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Hawaii: Drugs and overcoming abuse

When you think of Hawaii, you imagine beautiful beaches, clean air and sunshine. You think about the waves and surfing, not about the potential to end up in the hospital for an overdose. Yet, Hawaiians have a crisis on their hands with drug abuse on the Islands.

Hawaii is diverse when it comes to its wealth, ranging from people of great wealth to those in poverty. Tourism defines how much many people can earn in a year. Diversity shows through the range of ethnic groups. One thing everyone has in common is that they live in the methamphetamine capital.

It's believed that methamphetamine made its way to the islands through Asian communities. Today, it's pervasive throughout the culture. The National Drug Intelligence center has stated that ice methamphetamine is one of Hawaii's greatest threats. It's not alone.

Other drugs that are found easily on the islands include cannabis, cocaine, heroin and opioid pain killers. Combined, the collection of serious, illegal and often dangerous drugs result in criminal activity, injuries and deaths. Between 2009 and 2010, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that a relatively high portion of Hawaiian residents took illicit drugs at 8.76 percent.

Does Hawaii offer alternative penalties through drug courts?

The good news for anyone who is arrested for using or possessing drugs is that there is a drug court in Hawaii, which means there may be an opportunity to receive an alternative sentence to one you may have otherwise received without the option. Drug courts usually prefer to place individuals into drug abuse and treatment programs instead of prison, encouraging them to give up the negative habits that got them where they are today.

Alternative penalties for drug crimes aren't for everyone, and there are usually restrictions on who can enter the programs. First-time offenders generally have the opportunity to go through this court and to seek alternative penalties, but others may be able to as well.

With the way that drugs impact the islands, there is no question that people who use or abuse drugs need to receive help, not further punishment. For those who face charges, it's typically a better outcome for everyone if that person can receive appropriate care instead of being placed in a prison with no addiction treatment options. Addiction is a disease that is pervasive throughout Hawaii and the United States, but the courts have a chance to help eliminate it.

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  • HSBA Hawaii State Bar Association
  • Judiciary State Of Hawaii
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  • United States District Court, Northern District of California
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