Friday, December 2, 2016

Musings: Political Pie

The new Kauai County Council was sworn in yesterday, with Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa again tapped to serve as Council chair and vice chair, respectively.

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura voted against the Council rules, on the grounds that they prevented members from thoroughly questioning those who offered public testimony. But even Councilman Mason Chock refrained from joining her, though he earlier gave up his place on the Housing Committee to accommodate her.

JoAnn was unhappy that she not only lost the leadership of that committee to newly elected Councilman Arthur Brun, but any place on the panel at all. Brun had said he did not want JoAnn on his committee, but Mason gave her his place.

Hmm. It may be an interesting Council after all.

Kipu Kai Kualii, who narrowly lost his place on the Council, attended the inauguration and festivities. He's already stated he plans to run again in 2018. But Gary Hooser, who came in ninth, didn't show — even though he's also entertaining a return to politics.

In a Nov. 29 email to his mailing list, Hooser wrote:

Whether or not my recent loss is the last and final election campaign of my life is a question that I ask myself daily.  Serving in elective office, though challenging and somewhat stressful at times, has been incredibly fulfilling. 

Future political options primarily revolve around the 2018 election cycle however sometimes “things happen” in mid cycle that create opportunities for appointments and/or special elections.
  
A potentially YUGE wrinkle in Hawaii’s political landscape is the rumor of U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard leaving her CD2 seat early for a job in the Trump administration.  The CD2 is composed of the neighbor-islands (2/3) and rural Oahu (1/3).

Should this happen, a “winner take all” special election will occur giving candidates possibly only 4 months to organize and run a campaign on all islands. Candidates with existing name recognition and established statewide networks would have a clear off the blocks advantage.

Lot’s [sic] of choices.

Frankly I want to do it all.

Oh, do you now? Exactly what about losing big, despite spending way more than any other candidate on the race, don't you understand, Gary?

This guy's ego is ginormous. He simply can't face the fact that the voters don't want him.

He's also looking at ways to get back in to politics through the back door. He wrote:

H.A.P.A. is a 501c3 nonprofit whose tax exempt status does not allow it to become involved in the full-throated political and policy actions that I strongly believe are needed now.

Like it hasn't already? Come on! Its supposedly non-partisan Kuleana Academy has trained only candidates who follow the anti-GMO/anti-ag party line.

He continues:

If we are to achieve the bold change required to push back against the growing institutional and corporate powers now in place, we need to step up our game with regards to both policy advocacy and political action.

So while H.A.P.A. can educate, inform and organize which are critical components in the foundation needed for change to happen, other organizations must step up to carry the ball further and more aggressively down the field.

One option is to create and lead such an entity. This could be a 501c4 or otherwise legally structured entity that could engage aggressively in both political and policy advocacy. This would allow me to utilize and leverage the experience and networks I have gained over the years to advocate for progressive public policy while supporting symbiotic community based political action springing up now on all islands.

Hmmm. One way or the other, Hooser's trying to avoid getting a real job, and instead wants to keep lapping at the public trough or living off the largess of others.

Meanwhile, Civil Beat has latched on to the activist cause du jour, sending a reporter and photographer to cover the Standing Rock pipeline issue in North Dakota. What, like you're all out of Hawaii news already? 

Civil Beat's lopsided TMT coverage was bad enough, and it looks like they're aiming to replicate it in ND, focusing on Andre Perez, one of the TMT protestors who is now at Standing Rock.

I like Andre, and know he's committed, but if you're going to the expense of sending two staff people all the way to ND — not to mention the irony of burning all that fossil fuel to cover an oil issue — at least try to provide a balanced, in-depth look at a complex issue. But then, as I noted yesterday, CB has already acknowledged that it's being funded as an activist group, not a news site.

Not to be outdone, Hawaii Center for Food Safety Director Ashley Lukens is now indoctrinating Texas middle school students with her propaganda:
Guess too many people in Hawaii are wise to her bullshit, so now she's got to start spreading it out of state. But though the educational standards in Texas are low, it's sad to think they've dropped this far. 

And of course nothing can be done without a selfie to promote oneself. Because the cause is not nearly so important as how one looks while carrying it out.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Musings: Courts Down, Lege to Go

The anti-GMO litigation in Hawaii is dead.

Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff acknowledged in a Tuesday afternoon webinar that he “would be reluctant" to ask the current Supreme Court “to rule on an issue like this, but I doubt the court would be interested, whether we asked them or not.”

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed District Court rulings that prevent the litigation from being referred to the Hawaii Supreme Court, leaving SCOTUS as the only option to keep the three defeated bills alive.

With further appeals now apparently out of the question — despite funding pleas to the contrary — the activists plan to focus all their fury on the Legislature and Gov. Ige's administration. Oh, joy!

Ashley Lukens, director of the Hawaii Center for Food Safety, said the group will be pushing some bills supported by its partners — Sierra Club, Surfrider and Farmers Union United, which represents primarily foodies and yardeners, not commercial farmers. CFS, meanwhile, will be lobbying for mandatory “public” disclosure of pesticide use, and buffer zones around “sensitive areas,” such as homes, schools and waterways. But curiously, only for agriculture.

Her comment echoes a challenge issued by failed politician Gary Hooser in his blog:

The chemical companies will rue the day they took on this battle with our community.

It would have been much easier for them and for our community if they simply would have accepted the modest provisions contained in Bill 2491 – Disclose to us your pesticide usage, don’t spray next to schools, hospitals and homes and let us do a comprehensive study to determine health impacts on our community.

But instead they have fought us every step of the way.

Bullshit. The seed companies are voluntary disclosing their pesticide use, which is posted on a government website, as well as notifying neighbors prior to pesticide applications. They also stopped cultivating fields nears schools, and none of them are growing crops near hospitals, though they give those facilities prior notification of spraying just as a courtesy.

As for a comprehensive health study, as I previously reported, anti-GMO activist Pat Gegen and others asked the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to “perform a Public Health Assessment on the west side of Kauai due to environmental health concerns associated with pesticide use by nearby agricultural operations.”

The agency declined, noting:

“It is unlikely that residents of Kauai west side communities are being exposed to pesticides at levels of health concern when they swim in, have contact with, or drink from local streams and rivers.”

“Overall, the scientific literature does not provide strong support for an association of human agricultural pesticide exposure with the birth defects of concerns.” 

The seed companies are not stopping anyone from doing a comprehensive health study. It's just that there's no justification to warrant the expense of such an undertaking. I guess it was naive to think Hooser would stop lying once he lost re-election.

Hooser then writes:

The focus now will be on the Governor and the Hawaii State Legislature to put into place the necessary regulations and conduct the needed testing and studies.

Again, solid regulations already are in place, and both the Department of Ag and Department of Health have agreed to conduct more testing and studies. What more do these people want?

I mean, aside from the spotlight. And the cash to keep their groups going.

Hooser closes with:

I have the freedom today to make new choices, unfettered in a sense from the bindings of elective office. #hooserunleashed

Yeah, well, there's a leash law, ya know. I wonder if Hooser will now finally register as a lobbyist.

In fact, he's already at it, meeting with newly elected Maui Councilwoman Kelly King on her home turf:
And he's such a class act that he let her pay for lunch.  But then, he is unemployed now. (Oh, yeah! We be doing the happy dance!)

It's not surprising that these groups have gotten so much favorable coverage in Civil Beat. Besides Pierre Omidyar, they also enjoy shared funding from the Wallace A. Gerbode Foundation — which CB describes as "our major benefactor" and “an activist grant-making private foundation.”

Oh, so they're finally admitting they aren't actually an investigative news site — they're an activist group. That totally explains their biased coverage.

In closing, here's a little tidbit:

Eastdil Secured has been retained to offer for sale the fee simple interest in the acclaimed St. Regis Princeville Resort and the Makai Golf Club (collectively the “Resort”) located on the scenic Hawaiian island of Kauai.

Wonder what changes that may entail?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Musings: Reflections

I was in New York City when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that the state and federal governments have authority over pesticides and GMO crops in Hawaii.

