Council Defers Vote on Anti-Marijuana Grant

Council Defers Vote on Anti-Marijuana Grant
Posted by FoM on May 03, 2000 at 07:53:41 PT
By Hugh Clark, Advertiser Big Island Bureau
Source: Honolulu Advertiser
After hearing opposition to continued police raids on marijuana patches on the Big Island, Hawaii County Council members yesterday put off deciding whether to accept $265,000 in federal grant money to help conduct them. The move signals a shift in the council’s position on what has become a bitter debate over the campaign to eradicate marijuana, the Big Island’s most lucrative cash crop.
The effort, which has been carried out in various forms since 1976, has become increasingly controversial as more people question what it has accomplished.There was no indication yesterday when the issue may be returned to the committee’s agenda. Once deferred, some items never return to the table.Acting Lt. Marshall Kanehailua said while elimination of grant money "won’t completely stop our marijuana eradication, it will limit our efforts."Failure to accept the money "will impact our eradication efforts because we rely on the funding to hire helicopters, purchase equipment and pay for overtime," Big Island Assistant Police Chief Wendell Paiva said after the meeting.But the raids, known as Green Harvest, will "definitely" continue, he said.Before yesterday’s 6-3 vote, the nine-member council was routinely split on accepting federal dollars in support of continued raids. A majority vote is required to take action.Police routinely apply for the grants each fiscal year, but the council must vote to accept the money. The county usually receives about $300,000 from the federal government each year.Responsibility for Raid:Council Chairman Jimmy Arakaki of Hilo and Vice Chairman Al Smith of Puna, who had previously voted to approve other grants, voted to defer action yesterday, citing concern about county liability.The state, they said, should assume responsibility for the raids because they are carried out by police from across Hawaii with the help of the Hawaii National Guard and federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents.In an interview before the meeting, finance committee chairman Aaron Chung said Arakaki had been awaiting a response to questions posed to the attorney general’s office several weeks ago. Arakaki said he believes the council should have immunity for accepting money for the statewide marijuana eradication program.Three police officials attended the meeting but did not testify. About two dozen members of the public attended the meeting and of those who spoke, all were against accepting the grant money.The police presence was challenged by resident Kenneth Miyamoto, who said they "should leave their guns outside" of the council chambers.Carol-Jo Papac, who described herself as a radio personality from El Cerrito, Calif., said she learned of the pending vote while visiting Kona and drove to Hilo to make a plea for an end to the raids. She said she uses marijuana medically for a health problem and looks forward to the day when she can use "Grade A Hawaiian medicine.""I urge you just say no," she testified, describing eradication efforts as a "war on a handful of honorable farmers."Chung said he received 13 letters on the issue, only one of them in support of accepting funding. Much of the correspondence, he said, was from out-of-state and as far away as Florida. Several of those testifying yesterday have made annual visits to the council to urge an end to the raids.Mayor, County Criticized:Little official data is available on how much the war on marijuana on the Big Island has cost, the volume of plants seized or the number of dealers put out of business since the first Green Harvest raid.Last year, several pro-marijuana advocates unsuccessfully sought the removal of Mayor Steve Yamashiro, Arakaki, Smith and four other Council members for allegedly violating the county charter by not conducting a critical audit of the raids.The county eventually conducted an audit, but critics called it a whitewash. The state declined to review the expenditures.The council also has been sued in federal court by two pro-hemp advocates who say seeds they imported from China were illegally seized and that they were the subjects of malicious prosecution. For more on the government's efforts to eradicate marijauna, see our recent series: "Chasing Smoke — Hawaii's 24-year War On Pot"Hilo, Hawaii Published: May 3, 2000© Copyright: 2000 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.Chasing Smoke - Letters To The Editor Smoke: Hawaii's 24 Year War on Pot - Day 4 Smoke: Hawaii's 24 Year War on Pot - Day 3 Smoke: Hawaii's 24 Year War On Pot - Day 2 Smoke - Hawaii's 24 Year War on Pot - Day 1 
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