The Honolulu Weekly

Designer Drugs Masked As Bath Salts

Honolulu Weekly  (Cover Story)


The half-gram bottle of bath salts promises an “invigorating” and “energizing” experience. But the new designer drug, called MDPV (or “legal cocaine”) is sending an alarming number of curious teenagers and seasoned drug users to emergency rooms and mental hospitals throughout the country, according to the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, the poison control center for Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Colorado and Nevada. It reports that two weeks ago it had only three calls relating to bath salts across all five states. As of Feb. 16, however, that number had jumped to 13 calls.

The substance, disguised as “bath salts” or “plant food,” contains a toxic chemical called mephedrone and is deceptively marked “not for human consumption.”

“We are really alarmed,” says Alan Johnson, chief executive officer of Hina Mauka, a residential treatment facility in Kaneohe. “We haven’t seen cases of bath salt use yet but it’s a growing concern. It produces intense cravings very quickly. They inhale it, which makes it a lot worse. There are other agents in it that might be interacting with the drug but we don’t know because it’s proprietary information.”

“Bath salts have already been linked to an alarming number of ER visits across the country,” says Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in a recent NIDA newsletter. “Mephedrone presents a high risk for overdose. The [limited] information we have is worrisome.”

In Hawaii, local law enforcement officers on all the islands have reported mephedrone being sold as a new “ecstasy-like” drug on the street.

(Click here to read more)

Harvesting Hawaii’s Aquarium Fish

 Honolulu Weekly (Cover Story)


More than 150 years ago, Hawaii had some of the most well-managed fisheries in the Pacific. Portions of each island were divided into separate ahupuaa, which in turn were watched over by the konohiki, who managed natural resources and made sure that they were used sustainably.

“In the past, people would fish within their own ahupuaa and, as a result, you would fish wisely to make sure that you have enough fish for tomorrow,” says Alan Friedlander, a fisheries ecologist for the US Geological Survey. “Survival and subsistence living was paramount then. Now, management regulations have become quite lax and people no longer operate in harmony, but in opposition, to the environment.”

As a result, the aquarium fish industry–a modern industry based primarily on aesthetic pleasure–has grown.

Most of the sales of aquarium fish are to mainland buyers, and only a small portion (about 10 percent) of sales are to locals, says Randy Fernley, an aquarium fish collector and the owner of Coral Fish Hawaii, a tropical fish store in ‘Aiea.

Fernley, who claims he makes about $55,000 in a good year, says that his customers like to buy fish from Hawaii–especially Yellow Tang and Tang Kole, the two most fished species in the state–because of their beauty and because the fish are collected in a humane manner, according to Fernley.

“Hawaii is known to have quality fish–more so than any other area in the world–and they are caught in an environmentally friendly manner using no chemicals, poison or dynamite.”

However, Friedlander points out, most of these fish are rare and unique to Hawaii, purchased by customers who care more about the visual appeal of the fish than the longevity of the species.

“With rare and endemic species you walk a fine line of not only depleting certain populations, but of wiping out the species as a whole.”

(Click here to read more)

The Replacement

Rep. Derek Kawakami on his first days in the legislature

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on April 20, 2011–

qnafeat-the-replacementRep. Derek Kawakami was appointed by Governor Abercrombie earlier this month to serve as the replacement for former Rep. Hermina Morita, who was assigned to Chair of the State Public Utilities Commission. Though still relatively unknown in the state political arena, he has been involved in local politics for the last seven years, serving on the boards of the Kauai County Council, the Kauai Island Utilities Cooperative and, most recently, as president of the Hawaii State Association of Counties. After less than a month in the office, Kawakami is already vice chair of the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee and a member of the Finance Committee, Housing Committee and Water, Land, and Ocean Resources Committee.

As the legislative season draws to an end, the Weekly decided to check in with the representative to get to know this dark horse once and for all.

You’ve now officially been a state representative for nine days. How has it been?

