A 51-year-old Maui man was the target of Maui Police Department’s Crime Reduction Officers on Wednesday, May 29, after police officers executed a search warrant on a Ha‘iku residence and “recovered” 76 cannabis plants, over a gram of processed cannabis, and drug paraphernalia. Two juveniles were also found in the house, MPD reported.
Harry Pahukoa III was arrested on charges of commercial promotion of marijuana in the first degree, promoting a dangerous drug in the third degree, promoting a detrimental drug in the third degree, and endangering the welfare of a minor in the second degree. His bail was set at $10,000.
Pahukoa could face a maximum of 20 years in prison for commercial promotion of marijuana in the first degree (a class A felony), five years in prison for promoting a dangerous drug in the third degree, and 30 days in jail for promoting a detrimental drug in the third degree, local criminal defense attorney Wendy Hudson told me. However, she added, all charges are probationable, meaning Pahukoa could instead get up to two years in jail and 10 years of probation for commercial promotion, one year in jail and four years probation for promoting a dangerous drug, and five days in jail and six months probation for promoting a detrimental drug.
“Typically, a defendant can usually get probation and jail instead of prison but it depends on many factors,” Hudson said.
“While there is a lot we do not know about the circumstances of the arrest, the plethora of charges involved highlights the need to reform our state cannabis laws,” commented Carl Bergquist, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai‘i. “Just like when the state decriminalized drug paraphernalia in 2017, the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai‘i believes that the penalties for possession of cannabis plants and processed cannabis should be reduced, if not decriminalized outright.
“As originally written, HB1383 that is currently on Governor Ige’s desk, would have done just that – striking the ‘commercial promotion’ offenses entirely and replacing other cannabis criminal penalties with a system of fines. We believe this is more appropriate given the nature of cannabis. Beyond that, the creation of an appropriately regulated legal cannabis market in Hawai‘i is needed, and could help undermine the black market of which this arrest appears emblematic.”
Nikos Leverenz, the board president of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai‘i, agreed that cannabis laws need reform.
“The mere presence of cannabis should not constitute child endangerment any more than a well-stocked liquor cabinet,” he said. “Excessive criminalization is a longstanding feature of a drug war that reflexively prioritizes the pursuit of incarceration over individual and public health. Statewide arrest data over the past decade attest to the disproportionate treatment of Native Hawaiians in the ongoing policy disaster of cannabis prohibition. One hopes that Hawai‘i can soon get to a point where cannabis production, distribution, and consumption can be moved out of the shadows and into a well-regulated marketplace.”
Indeed, while the U.S. Census estimates Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders made up only 10.2 percent of Hawai‘i’s population in 2018, data from the state attorney general’s latest (2017) “Crime in Hawai‘i” report found that 25 percent of those arrested for manufacturing and selling cannabis were Native Hawaiian. Of those arrested for cannabis possession, 29.2 percent were Native Hawaiian.
Compounding the inequality is the system of cash bail, which discriminates against individuals based on their ability to pay. In a 2018 report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Hawai‘i titled “As Much Justice as You Can Afford: Hawaii’s Accused Face an Unequal Bail System,” the organization stated, “Even though Hawai‘i law and due process require that at a minimum, ability to afford money bail be considered, our research shows that ability to pay is rarely, if ever, considered in determining the appropriate bail amount… Bail schedules [i.e., ‘an established financial amount for specific charges or classes of charges’] unconstitutionally discriminate based on indigence and deny pretrial release to those who cannot afford to pay the fixed bail amount, even if they pose no flight risk.”
This is problematic for a number of reasons, the first and most glaring being that the cash bail system is responsible for “Around half of the people sitting in Hawaii’s jails [who] have not been convicted of the crime for which they have been charged,” as the ACLU reported. That contributes to the “about 11,000 people in Hawai‘i alone [who] are booked into local jails at a cost to the state of around $60 million per year.” The result is not only increased taxpayer expense, but overcrowding in jails resulting in unsafe and inhumane conditions, which have reached breaking points in recent months at Maui Community Correctional Center with inmate riots and protests.
Second, basing freedom on one’s ability to pay disproportionately impacts communities of color and Native Hawaiians. “In Hawai‘i, the consequences of pretrial detention fall disproportionately on Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, who are more likely to be arrested, detained, and unable to afford money bail,” the ACLU wrote.
So, in addition to the cannabis laws resulting in disproportionate arrests of Native Hawaiians, the following system of cash bail further impacts these communities. As a 2018 report by Hawai‘i’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism found, median per capita income for Native Hawaiians, Samoans, Tongans, Marshallese, and Filipinos (and all race groups except for white, Japanese, and Okinawan) fall below the median per capita income for the total population. Being priced out of bail can mean prolonged incarceration (while not being found guilty of any offense), causing further disruptions to families and communities, including loss of income, housing, employment, and children. At best, it can mean taking out loans and becoming burdened by debt and interest.
And lastly, the schedule of cash bail based on offenses is, put simply, nonsense. Pahukoa had his bail set at $10,000 for farming cannabis, a nonviolent offense. Meanwhile, in April, Jonathan Todd, the now-resigned former liquor commissioner, had his bail set at $1,000 after being arrested for threatening to shoot up Maui Lani Kaiser Permanente. Former Corporation Counsel Patrick Wong was released on $1,000 bail shortly after being arrested for abuse of a household member. With public safety being one consideration in cash bail schedules, ask yourself: Which of these arrestees would you rather have back on the street?
Personally, I’ll take the pot farmer.
Photo 1 courtesy County of Maui
Photo 2 courtesy unspash:get budding
Photo 3 courtesy pixabay:tdfugere