I raced back to my hotel room and cranked out a blog post, glad that the antis had been smacked down. Then I resumed walking, wondering how people — and dogs, especially — can tolerate the constant commotion, the crowded cement, of urban life.
Not to mention the kids, fenced in with a square of grass.
Cities are a place where human creations reign supreme.
Nature is often confined to small, managed spaces.
But it can't be entirely controlled.
And those were the spectacles that captured my attention, kept me sane amidst the endless rows of restaurants, shops and bars.
After wandering the streets for hours — and dining on a wonderful root vegetable and mushroom stroganoff at a Ukrainian restaurant (ethnic cuisine is one big city perk!) — I attended an event that featured several of the Cornell Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellows, who had just completed their 12-week training and were preparing to head home.

They told of growing up hungry, of seeing people in their home countries within Africa, Latin America and Asia struggling to obtain food, lift themselves out of poverty. They talked about their frustration with an anti-GMO movement that is based in the well-fed West and funded by elites — a movement that seeks to dictate what farmers in developing nations should be allowed to grow.

They shared some of the crazy lies that drive the anti-GMO movement — if you eat GMO goods, you'll get veneral diseases, go crazy, die of tumors, offend God. More poignantly, they spoke about the ways that farmers suffer because they're deprived of biotechnology — the devastating crop losses, the crippling debt, the intensive use of pesticides that has left some farmers unable to have sex with their wives, creating serious tensions within their marriages.

It was a moving presentation, informed by their first-hand experiences, their empathy, their driving passion to improve the lives of their countrymen, make the world a better place. And it reminded me again why I work to dispell myths and share the facts about crop biotech.

This was followed by a screening of the documentary “Food Evolution,” which had premiered at the NYC DOC film festival just days before.

As I watched the introduction, with its images of the Hawaii marches and protests, the red shirts and blue shirts, the signs with their simplistic messages, Roseanne Barr advocating papaya field destruction, my breath became rapid and shallow. My heart begin to to pound and my blood began to race as I thought of all the harm they'd caused, the havoc they'd wreaked, the lives they'd disrupted, the expenses they'd racked up for taxpayers to pay.

And for what? An ideology promoted primarily by the organics industry to sell more products, undermine competitors. An ideology based on fear, and false information. An ideology that is, at core, intolerant, even heartless, though it claims to embrace the concepts of aloha.

I don't know how we're going to bridge the divide, de-polarize the debate. It's hard to have reasonable discussions when people can't even agree on facts.

But somehow, we have to try and find the common ground, to understand opposing views, to rely upon science and critical thinking to guide our decisions and policies. We have to dispel the fear and distrust that drives the anti-GMO movement.

Which brings me back to "Food Evolution." As I watched it, and thought about what Hawaii has been through on this issue, I came to see that the debate is essentially this: How do we know what to believe?

Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who narrates "Food Evolution," offers this guide:


“If people knew how to understand and process data, and think about it, we wouldn’t even need this film. When results are repeated and found to be true—that is scientific truth. Laws should be made based on truth. Or that is the end of an informed democracy.”

And that's true for so many issues, not just agriculture.

When the film ended, and I heard the cheers of those who celebrated its message, who understand the important role that this technological tool can play, I found inspiration to go on, to return to the trenches with a lighter, brighter heart — one far more enduring than the foam in a latte cup. 
We just have to keep chipping away — standing up, speaking up, advocating for choice,  reason, tolerance, as we address the most pressing issues of our time.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Musings: Clear Thinking

The misinformed commentary in today's edition of The Garden Island underscores just how deeply confused and utterly misled the public remains on the pesticide-GMO issue in Hawaii.

That's not surprising. The anti-GMO movement, which has morphed into an anti-pesticide movement, is based on intentionally sowing and fertilizing lies. It's one of the best ways to whip up fear and win converts to a false cause. But it leaves people cynical, disenfranchised and ignorant when things don't go their way.

Which is what we see in today's guest opinion by educator Mark Jeffers and letter to the editor by the perennially deluded Linda Bothe. 

She unleashes one of her typically clueless rants, making such bogus claims as:

These ag companies can spray their poison near our schools, hospitals and our homes, anywhere they feel like it. We cannot complain because the law says so.

Like so many others, Linda is clueless about the many rigorous regulations imposed on  commercial pesticide use, especially restricted use pesticides. And yes, people can and do complain, which is why the pesticide enforcement officers are kept so busy.