This quote has been used around the capitol, especially with the freshman, and it describes the experience as “drinking water from a fire hydrant.” So coming in late into the game, and this is really late, it’s almost been like drinking water from Niagara Falls. The information has been overwhelming but there are so many people here with open arms and they are willing to share the manao very openly and freely. Because of that, I’ve been able to keep up as best as I can.

(Click here to read more)

Setting Boundaries

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on March 30, 2011–




In the midst of the sprawling metropolis that is Honolulu, it is hard to imagine a time when the entire island was divided into clearly marked ahupuaa. Now we can rely on districts, neighborhood divisions and city boundaries to tell us our location. Prior to the existence of our oh-so-helpful retroreflective 7-foot tall traffic signs, people relied on simple heaps of stones (ahu) topped with offerings such as kukui wood carvings to mark boundaries.

In an effort to raise awareness of ahupuaa and promote environmental stewardship, a grassroots effort has developed on the Windward coast to install ahupuaa boundary signs throughout the community. They are akin to the present-day concept of watershed areas and moku (a political district of two or more adjacent ahupua’a).

The idea for the project, known as the “Koolaupoko Ahupuaa Boundary Marker Project,” originated in the Koolaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club, which then persuaded a number of other Windward civic clubs–Kailua, Waimanalo and Manuanalua–to join in.

“It’s a cultural awareness program,” says Mahealani Cypher, project coordinator for the club. “Itʻs really to teach everyone–not just native Hawaiians–that these traditional land units were a good way for people to take care of their own backyards,” she says.

On Jan. 28, the first of 16 ahupuaa boundary markers was unveiled, marking the division between the Kailua ahupuaa and the Kaneohe ahupuaa. Although there are only 11 ahupuaa on that side of the island, duplicate signs are in the works to mark the boundaries at both mauka and makai points.

The signs, featuring a symbol of the traditional ahupuaa ahu, have been adopted by the State Department of Transportation (DOT) as the new state standard for marking ahupuaa, Cypher says.

Influenced by their efforts, a similar civic-club-sponsored project has sprouted up on the Leeward coast, which intends to work with the DOT to install ahupuaa boundary marking signs in the area. The project was funded by grants from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Harold KL Castle Foundation.

Book Buyers’ Guide


For stalwart book lovers who continue to prefer pages of bound parchment to electronic books, the Weeklyhas devised a list of the top bookstores–both used and new–around the Island. Nothing beats the smell of a book, the sound of turning pages or the satisfying feeling of last sentences.

Revolution Books

Just because this bookstore specializes in left-wing literature (i.e. communism, socialism, civil rights, etc.) doesn’t mean that’s all they sell. In fact, Revolution Books has one of the most varied selections on Oahu, featuring both new and used books in subjects ranging from poetry to local Hawaiian fiction to military history. Politics, however, is their specialty, reflected in the subdivision of genres like Chinese politics from 1950-1975; Marxist classics and the Bush years. The used book section has works from notable authors on both non-fiction and fiction subjects, and they cost only $1 or $2, depending on the size. (Click here to read more)

Learning About Lawmaking

Networking is the name of the game

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on February 9, 2011–


It’s 7:30am on a Saturday morning and Juanita Kawamoto is frying dough at the YMCA in Kailua. Using locally bought ingredients, she molds dozens of malasadas for the World Wetland Day fundraiser that will be held later that day.

Since more than 800 people visit the party, signing petitions, donating money and munching on malasadas, Kawamoto and her volunteers are busy discussing another topic: the mass e-mail they will be sending urging people to support Senate Bill 1156.

For the past 10 years, she has been working as a caterer and vendor for farmers markets throughout the island. But as time went by, Kawamoto noted the state’s increasing reliance on imported foods and decided that it was time to do something about the situation. Last August, she joined the Environmental Caucus (EC) of the Hawaii Democratic Party.

