Chasing Smoke: Hawaii's 24 Year War On Pot - Day 2

Chasing Smoke: Hawaii's 24 Year War On Pot - Day 2
Posted by FoM on April 03, 2000 at 07:54:16 PT
Narration by Staff Writer Dan Nakaso
Source: Honolulu Advertiser
Hawaii has been waging war on marijuana for 24 years at a cost no one can estimate and with a result no one can predict. The only certainty is that marijuana -- pakalolo -- remains Hawaii's most enduring illegal cash crop. And as the war enters its fourth decade, some are questioning what it has accomplished and whether it should continue.
YESTERDAY No one can say how much has been spent or how many plants have been seized during Hawaii's 24-year campaign against marijuana.TOMORROW Big Island narcotics officers hunt small-time growers who sometimes include friends and family.WEDNESDAY Innocent residents become casualties of Hawaii's war on marijuana.Tell us what you think:Should state and local agencies continue to spend millions of dollars a year on marijuana eradication?Day 2 in Series:Growers Persist, Agents Pursue in Duel of Tactics: Hawaii — He’s 62 years old, his eyes wise with experience about the ways police can find marijuana growers like himself.He didn’t survive Hawaii’s war on marijuana for this long without learning a few things, without learning how to adapt.In the early days of what was then called Operation Green Harvest, it was not difficult for police helicopters to spot acres of marijuana plants, some more than 6 feet tall. Growers caught with several pounds of marijuana on their property found their homes and land seized and sold at auction.As local, state and federal narcotics agents got smarter and more effective, the grower streamlined his operation. Today, he reduces his risk by sticking to small, quick-growing plants that are easy to hide and to move.And he sprinkles them over other people’s property to avoid jeopardizing his own land.He could make more money growing marijuana during the main season from spring to fall, when long days in the sun can coax a single large plant to produce a pound of pakalolo worth a couple of thousand dollars.But sometimes the months spent grooming a crop never pay off because a “ripper” steals it just before harvest. Instead, the grower sticks exclusively to the winter “short season,” when pressure from police and rippers isn’t so high.“I don’t like the summer,” he said. “It’s hot. You have to haul water all over the place. The cops are looking for it everywhere.”Still, he expects losses and plans accordingly: He writes off one-third of his crop to pests, disease and rippers. One-third could be discovered by police. The remaining third is his profit.If all goes well, he can take a plant from seed to finished product in 90 days. Each 2-foot-high plant will yield about one-quarter ounce of marijuana, or about $100.Growing in the short season still means hiding plants under foliage. And with the population of Puna doubling in the past 20 years, he worries about residents getting suspicious of him carrying water and gardening supplies around on their property.“There are too many residents now, too many copters,” he said. “It’s too hard to go into an area two or three times a week undetected. People start wondering about the guy who keeps going up the dirt road in the early morning or the late afternoon.”When he hears police helicopters near his plants, or somebody starts clearing brush to build a house, it’s time to find a new spot and move on.“You’ve been pulling pounds (of marijuana) out of this plot of land. And now, after 20 years, they start to develop it,” he said. “I’ve spent all night running around putting pots full of plants into plastic garbage bags.”He usually keeps 50 to 60 plants growing in various places, far below the 1,000-plant level that draws the attention of U.S. Attorney Steve Alm in Honolulu and calls for mandatory federal sentences.The grower walks along his Puna property and pulls back foliage to reveal eight plants in different stages of growth, representing different varieties.Even if he were caught growing on his own land, 10 plants or so would mean probation, police said.But in the underground economy of the Big Island, where money can be tight, even a few pounds of marijuana each season is worth enough in barter to meet most of his needs.“You can get your car fixed,” he said. “You can get a new toaster. It’s good for services like gardening or housework. It’s good for whatever you need.”From Fungus To Rippers: Before he moved to Puna, one 27-year-old grower had an indoor operation on Maui that came with its own set of problems.He lost crops to fungus, white flies and spider mites that thrived in confined spaces. He worried about attracting the attention of the utility company by constantly running heaters, lights and fans, which exercise the plants.Growing outdoors in Puna, he’s been awakened in the middle of the night by rippers who tear out the plants for their own use. Once they figured out he was growing, they returned every two weeks, sometimes in the middle of the day, as more plants matured.