House Majority package funds war on drugs

All of Kaua’i’s legislators understand the need to wage war on illegal drugs, and are in positions to provide ammunition for that fight.

They have allies among the state House’s Democratic majority. Legislation is being formally introduced today to authorize continued warfare against drug abuse, according to state Rep. Mina Morita (D), Ha’ena to Wailua).

The proposal is being introduced following several months of work and will include legislation addressing the fight against illegal drug use, and specifically a push for more community-based rehabilitation programs, Morita said.

The North Shore and East Kaua’i legislator also has her eyes on programs that may be implemented without cost to state government, she said.

“There might be some things that may not need legislation. I want to learn more about weed-and-seed programs,” said Morita. “There have been weed-and-seed programs on O’ahu, but not the Neighbor Islands.”

She said she needs to “learn how the program operates, where the funding comes from, and how to get it in our community.”

State Sen. Gary Hooser (D, Kaua’i, Ni’ihau) called the island’s drug problem “very serious.” He said he and Mayor Bryan Baptiste have agreed to work together in the war on drugs.

“Basically, I’m going to be looking for funds to support the drug-coordinator (position and) program that kind of emerged from that meeting,” Hooser said of Baptiste’s recent anti-drug summit, and another meeting the two had recently.

“I’m going to be looking for funds to support the drug fight over here,” Hooser said from Kaua’i recently.

“And I think right now one of the problems is that there’s not a coordinated effort. So I’d like to see a partnership between the state and the county and private, nonprofits,” Hooser added.

“Work together to fight this menace,” he said. Hooser said the county might provide office space; a private, nonprofit organization could provide the human expertise; and the state could possibly supply funding.

“Of course, there’s no guarantees, because money’s really limited,” Hooser said.

He said the Kaua’i Drug Free Coalition is “doing some excellent work, and I’d like to support both of those (anti-drug) efforts.”

“I’ve always been extremely concerned about the drug problem on Kaua’i,” state Rep. Ezra Kanoho (D, Wailua to Koloa) said.

“The House has taken that as one of its majority issues that needs to be addressed,” he said. “We’re going to try to attack it on several fronts.”

An amendment to the state Constitution, to coincide word-for-word with the U.S. Constitution, regarding searches and seizures, will help law enforcement officials by allowing more reasonable search-and-seizure actions where suspected drug dealers are concerned, Kanoho said.

An earlier amendment to the state Constitution aimed at further protecting individual rights was passed before sale and use of illegal drugs was a major problem in the state, he said.

“Now, the Hawai’i Constitution offers a good degree of protection for drug pushers and distributors, so we need to do something about it,” he said.

“It’s a balancing act. It’s going to be a hard act to sell,” because those responsible for the original constitutional amendment aren’t going to let their work be undone by another amendment, Kanoho said. “But, we have a problem that needs to be addressed. We need to get a better handle for drugs.”

At the present time, if law-enforcement officials have some evidence, even a good idea, that someone in a neighborhood is dealing drugs out of his or her home, that is not enough to get a legal warrant to search the premises, he said.

“So there has to be a balance between what it can do to stop the proliferation of drugs, but also protect individual rights. And it’s a hard balancing act,” said Kanoho.

State Rep. Bertha Kawakami (D, Po’ipu to Mana, Ni’ihau) could not be reached for comment.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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