Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

Hawaii needs to
shave ice out
of the islands

It's ironic that the state with the most temperate climate in the country has a problem with ice. But Hawaii has the distinction of being the first state in which ice, a smokable form of the insidious drug crystal methamphetamine, took hold, as well as a state that continues to suffer the most from the drug.

If the devil wanted to invent the perfect drug for wrecking lives, it would be ice. Heroin is addictive but it's a downer. You never hear of someone holding his entire family hostage after shooting up heroin for five days. Ditto with marijuana. After five days of holding police at bay while smoking pakalolo, the only thing the perpetrator's going to want is a Subway sandwich.

Cocaine was too expensive to be completely evil. A lot of "professional" people were into cocaine in the '80s. Now all those people have not only stopped snorting coke, they've also stopped smoking cigarettes, drinking hard liquor and hitting the clubs. What the Colombians stuck in cocaine at the end of the '80s to turn an entire generation of budding degenerates into light-beer-sipping certified public accountants, I don't know.

Now, crack -- that was a drug the devil could get his teeth into. Crack was sort of the beta test version of ice. Crack was relatively inexpensive and could be smoked, which saved wear and tear on the nasal passages and blood veins. And it was addictive. So the devil was happy there. One problem with crack was that the high didn't last long. The other problem was that it made you stupid. So you had a lot of stupid people running around robbing, hooking and killing in order to get high several times a day. The effect of those kind of activities on neighborhoods was both dramatic and unpleasant. It was impossible to get a pizza delivered, for instance.

THEN THE ice-capades began, right here in Hawaii. The crystalline form of speed initially came from Korea and the Philippines. I covered some of the first ice cases as a reporter in federal court here. It was pretty exciting. Up until about the 125th case. Then it seemed every arrest involved ice. And it's only gotten worse.

What makes ice so insidious is that it has all the horrible attributes of crack, plus it will keep a user up for days. Users who stay awake for several days become psychotic and very disagreeable to be around. They tend to threaten their families, friends and police with firearms, and many of them have ended up being gunned down.

If they don't get shot, they go to prison for long periods of time. I knew this nice little kid who got into ice in his teens and is now doing a 25-year stretch. It's amazing that a chemical substance that originated in the Far East can pluck an otherwise normal kid out of Hawaii and drop him in a Texas prison. The devil must be proud.

I'm not sure what can be done to stop this ice-idemic. I wish it were as easy as slapping bumper stickers on cars that say "Only Idiots Do Ice" or "Ice Ain't Nice." Despite the famous "Just Say No" campaign, there's obviously a bunch of kids just saying yes to crystal meth.

I know this: Ice started in Hawaii, and we have an obligation to end it. We need a Hawaii Ice Solution to sweep across the country like a tidal wave of aloha. The swell starts here.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. E-mail


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