By the narrowest of margins, the Aloha State's Big Island Hawaii County Council has rejected a state and federally funded marijuana eradication program known as "Green Harvest." The action came during a council meeting last week, when the council tied 4-4 on whether to continue to support the widely criticized program. The tie vote meant the motion to accept the funding failed.
By the 1990s, council members heeding public complaints began expressing reservations about the helicopter missions. In 2000, they rejected $265,000 in federal eradication funds, two-thirds of the program's money that year. But the following year, they once again accepted the full amount offered.
But last week's vote means the council will say "no thanks" to $441,000 in state and federal funds for "Green Harvest." It also means the county will save the $53,000 from its own budget that would have been its share of the operation's financial burden.
Last month, the council had narrowly approved "Green Harvest" on a 5-3 vote, but that vote had to be redone because the council failed to publish the legislation in local newspapers, as required by law. That provided the opportunity for Councilman Angel Pilago to change his vote and kill the program.
"This will have long-term impacts," Pilago said. "When we institute programs we, the county government, need to look at if they are detrimental to people's rights and the health and safety of the community. That's what we do," he told the Associated Press after the vote. "It's about home rule," he said. "The county must be assertive and aggressive and not defer certain powers to the state and federal governments. We must not cede those powers."
Pilago is running for mayor of Hawaii County, and his vote on "Green Harvest," as well as his support for a lowest law enforcement priority initiative currently underway there, could help him draw a contrast between himself and incumbent Mayor Harry Kim, who is a "Green Harvest" supporter.
"My position is no secret," Kim told the AP. "I support eradication, as long as it's done in a way that is not harmful to people who should not be harmed, as far as noise and catchment systems and all those concerns. I'm against all drugs. Marijuana is an illegal drug."