can be reached during working hours for verification. The writer's name and community will be published. Letters should be limited to 250 words or less with shorter letters being given priority. Letters of any length are subject to editing."

Our analysis indicates that the average published letter is about 172 words, with about one in five near 250 words. The Maui News has published letters from our letter writers who live through out the world.


Pubdate: Wed, 6 Aug 2003
Source: Maui News, The (HI)
Copyright: 2003 The Maui News


More than two years ago, The Maui News devoted considerable time, space and manpower resources to detail the corrosive effects of the illegal, but easily obtainable, crystal methamphetamine, also known as "ice" or "batu."

Any regular reader of The Maui News knows how often the use of ice is a factor when a defendant is charged in criminal court cases. The drug is an unmitigated plague on the families of the users and the community.

Monday, the U.S. attorney for Hawaii, Edward Kubo Jr., went to state lawmakers with a shocking disclosure. He said there were an estimated 30,000 hard-core users of ice in Hawaii and some 90,000 recreational users. Kubo told the Joint House-Senate Task Force on Ice and Drug Abatement, the statistics were "reliable ballpark figures."

It turns out the ballpark had nothing to do with Hawaii. Kubo later said he was using figures reported by a Honolulu police vice officer. Trouble is, the officer said he was misquoted and he advised Kubo of that before the attorney spoke to the lawmakers. Kubo, sticking to his guns, said he didn't believe the officer had been misquoted since other narcotics officers told him the numbers were right and that they came from a University of Hawaii professor.

William Wood is a UH professor of sociology who works with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. He said a 1998 household survey of more than 5,000 people in Hawaii led him to estimate there were 8,100 people in the state who were hard-core ice users. That's a far cry from indicting 10 percent of the state's population, but Kubo had his reasons.

The U.S. attorney used the numbers to back up his request to weaken the state's constitutional search-and-seizure privacy clause and the constitutional requirements for obtaining wire-tap warrants.

Kubo's request may or may not be warranted in light of all the ice being consumed in Hawaii, but using inflated figures for shock value, even after his source said he had been misquoted, is typical of the sort of misinformation - it could be called lying - officials have been guilty of promoting throughout the history of the "war on drugs."

The ice epidemic is a hot political issue this summer, but it will take cool heads to find the right combination of interdiction, enforcement and treatment to end it, not phony statistics.


Dear Editor,

Thank you for exposing the federal government's use of misinformation in your Aug. 6th editorial on U.S. Attorney Edward Kubo Jr's shameful effort to gut Hawaii's constitution. It's not the first time federal drug warriors have resorted to deception. Drug prohibition funds organized crime at home and terrorism abroad. The drug czar's sensationalist drug-terror ad campaign would have the public believe that's good reason to maintain the status quo.

If the federal government is serious about helping Hawaii it will do something about the glaring unmet need for drug treatment. Those brave enough to seek help for an illicit substance abuse problem in this age of zero tolerance have to contend with lengthy waiting lists and taxpayer-funded stigmatization in the form of the Bush administration's belligerent anti-drug campaign.

Want to help Hawaiians addicted to ice? Increase funding for drug treatment. Remove the government-sanctioned stigma associated with illicit addiction. End the war on drugs. This country is squandering its future by investing in incarceration instead of education. Until more media follow the lead of The Maui News and begin to question the duplicity of federal drug warriors, U.S. drug policy will continue to do more harm than good.


Harold Anslinger

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Prepared by: Robert Sharpe, Focus Alert Specialist

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