But who can fault Linda when people who do know better — people like defeated Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser, Center for Food Safety's Ashley Lukens and Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff — continue to make like Hawaii is some wild west where pesticide use is totally unregulated and out of control? 

That is a flat out lie uttered for one purpose only: to make people afraid so these groups can hit them hard for donations.

Linda goes on:

Why do I feel like I am in the Jim Jones Cult? Just drink your Kool-Aid and everything will be fine. Are we really that gullible? This scares me to death.

Yes, sadly, you are that gullible. And so are too many of your fellow residents. Only your leader is not Jim Jones, but Hooser-Lukens. So yeah, drink their Kool-Aid. How else are they gonna get people to keep sending them money for another dose of fear?

Mark Jeffers starts by spouting nonsense about how Kauai folks supposedly stopped the Superferry and halted nuclear missile launches at PMRF. Uh, the unsuccessful PMRF protests were about launching missiles from a sacred dune, not nuclear warheads, and the ferry was halted because it violated state environmental laws. Neither issue had anything to do with county initiatives, or "home rule."

Mark then claims:

When the agri-chemical companies were accused of field testing restricted-use chemical pesticides, there were protests and the county began to take action to preserve the life of the island. County government set about building regulations and laws to preserve the life of the island and its people.

First, the seed companies are not testing any pesticides, restricted use or general, in Hawaii. This is another lie spread by Hooser, the late Tim Bynum and anti-GMO activists like Hawaii SEED, CFS and Babes Against Biotech. Pesticide testing is done in enclosed facilities on the mainland.

Second, Bill 2491/Ordinance 960 did absolutely nothing to eliminate or even reduce pesticide use in Hawaii. Its claim to "stop poisoning paradise" was total bullshit. The bill called for buffer zones and pesticide disclosure, both of which the companies voluntarily agreed to do. The protests — which were especially misguided if they were indeed based on a false belief about pesticide tests — did not result in any “building regulations and laws” being passed “to preserve the life of the island and its people.”

Jeffers then falsely asserts that "the county lost its sovereignty on this issue and now may not make law or regulate the actions of the agri-chemical seed-growers. And so, therefore, the county has now lost its ability to preserve the life of this island in that arena."

The County hasn't "lost its sovereignty on this issue," because it never had it. Indeed, the entire purpose of the bill, as well as the resulting lawsuit and appeal, was to clarify the state and federal pre-emption issue. Earthjustice, CFS and Hooser were warned against this strategy by those who said it risked giving the seed companies a definition of pre-emption that they never could have gotten from the Legislature.

But the groups took their chances, in hopes of setting a precedent in their own favor. They lost. Now they and their followers are making like they've been screwed by the seed companies and a corrupt system. No, they're just seeing the end result of their flawed legal strategy. 

It's not surprising that people like Jeffers, Boethe, Dustin Barca and other "red shirts" feel let down and disenchanted by the recent court rulings. They went in as true believers, not knowing the activists were using them as pawns in a bigger game. The movement was never intended to make Hawaii safer and cleaner. It was all about trying to shut down the GMO seed industry and set a precedent for local control.

Furthermore, the counties can regulate some actions of seed-growers — just not those related to pesticides or GMOs.

What really got me, though, was Jeffers' closing statement:

I put my hope in the clear thinking and pono actions of the children as they grow to help to preserve the life of our island home.

How are the keiki going to engage in clear thinking and pono actions when their elders — including educators like Jeffers — are setting such a poor example by demonstrating their own lack of critical thinking, their own loose grasp of the facts?

This is the sad, and lasting, legacy of the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Musings: Ugly Underbelly

This is a post that underscores what's wrong wih Kauai, the type of people who supported Gary Hooser and the thuggish mentality of the anti-GMO crowd.

Allan Parachini, someone who is actually informed about issues, wrote a commentary in Sunday's edition of The Garden Island entitled “Court ruled correctly on anti-GMO laws.” Among those weighing in with on-line invectives were KKCR host Felicia Cowden, using the misnomer Akamai Mom.

