If you take a journey with the frigatebird, cruising over the Pacific Ocean toward the Puna district of the state’s “Big Island,” you’d see why Hawaii is revered as sacred land, scenic paradise, and home to “Pakalolo,” otherwise known as “crazy weed,” or “marijuana.”
Humpback whales and dolphins frolic in turquoise waters above colorful coral reefs growing on hardened lava flows inhabited by octopus, sponges, sea turtles, sharks, and multi-hued schools of tropical fish that appear as hallucinations of living rainbows.
Towering over the island’s inland center are two volcanoes: the 4,000 foot high Kilauea and the 13,677 foot Mauna Loa.
Kilauea is actively serving the volcano goddess Pele, feared by the ancient Hawaiians, by pouring lava from its vent into a vast, expanding moonscape of molten and solidifying terrain that consists of volcanic glass. The glass is tinged blue, black, and sometimes green, courtesy of a mineral named Olivine.
In 1988, Kilauea buried a housing development and the coastal highway under a slug of lava. New Agers believe the volcano is surfacing energy and matter direct from the beginning of time. Scientists say that the islands known as the state of Hawaii, which some people say were stolen by the United States from the “Kingdom of Hawaii monarchy,” were created by volcanoes, and more are on the way.
Hawaii did not become a state until 1959, and in the islands flourishes a persistently angry native Hawaiian movement that wants Hawaii to again be a Kingdom instead of a vassal of the US. Many native Hawaiians say that growing Pakalolo would be legal in a restored Hawaiian kingdom.
As the frigatebird flies along the Puna coast, it hovers above Kehena Beach on Highway 137. Below, on a black sand crescent fringed by steep cliffs and coconut palms, locals and tourists of all descriptions cavort nude and nubile, smoking herb, doing yoga, making love, meditating, sleeping in the healing heat of sparkling crushed lava sand.
The beach and its courageous bodysurfer-athletes are pummeled by white-topped waves that often top ten feet high. Walls of water sweep swimmers seaward, then smash them back to shore, like a cat playing with a mouse.
Gilding the scene with avian symphony are parades of wild parrots, dashes of delight syncopating with the hypnotic sound of pounding surf and the pounding rhythms of sunset drum circle jam sessions.
On cliff tops, under coconut palms, on sun-seared lava rock in sun, in backyards, savannas, steamy rainforests, pineapple plantations, parks and sugar cane fields, near waterfalls and miles from nearest water, frigatebird sees green beacons of Pakalolo’s serrated leaves photosynthesizing cannabinoids.
For at least 40 years, Hawaiians have grown some of the world’s strongest marijuana with Pele’s blessing. The volcanic rock, worn into soil, is a treasure trove of nutrients from the earth’s
Pakalolo grows fast and strong year round, but the government has other ideas. As the frigatebird circles, it is caught in the rotors of an Operation Green Harvest anti-marijuana helicopter, and ripped to pieces.
The majestic bird’s dying cries echo across the lava landscape as the copter crew speeds away, hell-bent on causing more pain elsewhere.
Hemp Hemp Hawaii
Aaron Anderson has felt government pain. In 1991, Anderson and fellow marijuana activist Roger Christie decided to participate in a government-sponsored agricultural conference.
Anderson was already an outspoken advocate of industrial hemp. Along with Christie and activist-businessman Dwight Kondo, he had created a hemp products store in the Puna district’s favorite hippie town, Pahoa.
“We wanted to make hemp food products, so we ordered 500 pounds of sterilized hemp seed from China, via this Wisconsin company that had a license from the DEA to sterilize the seeds by steaming them,” Anderson told me when I interviewed him in his futuristic fiberglass and shade cloth home located within wave-sound of Kehena Beach. “I had 25 pounds sent to me special for the conference and went to Hilo to pick ’em up. Two guys in Fed-Ex uniforms and sunglasses come up to the counter. I recognized them as undercover narks. They asked me if I knew what’s in the box, and I said, ‘Yeah, sterile hemp seeds, can’t you see them spilling out of the corner?'”
Hawaii County narcotics officer Dennis De Morales confiscated Aaron’s seeds and tried valiantly to make them sprout, but his horticultural efforts were pathetically unsuccessful. A tiny percentage of the steamed seeds did germinate, but they produced twisted, mutated plants that didn’t much resemble marijuana.
Court records and other sources allege that there was a love affair between De Morales and Hawaii County Prosecutor Kay Iopa, who desperately wanted to prosecute Anderson. Credible allegations indicate that the pair’s pillow talk included ways to make sterile seeds grow into illegal marijuana plants.
