Published: Tuesday, February 2, 2010 9:31 AM HST
Despite a law making adult use of marijuana on private property the Big Island’s “lowest law-enforcement priority,” police filed more than 400 charges last year against people possessing less than an ounce of pot.
In all, 384 adults on the Big Island were arrested and charged with various marijuana and related paraphernalia offenses in 2009, according to figures from Hawaii Police Department.
The largest number of arrests, 134, were in Kona. There were 105 arrests in South Hilo, 97 in Puna, 20 in South Kohala, 11 in North Kohala, 8 in North Hilo, 5 in Ka’u and 4 in Hamakua.
The arrests resulted in 1,060 marijuana-related charges.
Of the charges filed, 440 were for third-degree promotion of a detrimental drug, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. That number does not reflect how many arrests were made on private property, how many individuals were charged more than once, or how many possession charges were lodged in connection with additional offenses.
Third-degree promotion is a petty misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Police Chief Harry Kubojiri did not return a call seeking comment, but told a County Council committee in October that police are “trying to comply with the ordinance,” which makes possession of 24 or fewer plants and 24 ounces or less of marijuana on private property the lowest law-enforcement priority.
In November 2008, almost 58 percent of the island’s voters ratified the “Peaceful Sky” ballot initiative — which also directs the council not to accept grants for marijuana eradication.
At the same meeting, County Prosecutor Jay Kimura said that “the ordinance has no effect on state law” and answered in the affirmative when asked by Hamakua Councilman Dominic Yagong if adults caught possessing marijuana were still being prosecuted under state law.
Deputy Police Chief Paul Ferreira said at that time aerial eradication raids were still being conducted, funded by two federal Drug Enforcement Administration grants totaling $333,000 that were accepted prior to the law’s passage.
A Jan. 5 letter to Yagong by state Deputy Attorney General Lance Goto stated that his office could not answer Yagong’s request for “legal counsel and advice concerning Hawaii County’s acceptance and use of marijuana eradication grant funds, and the impact that the county’s ‘Lowest Law Enforcement Priority of Cannabis Ordinance’ has on those grant funds.”
“You may want to consult with your county attorneys about the impact of the ordinance,” Goto wrote.
Goto also opined the state has no jurisdiction over federal grants awarded directly to the counties.
Police said they flew 13 eradication missions last year, seven in East Hawaii and six in West Hawaii. Those helicopter fly-overs resulted in 14,054 marijuana plants eradicated — 9,303 in East Hawaii and 4,751 in West Hawaii.
In addition, police confiscated 5,326 plants in raids last year, as well as 64 pounds of processed marijuana. Police seized $23,353 for forfeiture during pot raids, plus a vehicle worth $10,700 and eight firearms.
A nonbinding resolution introduced by North Kona Councilman Kelly Greenwell seeking to decriminalize cultivation, possession and use of marijuana was voted down 5-2 last month. Greenwell and Puna Councilwoman Emily Naeole-Beason were the only yea votes.
A measure that would make possession of less than an ounce of pot a civil offense subject to a $100 fine has been introduced on the state level by Maui Sen. J. Kalani English. Lawmakers killed a similar bill introduced last year by Puna state Rep. Faye Hanohano.
There are four comments so far
UFB wrote on Feb 2, 2010 1:06 PM:
” The law obviously does not apply to the police, prosecutors, county officials. The voters spoke clearly but the county refuses to obey them.
Today 2/2/1010 at 4:30 pm the county will take testimoney on whether to change the wording in the law that the voters passed for lowest law enforcement. The prosecutor, corporation council and police claim they just can not understand the law.
I maintain the law I voted for is easy to understand they just do not want to understand it because it cuts into their grants, their money.
Voters know exactly what they voted for and the criminals that are violating the county law passed by the voters should be prosecuted.
By their actions they believe they are above the law and can not do as they please. It has been this way here for a very long time. Unfortunately the county tax payers are liable.
The real criminals are in charge. “
kwms1029 wrote on Feb 2, 2010 12:18 PM:
” This is like the war in Iraq, the solution is to legalize it and use the money spent on this never ending crusade for the childrens education! The law is the problem, if this were a legal commodity for the Islands, there would be more tax money and less crimes! “
kickerbacker wrote on Feb 2, 2010 11:52 AM:
” AMEN “
kickerbacker wrote on Feb 2, 2010 11:51 AM:
” I agree with bumwad. Our goverment from the top to the bottom is a disgrace to our island, its people and them self’s. How greedy must one be to allow the common people to suffer by they’re unjus law’s. One can only pray that there is a God so the disgraceful goverment leaders of all sectors suffer the unjus that they lay on the common people. May our pain and suffering be extendented to them the unjus ruler’s. And may God deal with them the way he see’s fit “
bumwad wrote on Feb 2, 2010 10:02 AM:
” The police and prosecutors are scofflaws. These arrests and prosecutions for under 1 oz. of marijuana waste your tax money and do nothing to make you safer. The war on marijuana undermines legitimate warnings about the dangers of methamphetamine.
If the police and prosecutors will not obey the law, they should not expect you to obey laws. Contempt for laws and authority can be contagious. “