And then Dustin Barca, who actually believed two years ago that he had the leadership skills and intellect to serve as mayor (before his ass got kicked at the polls), stirred up more shit on Facebook. In his post, he resurrected the same calls to boycott and bully that characterized the push to pass Bill 2491:
Says Kacy, the oh-so-pono real estate agent busy pimping Kauai for Hawaii Life.
Ah, yes, Felicia. The queen of disinformation herself. How appropriate that she should weigh in among the other violent ignoramuses in Dustin's flock. 

What makes it even more rich is that these fools consider themselves "progressives" and claim to be "aloha aina warriors" acting out of "love" and in support for "democracy." Just don't engage in any free speech that they don't approve of.  

And no doubt they're denouncing the fringe Trump supporters for engaging in the very same racist, bigoted, intolerant tactics as their own. Though of course they can't see it in themselves.

Just something to keep in mind next time Felicia, Dustin, Matt Bernabe,  Malia Chun (she "liked" Dustin's post) and the rest of these creeps put themselves out there as candidates and/or leaders of the community. 

This is the ugly underbelly that Hooser nurtured and exploited. It's what keeps Kauai divided and prevents it from moving forward.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Musings: It's Time

It's been fascinating to monitor the antis' reaction to Friday's court decision striking down the three flawed Hawaii laws that tried to regulate GMOs and pesticides at the county level.

In a truly Orwellian response, the Center for Food Safety and Maui's SHAKA actually pronounced the rulings “a groundbreaking win” and “precedent-setting.” Right. Like they spent all that time and money just to confirm what the court had previously decided in other cases: 
Rep. Chris Lee, a CFS-endorsed candidate who chairs the state House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, came out with a mealy-mouthed statement about how “there’s a middle road that can satisfy everyone that ensures public safety and doesn’t put an undue burden on anyone.”

This from the man who recently released a video regurgiating all the CFS talking points and proclaiming Hawaii CFS Director Ashley Lukens a good friend. Yeah, Chris, we're sure you'll be even-handed as you bootlick CFS.

Earthjustice's Paul Achitoff, despite losing first in District Court and then on appeal to the 9th Circuit Court, still maintains that he knows best, and the three-member appeals panel “misinterpreted Hawaii law.” But then, if Achitoff admits he blew it big time, he can't keep using this issue to raise money.

Defeated Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser used his HAPA group to sic folks on Gov. Ige and demand he implement all the recommendations of the Joint Fact-Finding Group. Never mind that Peter Adler stacked the JFFG with antis, who issued a report that reflected their own biases. And it's clearly time to more closely scrutinize HAPA, which masquerades as an “educational nonprofit” as it actively lobbies and engages in partisan politics.

Hooser also took to his blog to viciously attack columnist Allan Parachini for daring to cast aspersions on the political motivations of Hooser and the late Tim Bynum, who severely polarized Kauai with their Bill 2491. Hooser huffed:

It is fine to express different opinions on issues, but questioning motive and intent is the same as questioning character and integrity.

So then why does Hooser continually question the motives and intentions of officials serving in the state departments of Health and Agriculture, those of us who have supported biotech, Beth Tokioka in agreeing to serve on the Kauai water board, and the citizens who elected Arthur Brun, a Syngenta employee and dedicated community volunteer, to the County Council?

And even if Hooser and Bynum did launch Bill 2491 with good intentions, they quickly fell off the high road when they decided to lie, fear-monger and promote mob action to advance their cause. Their strategy tells us all we need to know about their character and integrity.

Meanwhile, some of the antis are so deep in their echo chambers that they only now discovered Brun has a criminal record — something I covered back in the 2014 election. Rather than admit they weren't paying attention, and it's actually an inspiring story of rehabilitation and redemption, they instead start finger-pointing, which is what the antis do best: 

Gee, Andy. Might want to practice what you preach.... 

And while Friday's ruling made it clear that there is no health risk associated with eating GMOs, the antis ignored that to focus solely on the possible downsides of growing the crops — all of which were long ago recognized by the companies and scientists who developed the crops and the agencies that regulate them. The judges didn't come up with anything new.

Though their responses differed slightly, the antis remain united in their delusion that Hawaii's people and aina are somehow being harmed by these crops. And they all again uttered the false claim that the state has failed to regulate or protect — even as they call, ironically, for more state regulations and protections.