“De Morales tried to grow them on the roof of the police station,” Anderson reports. “It didn’t work, but he put a scraggly plant from somewhere in a bag, along with five healthy seeds that must have come from real Pakalolo, and he took pictures of them, saying that the sterile seeds had grown and produced viable seeds, and gave the pictures to Iopa.”
Anderson was charged with felony “promotion of a detrimental drug.”
When Roger Christie rushed to the police station to show authorities the paper receipt proving that Anderson had bought the same kind of sterilized hemp seed that was openly sold as bird food at Wal-Mart, police arrested him too.
Ten years and many trials and mistrials later, I sat in a Honolulu federal courtroom as ace attorney Steve Strauss argued Anderson’s lawsuit against the county of Hawaii.
Strauss had Iopa on the witness stand, and was working her over. The lawsuit’s allegations of selective, malicious prosecution and violation of civil rights were based on Iopa’s statement that her prosecution of Christie and Anderson was in part due to the pair’s hemp activism.
During years of plea bargain negotiations and lawsuit settlement talks, county officials tried to convince the activists to shut up about marijuana and hemp. The activists rejected the gag order.
Strauss tied Iopa and other government witnesses in knots, repeatedly catching them in outrageous lies, but the judge’s restrictive jury instructions ruined Anderson’s chance of a big payday. A similar lawsuit. argued last year at the county level, was settled out of court when the county paid Anderson and Christie a few thousand dollars each.
“I paid less than a hundred dollars for hundreds of thousands of hemp seeds, and I faced ten years in prison for ordering legal seeds that could never have produced marijuana,” said Anderson, who is now an amazingly fit 60-something retired dude living in the graceful embrace of a harem of cannababes in his lavafield eco-hostel. “We were never found guilty of anything. Basically, the county spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to prosecute us for speaking about a sacred plant.”
Roger Christie is one of several ordained cannabis reverends in Hawaii.
Fellow Reverend Jonathan Adler, who is running for governor as a representative of the Natural Law Party, was recently convicted of a marijuana felony. His wife is facing charges because she brought him sacramental medicine, at a police officer’s request, when he was in jail last year.
Perhaps Adler could have benefited from Christie’s “cannabis sanctuary kit” that contains wall placards, wallet cards, plant tags, and other materials Christie believes will protect most cannabis users and growers from prosecution.
Christie also wants to protect Hawaii from Operation Green Harvest, also known as Operation Wipeout, which are federal-state-county anti-marijuana efforts that began in 1976. The programs, which have pulled or poisoned an estimated 18 million island pot plants and have cost approximately $22 million, are funded by DEA grants that pay for helicopters provided by private companies, the military, and the DEA. The programs also spend taxpayer money paying police officers, DEA agents, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, soldiers, park employees, IRS and ATF agents, the Coast Guard, and postal inspectors.
Christie and activists like Dwight Kondo have publicly challenged the county officials who solicit and use government grants to eradicate what used to be Hawaii’s biggest cash crop. In 1999, county officials canceled that year’s participation in Green Harvest, because Christie had “impeached the mayor and six council members” for failing to undertake a “mandatory program review.”
“It’s a terrorist war against Hawaii,” Christie says. “Armed people swoop down on innocent families, frightening people, their pets, and their farm animals. They spray poison from helicopters. It’s an unconstitutional hate crime genocide carried out against a peaceful culture seeking to use its god-given sacrament. The county council is stacked with retired police and active lawyers who benefit from marijuana prohibition. They have an obvious conflict of interest. They are supposed to do a program review every four years to ascertain the impacts of this program, but they have never done a review in 30 years.”
This year, acting as his own lawyer, Christie filed a massive lawsuit against Hawaii County and its county council members as officials and as individuals, asking for injunctive relief against the helicopter programs.
“The County did not foresee the results of its marijuana eradication program,” Christie alleges, “such as hard drugs like methamphetamine filling the vacuum left by a shortage of cannabis, children made orphans because their parents have been arrested and or imprisoned, cars and homes seized, panic caused by helicopter noise and invasion, poverty, foreclosures, even death. They have not counted the cost, and we will force them to do so. This lawsuit is a template for what can be done to fight marijuana eradication efforts anywhere.”
Christie, who performs cannabis weddings and organizes marijuana law reform rallies across the islands, says he is not worried about possible retaliation.
“It’s all about metaphysics,” he says, referring to esoteric religious beliefs that undergird his activism. “You absolutely can take a bad situation and make something good come out of it.”
Pot For Pele
At the end of a verdant lane somewhere in Puna, Mickey sits in a lean-to guarding 78 marijuana plants scattered in growpots and in the ground on four meadowy acres.
