About the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii

The Drug Policy Forum of Hawai‘i is a non-profit organization founded in 1993 to encourage the development of effective drug policies that minimize economic, social, and human costs, and to promote the consideration of pragmatic approaches to drug policy based on:

  • Scientific principles
  • Effective outcomes
  • Public-health considerations
  • Concern for human dignity
  • Enhancing the well-being of individuals and communities

John Oliver Talks about Prisons and Drug Laws

In a recent episode of John Oliver’s HBO comedy news program, Last Week Tonight, John dealt with one of the biggest problems we have in this country: prisons. Our prisons are full. More so than anywhere else in the world. The main reason for this is that we have drug laws that are a little draconian, and a lot racist.

Talking About Legalization With Hawaii Business Magazine

weed3Check out this excellent piece in Hawaii Business Magazine quoted the Director, President, and Organizer for the Drug Policy Action Group about what the hopes are for legalization in Hawaii and what that might look like.

The story is by Tiffany Hill, and is well worth a read.

UK Internet Service Providers are Blocking Opponents of the War on Drugs

Read the full story at the Huffington post.

UK visitors to sites critical of the war on drugs now see this page instead.

UK visitors to sites critical of the war on drugs now see this page instead.

This should be a warning for us in the United States as we consider whether or not to dismantle internet neutrality. The UK has just implemented a new system whereby ISP’s (the companies that provide your internet access, in Hawaii this is largely Time Warner Oceanic) are tasked with filtering out “adult content” and displaying a warning page that can only be overridden by contacting your cable company and asking them to unlock adult content.

The hope with the law is that it will shame UK internet users into using an internet that has been censored by the government and cable companies. Ostensibly to prevent children from stumbling accross pornography, opponents of the law said, rightly, that it would lead to wider and more problematic censorship.

It is far from proof of a conspiracy, but it turns out that the websites of sites critical of the war on drugs, such as the Marijuana Policy Project, NORML, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy are being blocked.  Unsurprisingly, sites in favor of the war on drugs are not being blocked.

Part of creating meaningful informed progress is having an educated population that has access to all of the information, not just one side of the debate. I hope that this will give us additional pause as we decide whether or not to continue dismantling our own internet neutrality.

Harm Reduction Conference on Nov. 7th

Our friends at the CHOW project have announced that the 2014 Harm Reduction conference will take place on November 7th at Honolulu Community College.

Here is the flier:

Download the PDF file .

For more information, take a look at the CHOW project website, send an email to harmreductionhawaii@gmail.com or call Jean at 853-3243.

New DPA Report On the DEA’s Effort to Impede the Science on Marijuana

logo_headerThis new report from one of our allies is certainly making some waves. Click here to read the full report for free on their website.

We at the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii are concerned with supporting an evidence based, compassionate approach to drug laws. It is thus disheartening to see, laid out in plain English, the history of the DEA’s outright refusal to allow scientific research of marijuana.

This image comes from an Australian Menzie's House article concerning a similar problem there.

This image comes from an Australian Menzie’s House article concerning a similar problem there.

While this is not new information, we have long understood exactly how the difficult it has been to receive authorization to study anything but the explicitly detrimental effects of marijuana, the report highlights the fact that the problem is systematic, codified, and intentional. Furthermore, this report highlights a central flaw at the heart of the logic of a law enforcement approach to drug policy.

Image courtesy of DucDigital (http://www.flickr.com/people/ducdigital/)

Image courtesy of DucDigital

While a public health based approach is compatible with scientific research and can encourage a variety of policy responses, a law enforcement approach to drug policy does not.

Law enforcement may be a key component to a robust policy in dealing with drugs. Law enforcement will have a role in the enforcement of the framework of laws dealing with marijuana, but law enforcement cannot be allowed to drive policy decisions. As a society, we must always let outcomes drive policy decisions, and not methods. Both the intuitive logic of law enforcement, and this concrete report on

This image courtesy of the US Embasy Kabul on Flickr. Click here for license.

This image of DEA head Michelle Leonhart courtesy of the US Embasy Kabul on Flickr. Click here for license.

our recent past show that the DEA works by artificially inflating the dangers of drug use. We cannot turn to an organization with only one approach to analyzing consequences when we want policy recommendations. To build a house, you need a blueprint and a hammer. For far too long we have been letting the hammer build the house.

2014 Polling Update on Marijuana

piechartWe just finished a round of polling, and the data show that support for marijuana reform in Hawaii is surging. Read the report here.

Mirroring nationwide attitudes, a newly released poll shows sharp increases in support for overhaul of Hawaii marijuana laws.

The new poll, commissioned by Hawaii’s Drug Policy Action Group showed voter support for reform of Hawaii’s policies on marijuana trending upward across the board. Prominent local polling firm QMark Research conducted a statewide, statistically significant poll of 400 Hawaii voters between January 17, 2014 and January 23, 2014. Among its findings:

  • Today, 77% of Hawaii voters think that jail time is inappropriate for marijuana possession, an increase of 8 percentage points over 2012.
  • Furthermore, 66% of voters are in favor of outright legalization for adult use (an increase of 9 percentage points over 2012).
  • A large majority of 85% of voters continue to support Hawaii’s medical marijuana program (up 4 percentage points from 2012) while support for a dispensary system so patients do not need to use the black market to find their medication increased sharply to 85%, a 7 percentage point increase over 2012.