The reality, of course, is quite different. Even the biased JFFG had to admit there was no documented harm to either Hawaii's people or environment from the cultivation of these crops. Not one of the studies conducted to date, even those done by the antis themselves, has detected pesticide residues at anything other than trace levels, far below safe exposure standards.

The state already has announced it plans to soon begin monitoring surface water around agricultural fields, golf courses and urban areas for pesticide residue.

The state DOA has also referred several cases of suspected pesticide misuse to the EPA for further investigation, proving the regulatory process is indeed functioning properly.

And even Hooser, in trying to take credit for these actions, admitted the seed companies are disclosing pesticide use and no longer spraying fields next to schools. 

Though the Hawaii anti-GMO movement continues to chant buzzwords like “health” and “protection,” the issue in the Islands has never been about either.

It has always been a movement orchestrated and funded by mainland anti-GMO groups bound and determined to oust the seed companies from Hawaii as a way to disrupt the parent seed production that supports GMO crops around the world.

Along the way, it's tag-teamed with the utopian farm movement, which seeks to replace production agriculture with backyard organic farms — despite the inefficiencies, impracticalities, delusions and environmental ramifications of such an approach.

Hawaii can't afford, socially or economically, for this mainland agenda to further disrupt or distract the state Legislature.

It's time to start healing from the polarization that these groups inflicted on Hawaii to advance their own goals, and begin focusing on the many issues that actually do impact Islanders: affordable housing, substance abuse, education and transportation.


Which means it's time to get the non-farming activists out of agriculture and let the real farmers farm in peace.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Courts Again Find Hawaii Anti-GMO Laws Illegal

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today issued three opinions with national implications when it upheld lower court rulings that struck down anti-GMO measures on Kauai, Hawaii Island and Maui.

In a huge victory for the state's seed industry, the panel affirmed that two Hawaii District Court judges acted correctly when they concluded all three county bills were pre-empted by state law, and the Hawaii Island bill and Maui citizen's initiative were pre-empted by federal law as well.

The decision guts a three-year, polarizing effort by the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice to use Hawaii to establish a national legal precedent for controlling GMO crop cultivation under the guise of “home rule.”

Instead, the opinions showed that recently defeated Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser, who worked closely with the two groups, erred from the get-go in introducing Bill 2491, which created a domino effect of similarly flawed anti-GMO measures on the Big Island and then Maui.

The three bills cost the counties hundreds of thousands of dollar in legal fees and created a bitterly contentious political climate that divided rural communities across the state. The Kauai and Hawaii Island bills were passed by the county councils there, while the Maui law was approved by voter initiative.

The panel affirmed that the Hawaii Pesticides Law, which regulates pesticides and genetically engineered plants, preempted the pesticide provisions in Kauai County’s Bill 2491/Ordinance 960.

The panel found that Ordinance 960’s pesticide provisions and the Hawaii Pesticides Law addressed the same subject matter. It also affirmed that the state’s scheme for the regulation of pesticides was comprehensive. And finally, it held that the Hawaii Legislature clearly intended for the state’s regulation of pesticides to be uniform and exclusive.

The panel also concluded that Ordinance 960’s pesticide provisions were impliedly preempted by Hawaii law and beyond the County’s power. The panel held that certification to the Hawaii Supreme Court was unnecessary because the because the State’s test for implied state preemption was well-defined.

It used similar reasoning in affirming the decision that overturned the Big Island ban on testing and cultivating GMO crops, while also finding that law was expressly pre-empted by federal law.

The Maui initiative, which called for a moratorium on cultivation of GMO crops until they were "proven safe," was also tossed on the basis of being pre-empted by state and federal law.

The anti-GMO movement had been attempting to end-run federal law, which is the hardest to change, by pushing for local legislation to regulate the crops. But with the 9th Circuit opinions, that effort has been seriously derailed.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Musings: Pakalolo Practicalities

In what some may see as a palliative to the election of Donald Trump, marijuana initiatives moved ahead on the mainland when voters took to the polls last week.

