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Hawaii Police Campaign Against Medical Marijuana Laws

Hawaii Police Protest Medical Marijuana

Portion of anti-MMJ Police flyer.

Hawaii legalized the compassionate use of medical marijuana (MMJ), in landmark legislation, and passed medical marijuana laws over a decade ago. However, Hawaii’s law enforcement agencies have remained outspoken in their opposition to Hawaii's medical marijuana laws.

Hawaii's Narcotic Enforcement Division (NED), and all of Hawaii's County Police departments participated in distributing anti-medical marijuana flyers, which incorrectly state "MARIJUANA IS NOT MEDICINE."

Police also asked citizens to oppose medical marijuana legislation which raised ethics questions about police lobbying the public, and opposing Hawai'i's laws.

When police become political lobbyists it undermines the impartiality of the law enforcement departments. Especially when the Maui Police Department gets direct financial funding from the consfication of property during marijuana raids, and federal hand outs to fight the drug war.

An ominous precedent is set by allowing armed police officers to distribute political materials at public events, such as they did at the Maui County Fair, and at private businesses, such as Walmart.




Hawaii's law enforcement officials display confusion regarding medical marijuana laws:

The ACLU took action after reports that Keith Kamita, the head of DPS’s Narcotics Enforcement Division and Deputy Director for Law Enforcement for Hawaii State Department of Public Safety (DPS), incorrectly and improperly threatened and restricted a local physician wrongly informing him that house calls for medical cannabis patients were prohibited under state law.

Unlawful Medical Cannabis Policies To Be Revised, May, 2011.
Read more at >>


The Evidence of long history of Hawaii Police speaking out against Hawai'i's marijuana laws:

Hawaii's police chiefs and narcotics enforcement departments have long been outspoken in their opposition to Hawaii’s medical marijuana laws. In 2008, in testimony to the Hawaii legislature, Chief Thomas Phillips stated Maui Police do "not believe in supporting the Medical Marijuana Program in its entirety."

In January 2010, Maui County Police Chief Gary Yabuta said he believes (relaxed marijuana) measures, would send the wrong message to kids and damage neighborhoods.

View Maui News article, "Police pan pot proposals" (The Maui News, Feb. 15, 2011).

Hawaii's NED and police created and distributed political flyers, which stated “MARIJUANA IS NOT MEDICINE.”  The Maui Police Department inserted political requests for anti-marijuana legislative testimony from the public.

Anti-marijuana brochure

Maui police distributed anti medical marijuana flyers at community events and private properties, such as Wal-Mart, and the Maui County Fair. See photo at Maui News

anti-MMJ flier

ethics violations charges generate a series of cop-outs.

A formal complaint, filed by Brian Murphy, regarding the Maui Police Department’s protests against medical marijuana (MMJ) laws, and their political lobbying attempts to influence the 2011 Hawaii legislature have generated a series of copouts.

All ethics violation complaints have fallen on deaf ears. Governor Abercrombie sidestepped the issue by stating, "as Governor, I am not in a position to respond to county related issues." However, the flyer states it was created in cooperation with all of Hawaii's Police Departments and the State of Hawaii's Department of Narcotics Enforcement. It is clearly a Hawaii State issue that the Governor refused to address.

The Maui County Police Commission, the Maui County Board of Ethics, and Governor Abercrombie have all stated that they do not have authority to take any action regarding the complaint brought against the police protests.

The Maui County Police Commission, May 19, 2011, declined to take any action stating;

“The information you request is not within the purview of the Police Commission to provide. No investigation of your complaint will take place by the Maui Police Commission.” Read full response from Chairman Leil Koch.

The Maui County Board of Ethics, June 8, 2011, declined to take action stating;

“the Board finds this matter to be outside the scope of the Maui County Code of Ethics and therefore not within the jurisdiction of the Board. The Board believes that matters of the Maui Police are more appropriately heard by the Maui County Police Commission.”
Read full response from Chairman Michael Westfall.

