Pubdate: Wed, 4 Sep 2002
Source: Honolulu Weekly (HI)
Contact:  2002 Honolulu Weekly Inc
Author: Chad Blair
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Note: For more on medical cannabis and cannabis eradication in Hawaii go to


The Big Isle's Crystal Meth Summit Turned Into A PR Pitch For More Cops.

"I goin' speak from da heart," said Billy Kenoi to over 300 folks gathered
in the Outrigger Waikoloa's Ali'i Ballroom on Aug. 27. "I goin' talk about
one devastation dat hit ... our island."

Kenoi, a former congressional intern and Honolulu public defender, is
Hawai'i County's point man on drug problems. His words followed brief talks
given by his boss, Mayor Harry Kim, U.S. Senator Dan Inouye and Drug
Enforcement Agency Administrator Asa Hutchinson. 

With the help of PowerPoint slides that detailed local ice trafficking,
arrests, use and abuse, Kenoi's raw, emotional message connected with
audience members in a way that the higher-ups couldn't. But then the
presentation ended, sentimentally, pointlessly, with a scenic video of the
island set to a Bruddah Iz soundtrack.

It was a show, and the crowd gave Kenoi a standing ovation. 

Whether the Hawai'i Island Methamphetamine Summit ("Working Together to Heal
Our Island") has any real effect on reducing ice use on the island won't be
known for at least another year, when participants are scheduled to
"benchmark" the ice-epidemic solutions hammered out at the summit. 

The summit's sponsors, the DEA and the nonprofit National Crime Prevention
Council (the NCPC's mascot is the cartoon dog McGruff), assured the audience
that dramatic change will come - just as it did to Mainland locales where
the summits have been held.

What is assured is that Big Island cops, like their Mainland brethren, stand
to gain millions in federal dollars to crack down on crystal meth. And that
worries some island residents, including several who attended the summit and
who regard the county's Police Department as inefficient at best and corrupt
and dangerous at worst.

"Think of Dana Ireland and Green Harvest, to name just two examples," said
one community activist who declined to be identified.

The summit meeting was held on the Big Island because, Inouye said, he urged
Hutchinson to do so after Mayor Kim, local police and others had briefed him
about the county's severe problems with ice. The senator also had a personal
connection to the epidemic, telling the room he had lost a close friend to
the drug.

In his brief talk, acting Big Island Police Chief Lawrence Mahuna (he's the
third chief in as many years) noted the sobering fact that Hawai'i County
leads the nation in ice use.

After the opening remarks, the NCPC's Jim Copple coordinated the summit's
welter of breakout sessions, wherein the 300 participants (another 300
people were turned away) split up into tables to discuss and assess the
issues involved. Facilitators used flip charts. Over and over, people spoke
of the need for more education about ice, more monies for treatment and more
job opportunities for the economically depressed county. Island treatment
counselors told the Weekly that a major reason for increased ice use is that
many people who take the drug started using it in order to keep themselves
awake while working two or more jobs. 

Copple said that the suggestions would soon find their way into policy
implementation. A former Kansas minister and avuncular presence spouting
empowerment buzz-phrases like "community wealth enterprises," Copple
embodied the feel-good high of the day. 

But there are doubts about Hutchinson's ice summits and his ultimate goals.
Hutchinson, who told the Waikoloa crowd that ice is "the No. 1 drug problem
in rural America," is described in some press reports as pursuing
tough-on-drugs policies by plowing billions of dollars into prosecution and
imprisonment of drug offenders - even though the war on drugs has been a
failure since the Nixon administration.

Hutchinson is the former congressman who led the impeachment drive against
fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton. His first ice summit was held in Arkansas. 

The summits, critics say, roll out meth horror stories to generate alarm in
local communities, all the while pushing heightened law enforcement as the
best solution. Indeed, such stories were heard at Waikoloa; not
surprisingly, the local media gave the summit positive press; and most
breakout tables included law enforcement personnel who - yep - pushed for
hiring more cops.

It's also charged that Hutchinson's summits do not consider reforming drug
laws, although that is the trend elsewhere. Hutchinson and company may even
be working against reform.

"It appears that the DEA has been actively engaged across the country in
collaboration with groups who are opposed to ballot proposals involving
reform of our drug laws," said Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, who, just
days before the Waikoloa summit, requested an investigation of Hutchinson
and the DEA for possible misuse of federal funds without proper
authorization of Congress.

Hutchinson, a Bush appointee, takes every opportunity to link the war on
terror with the war on drugs, as he did at Waikoloa: "Drugs fund terrorism,"
he said. 

"Even as Hutchinson is mounting the stump to rail against the evils of
speed," the Drug Reform Coordination Network notes, "U.S. fighter pilots are
tweaking their brains out in the skies over Afghanistan."

The Aug. 1 Toronto Star reported that at least 10 friendly-fire incidents,
including one that killed four Canadians in April, may have occurred because
American fighter pilots are regularly given the amphetamine Dexedrine to
help them fly longer hours, and the sedatives Ambien and Restoril when they

An Air Force spokesperson confirmed to the Star that it was "feeding speed"
to its pilots.

Fortunately, at Waikoloa, speakers and participants alike acknowledged that
merely beefing up law enforcement would not solve the ice problem. "This is
a problem of human nature," said Mayor Kim, who, unlike Hutchinson and
Inouye, actually stayed for most of the summit. "We have to stress caring,"
he said.

Some summit participants asked whether the Big Island's marijuana
eradication campaigns have contributed to the growing demand for ice, a
longer-lasting, comparatively cheap and far more addictive drug. Although
treatment counselors and Hawai'i County police strenuously denied the
ice-pot nexus whenever the notion came up, Councilmember Julie Jacobson said
that many of her Puna and Ka' constituents claim there is a clear

"It fits with the observations and experience of many people, including my
husband," Jacobson said.
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