In the war on ice, we have to act now
This community asked indeed, demanded that the Legislature do something about Hawai'i's crystal methamphetamine epidemic. In response, majority Democratic lawmakers gave us a bill with everything including the kitchen sink.
They listened to everyone from ice users to their families to social workers to police and prosecutors to public defenders. And they came up with House Bill 2003, which among other provisions:
- Sets mandatory minimum sentences for anyone deemed to be a drug dealer or manufacturer.
- Adds penalties when drugs are manufactured with a child present, sold to a minor or sold near schools or public parks.
- Requires that a student charged with a drug offense be sent to a treatment program rather than suspended for 92 days.
- Allows for courts to determine whether first-time drug offenders should go to treatment or prison.
- Mandates that employers with more than 15 employees provide a one-hour drug prevention education program for workers each year.
Nonetheless, the bill has drawn objections, mostly from Republicans, who were concerned the final measure lacked some key enforcement mechanisms such as a streamlined wiretap process and a "walk and talk" system.
For these and other reasons, Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed the ice bill. Democratic lawmakers who had been working on it for months easily mustered the votes to override her veto.
They weren't going to watch all that hard work slide down the drain.
Meanwhile, Lingle allowed a bill allocating $14.7 million for expanded drug prevention and treatment to become law without her signature.
That suggests she may not be inclined to release the money. We strongly urge her to do so. After all, Lingle and her drug czar, Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, called the ice war a high priority in their administration.
More money for treatment and prevention should be the linchpin of any ice legislation.
As for the omnibus bill, we can only hope its provisions make a dent in the ice epidemic. True, not everyone is happy with the final product, but this is not a popularity contest.
This is a serious community problem, and we have to act now.