Governor Neil Abercrombie, July 27, 2011, declined to take action stating;

"I understand your (Mr. Murphy's) issues are of great importance however, as Governor, I am not in a position to respond to county related issues, including issues regarding county regulations on protesting performed by police officers."
 Read full response from Governor Neil Abercrombie.

The Public speaks out Against Maui Police anti-Marijuana Politics

Concerned citizens are speaking out and asking serious questions in reaction to Maui Police handing out false and inflammatory pamphlets opposing Hawaii'is medical marijuana laws. The pamphlet states that "marijuana is not medicine" which directly contradicts Hawaii State law.

Who authorized armed Maui Police officers, in uniform, to hand-out government produced political material? Why and how did this happen? These are important questions that have been answered. There was never even an investigation.

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Read editorials to Maui News from concerned citizens, in reaction to Maui Police distributing anti-medical marijuana political flyers at Wal-Mart in Feb. 2011:

What is the real story behind pamphlets? Feb. 23, 2011

I saw a Maui police officer at Walmart handing out pamphlets and asking people to speak out against certain medical marijuana bills currently under consideration.

This Maui County employee, using a Maui Police Department cruiser, wearing a gun under color of authority, was handing out pamphlets funded by federal block grants and nonprofits. They included a message from Chief Gary Yabuta claiming that marijuana is not medicine despite state law and medical reports recognizing that marijuana is a legitimate medicine.

Are Maui police officers allowed to use county or federal funds to spread misinformation to their financial advantage? Do we want to allow our Police Department to intimidate us into creating a police state?

If you have ever complained to a police officer about a law, you almost certainly heard the cliche that the police do not make the laws, they only enforce them. What do we do now that they are trying to influence bills that protect and serve only the police?

What is the real story here? Is it all about MPD trying to protect its funding at the expense of Maui's medical community? Or is it about the millions of dollars in tax revenues that could save our schools and rescue our crippled economy?

We live in an ideal climate for cannabis cultivation, and that has given us this opportunity to create a model of both compassionate care and financial sustainability.

Brian J. Murphy

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Does marijuana have a medicinal value?

February 20, 2011, the Maui News

No medicinal value? Can someone please set me straight on this medical marijuana issue.

In the Feb. 15 article regarding brochures being passed out at a large retail store by our local police department, I believe someone states that this product has no medicinal value. The last time I checked out U.S. patent no. 6630507, belonging to our federal government, the patent information indicates that cannabinoids can be helpful as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.

Our government owns the patent. Again, set me straight. If the truth is to set us free, what is the truth?

Sharon Stefferud


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Police effort against marijuana raises questions. Feb. 22, 2011.

In response to "Police pan pot proposals" (The Maui News, Feb. 15):

Thank you for reporting this extraordinary situation. I am a widow, former registered member of Patients Without Time and a medical cannabis advocate, so I am afraid, intimidated and confused by Maui police handing out literature stating that marijuana is not medicine, which directly opposes Hawaii law which recognizes that cannabis is medicine.

My husband was a WWII veteran who was greatly helped by cannabis treatments before cancer claimed his life in 2007. I promised him that I would carry on his work to promote veterans rights and medical cannabis. How dare they call my husband a criminal? He was an American hero. Veterans stand up for freedom.

Armed Maui police officers giving out written requests to citizens asking them to oppose Hawaii law and legislative bills seems like it must break about a zillion laws. Who authorized these events at Walmart? Are they legal? Why were the officers armed? Why was the police car displayed? Who paid for it all?

Keep up the good work, The Maui News - there should be a full follow-up investigation.

Mary Overbay

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Police should not try to influence the law. Feb. 23, 2011.

A Feb. 15 Maui News article said that the police were passing out pamphlets opposing marijuana-related legislation.