Pamela Lichty, President of the Drug Policy Action Group, said: “Around the country and here in Hawaii, voters are fed up with marijuana laws that seem to have been written after watching 1930’s propaganda films like ‘Reefer Madness’. Voters today want reasonable, modern policies that acknowledge marijuana’s value as a medicine, and which address public health and safety, but do not overstate marijuana’s risks as a recreational drug. In 2014, and with 85% of voters in support, we are hopeful Hawaii will establish sensibly controlled dispensaries to ensure safe access to medicine for our medical marijuana patients unable to grow their own, minimizing government interference between a patient & their doctor, and assuring legal access to the most effective treatments for their condition(s).”

Vanessa Chong, Executive Director of the ACLU of Hawaii, added: “Hawaii is ready to choose incremental, sensible policies like decriminalization over extremely harsh ones that add to the nationwide glut of arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana — further taxing an over-crowded criminal justice system. The signs have never been clearer that Hawaii’s voters want political leaders to find new ways forward on marijuana policy.” Patients, doctors, caregivers and the public are urged to join the confidential support network “The Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii” founded by the Drug Policy Action Group and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii and follow the latest news at www.mcchi.org.

Executive Director Michael Attocknie Speaks About Drug Policy on HPR’s The Conversation

Listen to this excellent and supportive interview with Hawaii Public Radio’s The conversation.

You can listen to the rest of the episode for free online at Hawaii Public Radio’s website.

Nobel Prize Winning Economists Call for an End to the War on Drugs

DrugsReportCoverjpgPlease take a look at the report created by a team of Nobel Prize Winning economists at the London School of Economics. This report can be found here.

It is obvious that the current approach has failed, not just nationally, but globally. In this report, some of the most renowned minds in economics on the planet call for more experimentation, more harm reduction, and a dramatic shift away from a punitive law enforcement approach to drugs. While we may agree with every point they make, this report from LSE further cements the need for a radical reworking of drug policy on a global scale.

Mississippi Murder Charge Against Pregnant Teen Dismissed

Below is a Press Release from National Advocates for Pregnant Women, an organization with whom the Drug Policy Forum has worked closely in the past. This case has many dimensions that are all extremely important. For us, this case exemplifies the kind of callousness that is the result of treating drug use as a crime rather than a public health issue. The lack of a scientific connection between cocaine use and stillbirths makes it even more clear that the prosecution is using this tragedy to pursue their own agenda of establishing “personhood” for fetuses. In this way, it is the prosecutors who have shown a callous disregard for human life.

Press Release:

Yesterday, April 3, 2014, Mississippi Lowndes County Circuit Judge, Jim Kitchens, dismissed the murder charge against Rennie Gibbs. Ms. Gibbs, now 24, was charged with “depraved heart” murder after experiencing a stillbirth at 36 weeks of pregnancy. She was then only 16 years old. Relying on the medical examiner’s report in Ms. Gibbs’ case, the prosecutor claimed — without scientific support — that the stillbirth was caused by her cocaine use.

“We are pleased the murder charge was dismissed,” said Robert McDuff of McDuff & Byrd, Mississippi Defense Counsel. “We will have further discussions in the coming weeks with the District Attorney’s office in an effort to persuade them not to indict Ms. Gibbs for manslaughter or any other crime.” McDuff added, “In our view, neither the law nor the evidence justify prosecuting this young woman, who was a teenager at the time, and we hope this is the end of it. But if further charges are brought, we will return to court in her defense.”

According to Mishka Terplan, MD, MPH, clinician and researcher, “While research in the 1980s raised the concern that there might be an association between cocaine and stillbirths, in the subsequent 25 years of research no data has been found to support a causal relationship between cocaine use and stillbirths.”

This case became the subject of national attention, in part because of questions about the state’s medical examiner in the case, the questionable scientific claims it is based on, and the use of Mississippi’s murder statutes against pregnant women and mothers:

Nina Martin, ProPublica, “A Stillborn Child, A Charge of Murder, and the Disputed Case Law on ‘Fetal Harm’

Sadhbh Walshe, The Guardian, “Is miscarriage murder? States that put fetal rights ahead of a mother’s say so,” (original accompanying photograph)

Radley Balko, The Washington Post, “Another Mississippi outrage: Young mother faces life in prison for stillborn child

“The biggest threats to life — born and unborn — do not come from mothers, but rather from poverty, barriers to health care, persistent racism, environmental hazards, and prosecutions like this one,” said Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women and co-counsel in the case. She explained, “Prosecutions like these increase risks to babies by frightening pregnant women away from care and use tax dollars to expand the criminal justice system rather than to fund programs that actually protect the health of children.”

More than 70 organizations and experts were represented as amicus (friend of the court) in briefs in support of Ms. Gibbs’ case calling for the dismissal of the murder charge.

In articles reporting on the dismissal, Assistant District Attorney Mark Jackson suggested the state was considering seeking an indictment for manslaughter against Ms. Gibbs in the upcoming July grand jury session.


Dept. of Health Looking for Transition Coordinator

Please spread the word! The Department of health is looking to hire someone to help them coordinate the transition of the Medical Marijuana Program from the Department of Public Safety. Please spread the word, and apply if you are interested and qualified. Here is the Recruitment Notice: MUMP_Transition_Coorinator_Recruitment Notice.3.20.14