“The rippers are way more effective than Green Harvest,” he said.He said he likes the science of marijuana growing and enjoys experimenting with varieties of quick-growing, potent strains.He picked up a thick, deep-green bud of cannabis sativa, a strain called “the haze,” and rolled it between his thumb and forefinger, unleashing the rich smell of marijuana.“This is your working high,” he said. “You smoke this during the day when you still need to get things done.”“Now this is special,” he said, lifting a brittle, brown bud. He says it is cannabis indica, a strained called “the blueberry.” Call it the pau hana high. “You only smoke this at the end of the day, when you’re around good friends,” he said, “because you’re going to be flat on your back, and you probably won’t be able to move.”After five years of trial and error, despite dodging police, rippers and curious neighbors, “this is actually the most successful I’ve been growing marijuana,” he said.Casualty of The War: To this day, Jim Good can’t roll a joint.It strikes him as funny, because marijuana cost him his land and the house he spent six years building.Good never considered himself a hard-core marijuana dealer. He sold lower-quality “shake,” the leaves of the marijuana plant that surround the more potent and profitable buds.But in 1985, police raided the old sugar plantation house that Good had rebuilt in the Puna District’s Orchidland Estates and found almost 80 pounds of shake, conservatively worth $8,000. Hawaii’s war on marijuana was nearing its high point, and Good became one of its casualties.His experience is a reminder of marijuana’s glory days on the Big Island and the punishment that sometimes came with it. As one grower said, “Pakalolo’s been a wonderful thing, and it’s caused a lot of pain.”Good was unprepared for the pervasiveness of the marijuana industry when he answered a cousin’s invitation to move to Puna in 1976.“The availability was extraordinary,” he said. “Marijuana was as common as coffee and doughnuts on a breakfast table. You’d go to any party and see bags of pot sitting out. People would have parties and compete to see whose pakalolo was the best.”Good, then 32, made cabinets and worked in construction. But for an investment as little as $50, he could buy a pound of Puna-grown shake, mail it to the Mainland and make as much as $2,400.“The joke was that the post office in Pahoa (southern Puna’s main business center) was so contaminated with marijuana, they couldn’t bring in search dogs because the whole place smelled,” Good said.From 1983 to 1987, Operation Green Harvest seized more plants on the Big Island — 2,479,923 — than anywhere else in the country. It also resulted in 3,031 marijuana arrests.Drugs, Morality: Marijuana arrests were so common that they carried little social stigma, Good said. But he still wrestled with guilt.“I consider myself a moral person,” Good said. “I had to question how do I feel selling marijuana, how do I feel about dealing drugs.”He said he traveled to Nicaragua each year to help people “in response to the atrocities of the Reagan administration.” He said it helped his conscience that the money he made selling marijuana built a kitchen for a Nicaraguan day care center and bought lumber that Nicaraguan women used to make furniture.Then on Jan. 31, 1985, police acting on an informant’s tip searched Good’s Orchidland house and charged him with promotion of marijuana. He was sentenced to one year in jail, a $1,000 fine and 500 hours of community service. He served the jail sentence at night and refurbished the floors of the old Hilo Police Station by day.By August 1989, four years after his arrest, Good said, he no longer was selling marijuana.He was living in a refugee camp in Nicaragua in which everyone had lost homes and family to war. That’s when Good got word that authorities had seized his house and 4-acre lot in Hawaii.“I thought that I was still probably the wealthiest person in this town in Nicaragua,” Good said.Good bought his house in 1979 for $2,400, tore it apart piece by piece and spent the next six years redesigning and customizing it with recycled materials. Once in the hands of the government, the house and land sold at auction for $240,000.Today, Good lives in the remains of the old Hakalau School, which he moved to a 1-acre parcel in Puna’s Hawaiian Paradise Park. He took the old school apart and rebuilt it into another gorgeous home made from recycled materials. The frames of old blackboards serve as picture windows. Girders from an old Army barracks run across the living room ceiling as exposed beams. Slabs of lava provide an open-air shower with live plants and shower heads for two people.Good, 56, has a thriving flooring business, and he said he is over the bitterness he once felt when he drove by his old house in nearby Orchidland.“But my attitude toward marijuana has not changed one iota,” Good said. “It was not something that was an integral part of my life, not ever. I just got caught and paid a heavy price.”Direct Link To Above Series:Chasing Smoke: Hawaii's 24 Year On Pot Monday, April 3, 2000© Copyright 2000 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.Related Article:Chasing Smoke - Hawaii's 24 Year War on Pot
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Comment #4 posted by Montana on April 27, 2001 at 10:54:17 PT:
Come and have fun in europe my friends.