As Marijuana Business Daily reports, nearly 60 percent of Americans now live in states that have legalized recreational and/or medicinal use of cannabis, including the entire west coast of the U.S.
In Colorado, which led the way in legal pot, the industry created more than 18,000 new fulltime jobs in 2015 and generated $2.4 billion in economic activity, according to an analysis prepared by the Marijuana Policy group.

That included $1 billion in retail sales, with the rest generated through spillover effects, such  as warehouse space rentals for grow operations, sales of lighting, irrigation materials and cultivation products, and services provided by lawyers, contractors, bookkeepers and consultants. 

Some of those consultants came to the Islands recently to offer the Hawaii Medical Marijuana training and certificate conference. Yes, there is actually an institution — Clover Leaf University — that certifies cannabis workers, although the benefits of such credentials were never made clear.

The day-long event in Waikiki seemed primarily intended to introduce the Cannabis Workers Rising program and ensure that Hawaii medical dispensaries and grow operations employ unionized workers, as represented by UFCW 480.

I was struck by two things: the tremendous amount of money involved in this industry, and the number of Hawaii politicians who showed up for the relatively small event. Of course, this was right before the election, so that may have had some influence. But still, those who attended and/or spoke included Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, Rep. Marcus Oshiro, Rep. Della Au Belatti and former Sen. Clayton Hee.

As for the money, well, one consultant, who got her start in commercial real estate, noted that one of her Colorado medical marijuana dispensaries grossed $250,000 per day — in cash. What did she do with all that dough? one participant asked. “Invest in commercial real estate,” the consultant replied.

Hmm. Perhaps that helps explain why the high-end Hawaii Life Real Estate company pursued, and won, the sole dispensary license on Kauai.

Speaking of Hawaii Life, I noticed The Garden Island gave one of the company's smarmier Realtors, Neal Norman, extensive free advertising space as it gushed over his $16.2 million sale of Julia Robert's house on Hanalei Bay, while pitching other high end properties he represents on Kauai's North Shore.

These include a $5.5 million estate owned by Danny Errico, co-founder of Equinox gym chain. His big contribution to Kauai was giving serious money to the failed mayoral campaign of anti-GMO activist Dustin Barca.

The article concludes with Norman's self-serving statement:

I appreciate these kind of buyers that own these second homes. They employ a lot of people — gardeners and window cleaners and caretakers.

All of whom earn a pittance compared to the commissions that Norman pulls down.

Which leads me back to the cannabis industry. Yes, it's created jobs, but as the consultant acknowledged, many of them are $15-hour gigs, such as the mind-numbing task of trimming leaves from buds. Then there are the warehouse workers, the bud-tenders (shop clerks) and guards who provide the required 24-7 security. One dispensary operation was spending $1,200 per week just to grind up its green waste for disposal.

The only true opportunities for advancement lie with folks in the IT field. And the really big money remains the purview of the the dispensary owners. To that end, I'm glad that actual farmers on the Big Island and Oahu were granted dispensary licenses. It's great they have a chance to finally make money doing ag on Hawaii.

But I have to raise an eyebrow at further enriching Hawaii Life by giving it a monopoly on Kauai sales.

The consultant also noted that operators might want to consider automation wherever possible because, she said, “we're in the business of forgetfulness.”

Yeah. That's one downside to having stoners on the payroll.

It was also disclosed that one of the “huge revenue streams for dispensaries” is selling clones to people who want to grow their own. Problem is, the Hawaii law still has a major glitich, in that it doesn't specify how cannabis caretakers are supposed to legally obtain seeds and starts. The Lege needs to address that, both to keep the dispensaries viable and ensure that caretakers have a legal source.

Belatti said that legalization isn't in the near future for Hawaii, which seems a shame. As more states legalize on the mainland, the profits in places like Colorado, which draw customers from well beyond state lines, are bound to decline.

But this is one of those situations where Hawaii's isolation could pay off. And the Islands certainly could use the money — the Colorado industry paid $100 million in state taxes last year — especially if the federal spigot is turned off by a Republican Congress.