“I’m 50 years old and I know how to talk story so I’m going to make sure I talk about this with everyone I know,” she says. The only problem, admits Kawamoto, who describes herself as “a one-man show,” is that she lacks political experience and does not know the best way to promote her bill.

She’s learning to do this is by sending out e-mails to all of the members of the Environmental Legislative Network (ELN) to support Senate Bill 1156, which promotes the expansion of local farms and the use of their products by larger retailers.

(Click here to read more)

Hoary Bat Fans Rejoice

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on February 16, 2011–



The Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee wants YOU to embrace the Hawaiian hoary bat as your official state land mammal. Granted, it’s not as cute and cuddly as the monk seal, our current state animal, but here in Hawaii the pickings are slim. So slim, in fact, that the Hawaiian hoary bat is the only candidate for this empty position because it is the state’s only endemic land animal.

“This is not a new idea,” explains Republican State Sen., Sam Slom, creator of Senate Bill 878 on Hawaiian hoary bats. “We’ve been trying to get this [the designation of a state animal] changed for three years, but the monk seal has better publicity. It’s hard to compete with those cute little fins and big, brown eyes.”

However, Slom and hoary bat fans (think Batman fanatics and vampire enthusiasts) are in luck because last week SB 878 received a unanimous thumbs up in a committee vote.

Both the Hawaiian hoary bat and the monk seal are endemic to Hawaii–in fact, they are the only two native mammals on the island–but only one of them can truly be considered a land mammal, says Sen. Slom. Although a monk seal is a mammal, it’s a special type of mammal called a pinniped, which means that it’s fin-footed and semi-aquatic.

(Click here to read more)

Green Thieves, Beware

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on February 16, 2011–


OK, let’s be honest: The image of a robber lurking in the dark with an uprooted tree under his arm is quite hilarious. But, as Gertrude Stein would say, “…a theft is a theft is a theft.” In other words, it doesn’t matter what’s being stolen, theft isn’t cool.

Apparently, there’s a long history of plant thefts throughout the Islands, especially on the Windward side of Oahu, with Waimanalo and Kailua being two of the most heavily targeted areas, presumably because of the high number of nurseries and farms there.

“It’s something that doesn’t get a lot of attention traditionally,” says Rep. Chris Lee, a Democrat who represents Kailua, Lanikai, Keolu and Waimanalo, “but it’s a target because there’s a whole lot of farms in a small area, making it hard to track plants and agricultural commodities when they’re stolen.”

In response to the seemingly ceaseless thefts, Rep. Cynthia Thielen, a Republican who represents the Kailua-Kaneohe Bay district, introduced House Bill 12, which establishes a “break it and buy it” policy for those caught stealing.

(Click here to read more)

Free Space?

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on March 2, 2011–




With roughly 17 gambling-related bills facing the Legislature this season, it’s no surprise that bingo, as well a number of other gambling activities–a stand-alone casino, slot machines and video poker booths–have made their way into bills. If passed, House Bill 1225 would amend the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 to allow bingo conducted by a single licensee at a single location.

Rep. Faye Hanohano, D-Puna, claims she got the idea to introduce the bill from the native Hawaiian community and homesteaders who see bingo as an opportunity to supplement their income. If passed, 20 percent of the funds will go to the state general fund, 1 percent will go to a compulsive-gambler program, 4 percent will go to administrative purposes and the remaining 75 percent will go to the Hawaiian homelands trust fund.

Opponents of the bill warn that lawmakers aren’t taking into consideration the many unforeseen consequences of legalizing bingo.

“In this particular case, most of the harm would be to native Hawaiians and Hawaiian residents,” says Earl Grinols, professor of economics at Baylor University in Texas. Earlier this month, Grinols visited Hawaii to educate residents on the negative impacts of gambling, such as increased crime, loss in business productivity, illness, suicide, unemployment, bankruptcy and family dysfunction. He warns, “I have never yet seen gambling reversed anywhere and I have never yet seen gambling come in at one restricted level and remain there without it being increased.”

