Group wants vote on pakalolo issue
A Big Island nonprofit has about half the needed signatures
HILO » A Big Island group wants to add an initiative to the November ballot making marijuana busts the lowest priority for county police.
Project Peaceful Sky organizers have collected more than 5,000 signatures in support of their ballot initiative. But they'll need to get 4,800 more in the next several weeks to have voters consider their proposal on Nov. 4.
If approved, the new law would leave enforcing laws against marijuana to each police officer's personal discretion.
It would also direct the Hawaii County Council not to accept funds for marijuana eradication.
"We're already on top of the deadline," said Adam Lehmann, organizer of the nonprofit Project Peaceful Sky, but he added, "I think the people here really want this."
The purpose of the law is to show, over time, how much money will be saved by not actively enforcing marijuana laws.
The theory is that police will have more time and resources to focus on serious crimes, the courts will have fewer cases and more prison cells will be available to house more dangerous criminals, Lehmann said.
"I just feel there is a large group of people who are tired of seeing our money misappropriated from schools and health care to wage a military-style war on a plant," Lehmann said.
But Pat Nakamoto, the election program administrator, doubts the group will be able to gather the signatures they'll need in time for the deadline.
The county elections office must send the ballot initiative to the state Office of General Elections by Sept. 5.
To meet that deadline, the Hawaii County Council must make the first of two required readings of the petition on Aug. 13 and Aug. 27.
To get on the council's agenda, the petition must be completed by Aug. 1.
Before that can happen, the signatures must be verified -- and the county elections office has 20 business days to do that.
If the effort comes up short on valid signatures, Lehmann's group will have 10 business days to gather more signatures on a supplemental petition.
Lehmann said the initiative would not decriminalize marijuana. Mainland communities that have approved similar measures include Seattle; Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Oakland and Santa Monica, Calif.; Hailey, Idaho; and Missoula, Mont.