Dear americans, I would like to use this opportunity to ask you how come not more of the lovely citizens of your country organise drug trips to europe. Belgium, portugal or the netherlands would be the paradise for you. I know many Americans smoke, but my first(and probably) last trip in Washington gave me the impression that asking someone where to fing grass was an amasingly shocking question(Nobody helped me and I couldnt smoke for two weeks, and i am only 20 years old so I couldnt even get into a bar and buy myself a drink, this would never happend anywhere in Europe). I am sure that most of the young people leaving in your country want to party in pubs, clubs and raves with drugs and alcool, I just dont understand why your legislation is so hard on the funny things every individual should be abble to do if he wishes to do so.PS: USA is a very nice country, the only problem is all the moral issues that, i beleive, are opposite to what i expected from a country so culturarly open.(please,excuse my many mistakes while writing, i am from belgium and my language is french)
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Comment #3 posted by Alexandre Oeming on April 04, 2000 at 07:13:32 PT:
Re: Legalizeit
And for all the money they're spending on NOT stopping MJ production ... we have the following "success" story:>“The rippers are way more effective than Green Harvest,” he said.Absolutely atrocious. There used to be a time when i was proud to be an amerikan. Maturity and intelligence has tarnished my pride. *sigh*Out.
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Comment #2 posted by legalizeit on April 03, 2000 at 22:15:09 PT
Oops - submission engine doesn't like <>
OK I'll try again - what I wanted to say in the 3rd line of my msg was:[Bureaucratic entity] has been waging war on [arbitrarily illegal substance] for [x] years at a cost no one can estimate and with a result no one can predict.
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Comment #1 posted by legalizeit on April 03, 2000 at 22:10:24 PT
Looks like the "Green Harvest" is $$$!
>Hawaii has been waging war on marijuana for 24 years at a cost no one can estimate and with a result no one can predict.This can extrapolate to:> has been waging war on > for > years at a cost no one can estimate and with a result no one can predict.They just will never learn.>[Jim Good] said he traveled to Nicaragua each year to help people “in response to the atrocities of the Reagan administration.” He said it helped his conscience that the money he made selling marijuana built a kitchen for a Nicaraguan day care center and bought lumber that Nicaraguan women used to make furniture.How many other good deeds could be done, if cannabis were legal? All Uncle Sam wants to do is pour billions down to Colombia to subsidize gangs of mudrerers, and pour more billions into jails to incarcerate the "evil drug abusers"! While at the same time peaceful civilians whose only "crime" is growing and selling a plant get their lives ruined.It's a shame that someone would even have to consider that growing a plant is immoral. Tobacco is grown in vast quantities and causes a half million deaths each year (cannabis=0). Is growing tobacco immoral? Far from that, many of these idiots spewing anti-drug stuff in Congress were elected by tobacco growing constituenents!No wonder many Hawaiians don't trust people from the mainland. When they were a soverign nation they didn't have to worry about all this Reefer Madness crap and Christian bigots shoving their version of "morality" at them.I wish the Hawaiian gods would kick "Operation Green Harvest"'s OKOLE (butt).
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