Letter to the editor of the Hawaiian Star-Advertiser

Yesterday, the Hawaiian Star-Advertiser published the following opinion editorial, to which I respond below:

The national controversy about whether marijuana is a drug or medicine is being played out in Senate Bill 1458, which proposes a five-year pilot program to establish a marijuana dispensary based on the Colorado model.

While the bill ensures no prosecution to the licensed marijuana vendor, the operation is in direct conflict with federal law and could be shut down.

Also, there is potential for abuse, given this bill allows for not only Hawaii residents but tourists to use the dispensary.

Colorado law enforcement reports the lack of controls, increased crime and violence and the lowered quality of life in neighborhoods with dispensaries are hardly worth the projected tax revenues.

Most important, this bill sends the wrong message to our youth. It would erode prevention efforts by decreasing perception of harm and increasing access.

Alan Shinn
Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii

My response (emailed, but I do not yet know if they will publish it):

Dear Editor,

In response to Alan Shinn’s letter of April 17, 2011

The arguments Mr. Shinn raises against the adoption of a Colorado-style model for the regulation and taxation of cannabis in Hawaii are specious.

First, the argument that the proposed initiative is against federal law does not mean that the voters of Hawaii have given up their rights to self-determination. The American federal system allows for conflicts between state and federal laws to be resolved legally, though the courts, and politically, as voters across this brave land vote for different people and policies over time.

Mr. Shinn’s second point, that tourists may access Hawaiian dispensaries, is not an argument. In fact, this is a desirable feature, as tourism brings dollars and people to Hawaiian shores. In a recession economy, does Mr. Shinn want to pick jobs out of a hat instead?

Mr. Shinn’s third point is a dishonest one. Crime problems are invariably related to prohibition. Hawaii has the advantage of being geographically isolated, so Hawaiians should not have to worry about traffic between Hawaii and neighboring states.

Finally, Mr. Shinn assumes that parents should not have the freedom to raise their children as they please. Parents should have the authority to direct the education of their children insofar as health and lifestyle choices are concerned; the government has no duty in dictating what those choices may be.

Rather, it is our status as citizens that should empower us to dictate what our government should do to us. Liberty is America’s promise; it should not be our failure.

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