[ OUR OPINION ]
confirm drug-use numbers
CRYSTAL methamphetamine is enough of a problem in Hawaii without law enforcement officials exaggerating it. U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo and city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle have been flinging around figures that are unrealistically frightening. When pressed about the origin of the information, Carlisle cited Kubo and Kubo cited a 1999 Star-Bulletin story quoting a police officer, who said he was misquoted but didn't ask the newspaper for a correction. All this resulted in a grand hallucination. They need to return to Earth and try to restore their credibility.
Law enforcement officials have been saying that 30,000 Hawaii residents are hard-core "ice" users and 90,000 are recreational users.
We urge people who are misquoted or misconstrued by the Star-Bulletin -- as well as those who are cited correctly in conveying information later found to be erroneous -- to alert the newspaper so corrections or clarifications can be made. The misinformation that occurred in this case was cited over and over again by public officials who should have known better. It is an extreme example of the consequences of failing to correct mistakes.
This newspaper reported in December 1999 that Honolulu narcotics and vice Lt. Michael Moses estimated to the Legislature that Hawaii had 30,000 hard-core crystal meth users and as many as three times that many recreational users. Moses says he based his estimate on a study-in-progress by William Wood, a University of Hawaii sociology professor. However, Wood's own estimate was 8,100 hard-core users, extrapolated from a 1998 survey of more than 5,000 Hawaii residents. Moses said the Star-Bulletin got it wrong, but he didn't bother to set us straight. Our readers, including Kubo and Carlisle, remained misinformed.
Kubo began using the inflated figures in speeches about the crystal meth problem in Hawaii, and Carlisle did the same. "I'm not sure where it came from," Carlisle told the Star-Bulletin's Sally Apgar. "They're Ed's numbers." Kubo said Moses told him he had been "terribly misquoted" by the Star-Bulletin, but that other narcotics officers told him the estimates were correct, attributing them to Wood.
How far off are the numbers? The 30,000 figure represents about 2.5 percent of the state's population, and the 120,000 hard-core and recreational users combined would be 10 percent. By comparison, the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy estimated two years ago that 200,000 to 300,000 Americans were chronic amphetamine users, with 93 percent of them methamphetamine users. That is less than one-eighth of 1 percent of the nation's population. Hawaii's 'ice' problem undoubtedly is worse than the national average, but not 20 times worse.
In 1997, 22 percent of drug-treatment admissions in Hawaii were for methamphetamine, by far the highest in the country. However, if that figure reflected meth's share of the illicit drug market in Hawaii, and if it held steady today, it would mean nearly five times that many Hawaii residents are using illicit drugs -- about half of the state's population. Scrutiny of such estimates would have shown them to be farcical.