Still, there is one area of concern: one dispensary partner noted he would be bringing in genetics from the mainland to beef up the Hawaii strains. Uh, might want to think twice about that. Hawaii pakalolo is legendary for a reason, and it ain't just the Islands' mystique.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Musings: Dose of Hope

I'm here at Cornell University, amid the cool temps and colorful fall leaves of Ithaca, New York, getting a fresh dose of hope and inspiration after a gloomy week immersed in politics.

The source of this infusion? Twenty-eight people representing 13 countries and three continents. They're the Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellows, who just completed a 12-week program in science advocacy at the grassroots level.

For the past two days I've been listening to them report on the state of agriculture and food security in their home countries of Nigeria, Malawi, China, Argentina, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Ghana. They're a diverse group, in terms of ages, occupations and interests, but they're united in their passion to end hunger and advance environmental sustainability.

I was also struck by how successful the anti-GMO activists have been in shaping the narrative around ag biotechnology. Despite the wide variances in the world's political systems, laws, farming practices and food needs, the antis have managed to instill their BS-based mantra in nations across the globe. As one person noted: “Fear is the easiest thing to sell.” And lies and fear are the primary tools of the anti-GMO trade.

After spending time with the Fellows, I'm reminded again just how fortunate I am to live in a country with a stable, though sometimes stumbling, government, and so many options and opportunities.  It reaffirms my commitment to continue working to ensure that farmers everywhere get to choose how they want to practice agriculture.

It seems the newest farmer – or, more accurately, fantasy farmer — is the recently defeated Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser:
Yup, he grows an ear and figures that now he can feed the island and make a political statement. It's not exactly clear why growing organic sweet corn is an act of resistance, though it is interesting that his choice of the term "corn angels" continues to emphasize anti-GMO activism as religion.
Glad to see even Gary is finally starting to see through the lies he's been feeding folks for the past few years. And yes, the seed companies welcome true co-existence. But sadly, the rest of his delusion continues.

Like why, exactly, does he want to make corn starts when direct-seeding is recommended to build strong roots and prevent transplant shock? Why waste potting soil and plastic containers when kernels sprout so easily in the ground? How much will he charge for starts, when people can buy 100 kernels for $2 bucks? How can he pass them off as organic without certification? 

But then, as soon as you start to use logic with these folks, it all falls apart. And as soon as someone — in this case, Big Island "agvocate" Lorie Farrell — sounded a note of reality, Hooser's sweetness turned sour:
Actually, Gary, Lorie isn't an industry troll, nor is she is affiliated with the Alliance. She's just one of thousands who endorse our work. Furthermore, the Alliance doesn't "train bloggers," and no one is sent out to "attack those who promote organic farming and folks who question, criticize or support the regulation of industrial agriculture." We just dispel the bullshit and fear spread by those who are unwilling to let farmers decide how to farm. Which is why you're so desperate to trash us.

I was quite interested to learn that in some nations, the antis are supported by pesticide companies that stand to lose sales if the Bt technology, which offers pest resistance without spraying, is adopted more widely. The anti movement has some strange bedfellows.

Despite the nasty reaction to Lorie, the realists persisted:
Lazy farming, Pejie? What could be lazier than not farming at all, while telling others how they should be doing it?

Hey, maybe Gary, Dustin Barca and Felicia Cowden can start their own farming cooperative.  I'd love to see the infighting that would soon develop between those three giant egos, all of whom fancy themselves ag experts.

Meanwhile, agriculture in Hawaii lost a true advocate with yesterday's passing of Big Island Rep. Clift Tsuji, who chaired the House Agriculture Committee. He was a kind and caring man who maintained his smile and the twinkle in his eye even though he was mercilessly attacked by the antis.

The Hawaii Center for Food Safety blew $2,895 on anti-Tsui flyers alone last year, and were aided in their attacks by the Babes Against Biotech, who wasted no time in offering phony words of sympathy:

Biotech legislator of the year and long time Hilo Representative Clift Tsuji has died. May God rest his soul and give us grace and wisdom in this time as our future shifts yet again with his passing.  We may never know all the reasons Clift had or ever agree with any of them, but we can send his family condolences and love in this difficult time, and we can take a moment of grace. Surely he cared for his family and some people really loved him. What is done is done. We only have from now.  

Talk about no class. But yes, we can only hope the Babes somehow gain the grace and wisdom they so sorely lack.