Pubdate: Thu,  7 Aug 2003
Source: Honolulu Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2003 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Note: To read about the "ice epidemic" in Hawaii, go to .


State and federal law enforcement officials have picked an opportune time to
lobby state lawmakers for tougher drug laws, as communities around the state
mobilize to fight what is seen as a crystal methamphetamine epidemic.

Although it is difficult to know with precision the extent of this plague,
there's no doubting its seriousness. It's critical that no momentum in the
campaigns against ice in our neighborhoods be lost to any argument over

At the same time, it's vital that we resist being stampeded into abandoning
important individual legal protections in favor of marginal gains in the
drug war.

The provenance of some often-cited figures -- that Hawai'i has 30,000
hard-core ice users and 90,000 "recreational" users -- is now in question.
Officials aren't immediately able to say where they got these numbers.

But there is no shortage of other numbers:

*  Deaths among crystal methamphetamine users have quadrupled in the past
decade to a record 62 fatalities last year, according to the Honolulu
medical examiner's office.

*  40 percent of people arrested by police in Honolulu tested positive for
methamphetamine use, according to a Justice Department report cited by U.S.
Attorney Ed Kubo -- more than 10 percent higher than any other American

Other numbers suggest frightening trends in child abuse and teenage drug

We owe it to ourselves to take a harder look at the derivation of these ice
numbers, the better to know the enemy.

But anyone who has seen the ravages of ice addiction at work realizes that
even one case is too many.

That said, we worry that prosecutors are lobbying lawmakers, under the
rubric of the ice crisis, for the same tougher anti-drug measures they
thought they needed before ice became a household word. In particular, they
want it much easier to get approval for wiretaps, and they want a
constitutional change to allow them to resume the so-called "walk-and-talk"
program at the airport.

The latter practice, in which police question and possibly search
suspicious-looking passengers at the airport, and which obviously depends
upon "profiling" to be successful, was found unconstitutional by the state
Supreme Court in 1992.

There will always be a dynamic tension between law enforcement people who
want more legal tools to make their jobs easier and the legal protections
that make this nation the envy of most others. There are many weapons that
can be effective in the war on ice, including community mobilization, that
won't jeopardize those protections.
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