I think that it is inappropriate for on-duty public servants to try to influence legislation. Policemen certainly have the right to voice their individual opinions on their own time, when not in uniform. But telling people how to vote on the public nickel is not what they are being paid for.

The article said that the pamphlets were paid for by a grant. Who provided the grant? Giving money to the police for the purpose of influencing legislation seems dangerously close to bribery.

The police are paid to enforce the laws, not to make them. I'm afraid that the chief of police has overstepped the bounds of his job in this case.

Mitch Bradley


Police effort has appearance of lobbying. Feb. 23, 2011.

I would like to comment on the Feb. 15 article "Police pan pot proposals." I have been told that the role of our police force is enforcement of the law and it is not their job to question the validity of a law but only to enforce it. It occurs to me that taking a "'proactive stance' to show the public its opposition to marijuana by reaching out to Maui residents at public places" is going beyond enforcement and entering the realm of politics.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding something here, but isn't passing out pamphlets a political act? Beside being outside of the role of enforcement, lobbying for or against any legislation that has a direct connection to the lobbyist's employment should be viewed as a conflict of interest at the least.

Are the police creating a political platform in order to influence the lawmakers and the public? Is this really part of their job? Just asking.

Lloyd Buell


How was effort by Police Department legal? Feb. 23, 2011

Maui Police Chief Gary Yabuta is opposed to the use of marijuana because of his need for job security. He must have victims to arrest in order to perpetuate the police state. I can understand why he wants the public to support this extortion enterprise.

I can't understand how is it legal for our public Police Department to actively engage in promoting propaganda and lies in the color of law while on the public's pay role.

The most valuable natural resource, medicine and sacrament is illegal because our health and freedom threaten the government's tyranny. The USA has more political prisoners than any other nation.

It is true that free thinkers and pot smokers don't make good slaves.

David Starsoul


Lobbying should not be part of officers’ job

March 3, 2011, the Maui News

It is entirely reasonable and appropriate for the Maui police chief to voice his opinion about legalization of medical or nonmedical uses of marijuana. I am very disturbed, however, to hear that officers are being assigned as political lobbyists (The Maui News, Feb. 15).

Whatever your opinion about the bill, you can't believe that supporting or opposing legislation should be part of their job description.

Robert Durant



Police time, energy can be better spent elsewhere

March 9, 2011, the Maui News

There are issues on which the police may publicly advocate with impunity but the use of medical marijuana is not one of them.

Under Hawaii law, qualified citizens may apply for and receive a medical marijuana license for the relief of pain and other maladies under a physician's oversight. Ergo, not a law enforcement matter.

Police time, energy and presence might be better spent at the front door of our schools rather than shopping centers.

David L. Florence



Hawaii medical marijuana law confuses, contradicts

August 6, 2011, the Maui News

Does anyone know if medical marijuana in Hawaii is really legal or not?

The law is clear that medical marijuana is legal in Hawaii. However, the sale of all forms of marijuana is not legal in Hawaii, including seeds and sprouts.

How can legal cannabis patients grow plants with no seeds? What are they supposed to do, go to the Maui magic marijuana seed fairy?

Legitimate cannabis patients are confused. Official Hawaii police departments/Narcotics Enforcement Division brochures unequivocally state, "Marijuana is not medicine."

Perhaps you remember, in February, The Maui News published "Police pan pot proposals," which reported about the Maui Police Department's anti-medical marijuana lobbying efforts, at Walmart.

This police program seems to be illegal, public-funded lobbying to me, but what can we do? My inquiry to the Governor's Office in May has not yet generated a response.

I would deeply appreciate anyone, including any staff member of The Maui News, answering the decade-old question: Is there any procedure to "acquire" legal medical marijuana in Hawaii or not?

My husband was a disabled World War II veteran and a medical marijuana patient. He died of cancer in 2007, and I promised him I would continue his support of compassionate programs for medical cannabis patients.

Mary Overbay




HI Legislature

Maui County Citizens for Democracy in Action 2016