Pubdate: Wed, 14 Aug 2002
Source: West Hawaii Today (HI)
Contact:  2002 West Hawaii Today
Author: Tiffany Edwards
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Note: For more on medical cannabis and cannabis eradication in Hawaii go to

Councilors View Video Of Pot Arrests 

HILO - A couple of medical marijuana cardholders who were arrested and had
their plants seized recently were among several people who testified Tuesday
at a council Finance Committee meeting. 

A video of last month's arrests of John and Rhonda Robison and Kealoha "Kea"
Wells, and the seizure of 20 marijuana plants, also was played for

Wells, 30, and John Robison, 36, hold Department of Public Safety-issued
medical marijuana cards as they suffer from acute lymphocytic leukemia.
Rhonda Robison, 31, holds a medical marijuana card for her
Charco-Marie-Tooth muscular dystrophy.

Not only did councilors hear the testimony of the Robisons and Wells, they
heard from several others who hold medical marijuana cards, claim to be
"cannabis sacrament" ministers, or both. 

The advocates protested what they consider to be the targeting of
cardholders by police and the council's approval of federal funds to support
Police Department marijuana eradication missions. 

The advocates' testimony was in response to councilmembers taking up the
Police Department's report for its June "Green Harvest" mission in which
14,425 plants were seized, primarily in the Puna area.

Councilors also reviewed a packet containing numerous photographs of
helicopters and police officers involved in the Green Harvest on private and
public lands, as well as petitions against the eradication missions and a
copy of the Robisons and Wells' lawsuit listing the arresting officer, Mark
Farias, as the only named defendant. The packet reportedly was prepared by
the Hawaii Medical Marijuana Association.

Actin Police Chief Lawrence Mahuna and Lt. Henry Tavares, who leads the Hilo
Vice section, sat for the two - plus hours that the marijuana advocates
testified Tuesday. 

Mahuna told councilors the Police Department is "by no means" targeting

He said the advocates' testimony was "eye-opening" and vowed his department
would abide by councilmembers' rules and regulations, which were drafted as
a condition of accepting nearly $500,000 in state and federal funds
specifically for the Green Harvest missions. 

He said the conduct of officers involved in a recent seizure of medical
marijuana is under investigation but he was interrupted by Finance Committee
Chairman Aaron Chung. Chung said because of pending lawsuits, such a
discussion should be conducted in executive session. 

Many of the advocates spoke of the "ice epidemic" and the need for the
resource-strapped Police Department to combat that drug. 

Roger Christie, with the Hawaii Cannabis Ministry, provided councilmembers a
copy of "Ice and Other Methamphetamine Use: An Exploratory Study," which was
prepared in 1994 by Patricia Morgan and four others with the National
Institute on Drug Abuse. The study correlates the eradication of marijuana
in Hawaii to the increased methamphetamine use.

Asked by Kona Councilman Curtis Tyler if he believes there is an ice
epidemic on this island, Mahuna acknowledged a "dramatic increase" in the
use of that drug but he doesn't believe "epidemic" is an appropriate

Tyler, who noted the Robisons and Wells are his constituents, referred
repeatedly to the Police Department as a "paramilitary force outside
civilian control." 

He told Mahuna, "Chief, you have a chance to come in with a clean slate. Get
real with what is going on in this community," and see what has happened to
many families in West Hawaii as a result of ice. 

Meanwhile, the video footage shot by Rhonda Robison shows seven officers
getting out of their vehicles July 8 at her home.

As police walk past the camera, a woman's voice can be heard saying, "you're
not going to harvest my plants are you?" and "we are totally legal" as the
camera follows the officers to the backyard where the potted plants are

An officer, who is reported to be Farias with the Kona Vice section, stands
in the backyard and says into the camera, "Each of the seven plants have to
be definitively separated. You can't have 20 plants all together."

A dog barks during the video and just before the taping stops, an officer,
reported to be Lt. Robert Hickcox who leads the Kona Vice section, shouts,
"I asked you to take care of this dog" and then "you guys are under arrest." 

"What happens to people who don't have their video camera turned on?" asked
Wells, as she testified Tuesday. "No one should have to go through this. On
top of not knowing whether I'm going to live or die, I have to worry about
all this 'hoopla' with the Police Department."

The Robisons and Wells spent eight hours at the Kealakehe station before
being "released pending investigation." The county Prosecutor's Office has
not yet revealed whether it will prosecute the case. Police, a week after
the arrests, returned more than one ounce of dried marijuana and the 20

The Robisons and their two children share the home with Wells and her
9-year-old daughter. Robison said she had been the only one in the household
working but lost her job at a Kona law firm after her arrest.

She said she, her husband and Wells have never been able to "harvest our
medicine" because in the 15 months they have held medical marijuana cards,
police have raided their home three times, all just before harvest time. 

Because of the marijuana seizures, the Robisons and Wells have had to look
to other sources for their medicine, Rhonda Robison said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk