Pubdate: Wed, 28 Mar 2001
Source: Honolulu Weekly (HI)
Copyright: 2001 Honolulu Weekly Inc
Author: Chad Blair
Note: This is the sidebar of an article entitled "MARIJUANA 2000: A Year in 
the Life of Pot Prohibition" published by the Honolulu Weekly.
Main Article:


The U.S. government has spent tens of millions of dollars to eradicate 
marijuana in Hawai`i, much of it going into the pockets of Hawai`i County 
police officers. Over 5 million plants were seized in the 1990s alone, most 
of it on the Big Island. But pot is still plentiful in the Islands; it's 
just that a sizable chunk now comes from Mexico, California, Columbia and 
especially British Columbia, where growers have perfected a high-yield, 
high-potency indoor crop. Marijuana also costs three times more -- $600 an 
ounce -- than it did 25 years ago, when Operation Green Harvest began.

Neither the U.S. Attorney's Office, the local branch of the Drug 
Enforcement Agency, the Honolulu Police Department nor the state Department 
of Public Safety (which oversees Halawa High/Medium Security Facility) 
could (or would) provide data to Honolulu Weekly on arrest and imprisonment 
numbers. DPS explained that they simply didn't know the numbers, because 
prison-sentencing statistics are not broken down that way. People sent to 
jail are often put there on multiple charges.

So we checked with NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of 
Marijuana Laws (, which tracks marijuana-related arrest and 
conviction figures for all 50 states by using several crime-reporting 
surveys, including county-by-county data. According to NORML, from 1995 to 
1997, there were over 4,650 pot busts in Hawai`i, an "arrest quotient" 
about half the national average. However, the Big Island alone had an 
arrest rate nearly twice the nation's in '95, though that figure dropped 
over the next two years to rest comparably with national averages. (Maui, 
Kaua`i and Honolulu have arrest rates less than the average, although 
Honolulu's arrest rate during that time jumped 19 percent while Maui's 
leaped 44 percent.)

All told, based on NORML's numbers, some 135 people per 100,000 were 
brought in by police throughout the Islands between 1995 and 1997; we just 
can't tell you how many of them eventually ended up in the slammer. We can 
tell you that Hawai`i ranks 37th for marijuana arrest rates (Nevada is 
first, followed by North Dakota and North Carolina).

On the Big Island, pot and hemp advocates have aggressively pushed for, if 
not decriminalization of the drug, easing up on drug raids. To that end, 
the Hawai`i County Council authorized a resolution on March 9 that approves 
the acceptance of federal funds to wipe out pot growers only on the 
condition that 1) helicopter flights and rappelling be limited when over 
residential areas (unless "probable cause" exists); 2) complaints are 
recorded publicly within 30 days of raids; 3) that a plan be developed to 
set aside a portion of confiscated cannabis for medical-marijuana use; and 
that 4) aerial defoliation sprays not be used by county police.

FYI: According to NORML's easy-to-use and exhaustive database, possessionof 
less than 1 ounce of grass in Hawai`i is subject to a penalty of up to 30 
days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Having more than an ounce but under 2.2 p 
ounds means up to one year in jail and $2,000. Up to 40 pounds could lead 
to a maximum penalty of up to five years and $10,000, and as much as 10 
years and $25,000 above that amount. (Cultivation of plants can lead to 
similar penalties). Lastly, any pot confiscated from a vehicle causes ALL 
passengers to be charged with possession -- regardless of who supplied the 
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