In other words, HB 1225 could very well be a gambling floodgate in disguise.

Shocking Stats

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on March 9, 2011–


In the last year alone, 13,886 people experienced homelessness and/or received shelter services in Hawaii–a 3 percent increase from 2009. For the last five years, the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Center on the Family has been issuing yearly reports detailing state and county statistics on homeless demographics and services to better track trends over time. The report has shown an increase in shelter capacity, funds and services. However, many of the findings of this past year’s Homeless Services Utilization Report are still shocking.

The city and county of Honolulu served the largest percentage of individuals in homeless shelter programs (74 percent), followed by Maui (13 percent), Hawaii (8 percent), and Kauai (4 percent). Of the total number of individuals receiving services, one-third were minors (ages 0-17) and more than half of them were below the age of 6.

Seventy-four percent of individuals using shelter services were unemployed. College-educated adults made up 23 percent of shelter populations and nearly half (47 percent) of the adults had high school diplomas or GEDs.


–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on March 9, 2011–


“Sustainable” might be the buzzword of the times, but when it comes to allotting money to fund these efforts, state agencies are hardest hit.

Each year, the state Department of Budget and Finance releases an annual variance report showing how much of its budget was spent by state agencies. Variance reports are supposed to be posted by Nov. 30, in advance of the legislative hearings on budget requests for the coming legislative session, but for the last two years these reports have been late.

Environment Hawaii details the many efforts it made to contact the department and find out where the results were. It finally heard back from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) in June 2010–roughly six months after the 2009 report should have been published–that it was “still in draft form and has not yet been finalized.”

To date, both the 2009 and 2010 budgets have been published (better late than never, right?) and you don’t have to search far to find out why the Lingle administration was so slow to release the report.

For the 2010 fiscal year, the state’s total operating budget was $10.8 billion, yet only $9.4 billion, or 87 percent, of the total budget was spent. For example, the Department of Agriculture (DOA) was given a budget of $40.6 million in 2010, yet only $26.3 million, or 65 percent, was spent. A casualty of these cuts was the DOA’s quarantine program (responsible for protecting our islands from invasive species), which only spent 56 percent of its allotted budget.

Other notable state agencies that suffered from these cuts are the Department of Health’s Environmental Management Program (which regulates wastewater, solid waste, safe drinking water, coastal water quality and air pollution), the Office of Planning, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Land and Natural Resources–all of which spent less than 50 percent of their expected budgets.

Although some may applaud these departments for underspending, the fact is that they underspent only because their total alloted budget was not released. Chances are these funds were withdrawn in an effort to reduce budget deficits, but questions still remain as to why health and environmental-related departments and offices were hardest hit.

Isle Icon Dies

–Published in The Honolulu Weekly on March 23, 2011–



It’s impossible to have grown up or lived any portion of your life in Hawaii and not know the creative talents of artist and art historian Herb Kawainui Kane.

Born in Minnesota in 1928, Kane was actually raised in Waipio and Hilo on the Big Island and in Wisconsin. After serving in the Navy, he studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1970, while in his 40s, Kane left a successful career as a graphic artist in Chicago to return to Hawaii, where he fell in love with Polynesian and South Pacific culture and history. His magnificent murals, artwork and articles about Hawaii’s history have graced the walls of the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts and the National Park Service.

In 1973, he helped found the Polynesian Voyaging Society and guided the building of the Hokulea, the first voyaging canoe built in the Hawaiian Islands in more than 600 years. His paintings depict Hawaiian myths and important historical events, such as Captain Cook entering Kealakekua Bay.

In 1984, he was celebrated as a “Hawaii Treasure” by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii. His work was so valued that in 2005, a thief used a circular saw to cut Kane’s 20-foot mural depicting Polynesian life in the 1800s from a wall at Punalu’u Beach. Kane passed away on March 8 at the age of 82 from an illness, and his many contributions to Hawaii will be cherished.

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