‘Epidemic’ shows ‘ice’
is everyone’s problem

If you believe only one person in Edgy Lee's newest documentary "Ice: Hawaii's Crystal Meth Epidemic," it's got to be no-nonsense Big Island Mayor Harry Kim.

Kim looks into Lee's camera to tell viewers: "Better wake up and look around ... stop your golf game ... stop just sitting there watching television. The message is, 'Wake up before you get hit in the face by a two-by-four.' "

Lee, who produced the $400,000 film with partner Jeffrey Mueller, screened the documentary yesterday at the Hawaii Convention Center for news media, state and county legislators, labor leaders, and several of the film's sponsors. Also attending were a few general managers from the nine local television stations that, in an unprecedented agreement, will all air the program 7 to 8 p.m. tomorrow without commercial interruption.

That hour of prime time will cost at least one station about $30,000 in advertising revenue, but it's money well lost because "ice" addiction and its related crime is sweeping through Hawaii's poorest and richest neighborhoods. To Lee's credit, her 60-minute film doesn't beat the viewer over the head with rhetoric or fear-mongering about what politicians, law enforcement, physicians and community leaders agree on camera is a crisis of terrifying proportions.

"Ice," narrated by former TV investigative reporter and now private investigator Matt Levi, begins calmly with local and federal law enforcement officials providing the statistics of what crystal methamphetamine costs Hawaii and the rest of the United States. There's a brief history of the drug, and scenes showing what ice looks like and how easily it's manufactured with over-the-counter ingredients. Local law enforcement authorities have found meth labs in hotel rooms, apartments, warehouses, garages, even SUVs near schools.

Ice experts say the ice problem began some 20 years ago and has grown because no one paid attention to it. That's helped contribute to Hawaii having one of the highest rates of ice use in the United States, with some 44 percent of males arrested in Honolulu last year testing positive for ice.

And the dramatic climb in crime rates on every island is related to ice, they say.

If Lee beats any theme into viewers' brains, it is that ice is everyone's problems, since taxpayers fund the courts, law enforcement, prison system, medical treatment and -- perhaps the biggest tragedy -- children removed from the home of their ice-addicted parents.

A shocking segment features a female Maui teacher and ice addict, married with children, saying "Everyone parties." Her kids "get showered and fed every day so what's the problem?" she says, cursing when the interviewer intimates she has a drug problem.

There are heartbreaking interviews of women whose children are in foster care because these ice-addicted moms couldn't care for their kids. A Child Protective Services worker is unable to hold back tears when talking about drug-addicted babies, or children abused and abandoned by ice-addicted parents.

Then there's the upper-middle-class 15-year-old Caucasian girl sitting in an upscale living room, explaining her former addiction to ice, which began at 13.

This remarkable and tragic film ends with pleas about ice's danger by Hawaii education, political and community leaders. The not-so-subtle message is that any remedy will require a massive effort with the involvement of every Hawaii resident.

And if that doesn't work viewers can remember a remark by Mayor Kim: "You have to be dumb, deaf and ignorant to not see (Hawaii) has a problem."


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