His days and nights are spent in fear, his ears attuned for copter cops and “rippers” ? gangs of meth-headed kids affiliated with cops who come to steal what the cops can’t find.
When copters fly near, he runs a circuit throwing foliage on top of grounded plants while hiding potted plants under shadecloth. When rippers come, he hides in old cane with a walkie talkie and a shotgun. When they hear him cocking the big gun, he says, they haul ass.
Mickey grows Blueberry, Bubbleberry, Big Bud crossed with White Rhino, and a local specialty called “Puna Budder.” His plants thrive in a special mix of lava dust, seashell calcium, macadamia nut compost, and chicken manure.
He’s showing me how to remove pesky “budworms” that eat into his phat flowers and lay eggs, when his walkie-talkie crackles ominously. It’s a grower nearby, just robbed at gunpoint by five punks wearing ski masks. He warns Mick: “They’re coming up the road your way.”
“Get the fuck out of here,” Mick advises me, shaking my hand firmly, then running for his gun.
My car trunk is already packed with leafy lower branches, stems, and a few hermaphroditic flowers from Mick’s ongoing harvest. I grab my cameras in and speed away.
That evening, after bumping along a lava-strewn track to where Kilauea’s molten love pours from cracks in the earth, I stand with Mick’s plant entrails in front of an ever-expanding orange lava fissure.
“Take this herb as a gift to Pele,” I say, throwing the cannabis onto the lava. “Keep Mick safe.”
A billow of sulfur, heat, and ganja smoke rises up to choke me, and I fall backwards, knocking my camera off its tripod.
If I had fallen forward, I would’ve been a crispy critter, liquified and vaporized, part of the new Hawaii.
Interview with Hawaiian Governor Benjamin Cayetano
Hawaii is the only US state who’s legislature has passed laws to allow med-pot and grow hemp
A lot of people claim that the most reform-friendly US governor is New Mexico’s Gary Johnson. Johnson argues against the drug war, but he also tells people not to use marijuana.
Hawaii’s Democratic Governor Benjamin Cayetano, who leaves office in November after eight years of service, has been more successful than Johnson in implementing a pro-cannabis agenda.
In 2000, Cayetano signed the nation’s first legislature-initiated medical marijuana law. The previous year, he signed legislation authorizing scientists and private companies to grow Hawaiian hemp crops.
Critics say Hawaii’s med-pot laws and hemp program are seriously flawed, but many drug policy reformers laud Cayetano’s vision and courage.
Now on the eve of his departure from the governor’s mansion, Cayetano gave this exclusive interview to Cannabis Culture.
Cannabis Culture: Why did you support the industrial hemp and medical marijuana proposals?
Cayetano: I supported the industrial hemp project because it diversifies and brings back productivity to our agricultural lands. Industrial hemp is being legally grown in many countries, including the United Kingdom, and used to make a variety of products. I supported medical marijuana because I believe for some patients it relieves severe suffering from debilitating illnesses, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and AIDS.
Hawaii became the first state in the nation to receive a license from the Drug Enforcement Agency to grow industrial hemp in 60 years and we also became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical uses through legislation.
CC: Patients complain that Hawaii doctors are afraid to help them get medical marijuana licenses. They also do not like the law’s requirement that they register with the police.
The state has done all it can to alleviate concerns. It is clear in the program rules that doctors can only certify a patient who has a debilitating medical condition that can be alleviated by marijuana. If doctors are afraid to help patients get medical marijuana it is because marijuana continues to be illegal under federal law. The state can do nothing about federal law.
The Legislature gave the responsibility to the Department of Public Safety to carry out the implementation of the medical marijuana law. The department is doing a good job considering this is a new program without many examples in other states to follow. The department’s policy is not to volunteer information to other law enforcement agencies, but only to verify that a person is registered. There have been no complaints that the department has misused information.
CC: Many residents, especially those on the Big Island, say anti-marijuana helicopter patrols endanger humans and the environment. And some medical marijuana patients contend that police are stealing marijuana from state-licensed medical marijuana patients.
The law permits a patient and a designated caregiver to grow only seven plants between the two of them. If a registered patient or caregiver has more than seven plants they are no longer protected by our state law. The federal interdiction program coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Agency, FBI, ATF and the US Attorney’s Office only goes after large-scale illegal marijuana patches.
CC: Critics contend that state government has not adequately supported the industrial hemp project.
The Legislature passed the law I signed which allowed for the industrial hemp farm. In December 1999, I planted the first seeds and the planting is ongoing today. The project is being adequately supported.
CC: What have been the political losses and gains from your support of pro-cannabis legislation?