A light rain kept Koko and me I bed a little later this morning, so the eastern sky was already fiery when we set out walking in what can best be described as a magical wonderland of color and light. The moisture-infused air sparkled, and all the backlit spider webs shone among glistening leaves.
The Giant was draped in a garland of white, Waialeale was mostly buried in a pile of puffy clouds, save for the bits of slope that shone green-yellow, and Makaleha was fully visible and clad in hues of purple and pink. Meanwhile, a smoke-like mist floated up from all the nooks and crannies of the lush green landscape.
I was immersed in those sensory delights, but Koko was fixated on Andy, who was ahead of us, and when we caught up, she gave her usual little whines of delight. We won’t have many more mornings with Andy and Momi, since we’re moving to hard-scrabble Kapahi this weekend. Andy pronounced the news rotten, but gave me a bag of juicy lychee, anyway.
He mentioned he’d been interviewed by a former Garden Island reporter, whose name escapes me, for a film she’s doing on how Kauai has changed. She wanted him to provide her with a historical perspective, and came from the premise that most people seem to think that the missionaries had been a positive influence, an assertion that both Andy and I doubted.
And that got Andy thinking about how attitudes toward the missionaries had changed, from being favorably viewed to less so, during his 37 years of teaching. And that got us talking about how other social attitudes had changed in that time, especially toward women, with Andy recalling how the KCC auto body teacher once said that if any girls wanted to take his class, they had to wear a steel bra. (Or maybe it was cast iron. At any rate, you get the point, not that either makes much sense.)
I mentioned I’d just read a review of a biography of Helen Gurley Brown that recounted some of the sexism she encountered early in her career:
She was, at the time, employed as a typist at a radio station whose male personnel enjoyed a game that they called Scuttle. They chased a female co-worker around the office until they cornered her, then pulled off her panties. Brown was hurt that, for some reason—maybe she was too flat-chested—she was never their scuttlebutt. It was eventually pointed out to her that scuttling constituted a rather egregious instance of sexual harassment.
Yes, many attitudes do change over time. We’ve got an African-American president and a Latina Supreme Court nominee, two milestones that can be celebrated even though it’s discouraging to see how long it took us to get here. And face it, things are still really skewed. I mean, when you consider that of the 112 Supreme Court Justices, 108 have been white men — and conservatives are still squawking over Sonia Sotomayor — we still have a ways to go.
The same is true of the attitude toward drugs. I interviewed an 80-year-old man the other day who remembered the early days of treatment programs in the 1970s, when junkies were still called “dope fiends.” Now we understand that addiction and alcoholism is a disease, and marijuana has been approved for medical uses in Hawaii and other states.
But the old “Reefer Madness” mentality dies hard, especially among the men in blue, our own Chief Perry among them. Blogger Andy Parx took Perry to task for his views on marijuana and Green Harvest, as expressed in the Chief’s weekly Q&A column in The Garden Island.
Some of Perry’s comments rang a bell, and got me thinking about a series of articles Jim Witty and I wrote on Hawaii’s marijuana eradication program— and concerns about the link between the subsequent scarcity of pot and the rise in ice use — when working for the Star-Bulletin.
I was fascinated to read these articles again and see that 13 years later, the issues are still the same. There’s no real accountability about costs, which are hefty. People are still pissed about intrusive helicopter flights and the program's militarization. Ice use has flourished. Asset forfeiture laws have pushed cultivation from private to public lands. And the effort appears no more successful than it was back in 1989, when former Attorney General Warren Price wrote a report that stated:
”The only problem with the eradication effort in Hawaii is that it is costing over $1 million per year and it is not apparently reducing, much less eliminating, the marijuana industry in Hawaii, nor is there any evidence to suggest it is reducing local consumption," the report states.
Some national law enforcement officials have concluded that the “war on drugs” is a failure and Obama’s Administration has said it will discontinue George W. Bush’s policy of going after medical marijuana dispensaries in the states. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has even said it’s time to have a public debate on legalizing and taxing marijuana, which could provide an important new tax revenue for that state.
Yet Chief Perry seems to be clinging to some old, outdated attitudes. As he stated in his column:
We have not lost the war on drugs and it is not a failed policy, but we do need to reassess our long-term strategic plan and lean more toward a holistic approach.
Perry also asserts that “Drugs destroy families, whether it’s marijuana, crystal methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, or alcohol.” Yes, that’s true, although he would have a very hard time making that case against marijuana. But so, too, does arresting people and throwing them in jail repeatedly because there’s no rehab program to help them kick their addiction.
Back when we wrote those articles, we concluded that:
In the end, however, economics - and not social issues - likely will determine the fate of Hawaii's two-decade effort to halt marijuana cultivation. The state has slashed its eradication budget nearly in half for each of the past two years, county officials are taking a hard look at the program, and federal "drug war" funds are declining.
We were obviously wrong. The state and feds are still wasting money on marijuana eradication — KPD spent $27,000 to nab 75 plants in its most recent operation — and the wise words of former Rep. David Tarnas have not yet been heeded:
"The goal of a drug-free Hawaii is not do-able," Tarnas said. "We need to recognize there's a difference between substance use and abuse, and focus on reducing abuse."
Perhaps, in time, his will become the prevailing, rather than pioneering, attitude. As we’ve seen, attitudes do change. Only problem is, a helluva lot of harm can be done to people’s lives in the meantime.