Senate, House confront
‘ice’ use with legislation

The bills promote treatment
and tougher penalties for sellers

State Senate and House members moved quickly onto the battlefield yesterday by passing bills to combat the state's crystal methamphetamine, or "ice," epidemic.

Legislature 2004
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State Legislature: Bills
& Hawaii Revised Statutes

"I hope it does and I hope we do it," said Senate Majority Leader Colleen Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua).

House Bill 2003, HD1, won approval in the House 37-10 with four representatives absent. The vote on Senate Bill 3233, SD1, was 21-3 with one senator absent.

Yesterday's votes move the bills from the originating bodies to the other house for more public hearings. If no changes are made to the bills, one of them can be forwarded to Gov. Linda Lingle for her approval well before May 6, the last day of the legislative session.

Democrats made ice legislation a priority this year, and "the chairs were told to really resolve their differences early on so we can act on the legislation," said Rep. Scott Saiki (D, Moiliili-Kaimuki), House majority leader.

Highlights of the bills are:

>> Emphasis on treatment for students, first-time drug offenders and parole and probation violators.
>> Higher mandatory minimum sentences for ice trafficking.
>> Tougher penalties for manufacturing and distributing ice.
>> Opportunity for families to obtain court-ordered drug treatment for addicts.
>> Zoning law changes to allow drug rehabilitation homes in residential areas.

Rep. Mark Jernigan (R, Kainaliu-Honokohau) voted against the bill because a provision requires employers of 15 or more workers to provide at least one hour of drug abuse prevention training per year.

Violators face fines of up to $500.

"I cannot support getting tough on employers," he said.

House Judiciary Chairman Eric Hamakawa (D, Hilo-Kurtistown) said lawmakers attempted to include the business community in crafting ice-fighting legislation last year.

"We went to the Chamber (of Commerce of Hawaii) directly to ask them to participate. They flatly refused," he said.

Rep. Colleen Meyer (R, Laie-Ahuimanu) opposed the bill because it does not give law enforcement more authority to combat ice and gives judges the ability to sentence first-time drug offenders to probation even if they have other felony convictions.

"This bill is a get-out-of-jail ticket," she said.

The bill also removed the mandatory minimum sentences for ice possession.

Rep. Blake Oshiro (D, Aiea-Halawa Valley) defended the shift toward treatment with less emphasis on punishment.

"What we've seen is that that does not work. That has only exacerbated the problem by sending more people and more people to prison whereby they don't get any treatment," he said.


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