Senators Call on Senate Appropriators to Respect State Marijuana Laws

Sens. Mazie K. Hirono and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) urged Senate Committee on Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to include provisions that require the federal government respect states’ laws regarding the regulation of marijuana when finalizing fiscal year 2018 appropriations. Congress has until Friday, March 23, 2018, to craft final fiscal year 2018 appropriations bills.

The majority of states, including Hawai‘i, have some form of reduced restrictions on marijuana. Recognizing this, under President Obama the Department of Justice has issued a series of guidance memoranda over the last several years outlining a federal law enforcement priorities that provided state and local governments and citizens a framework upon which citizens rely to establish legitimate businesses. However, on Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, the Attorney General rescinded this guidance.

The Senators wrote that rescinding years of guidance has created “disruption, confusion, and uncertainty throughout the country. Citizens who have been acting in good faith based on federal and state assurances now feel exposed. This disruption may deny medications to the sick, push individuals back into illicit markets, and nullify the previously-effective regulations – all while thwarting the democratically-expressed will of the states.”

“It is our hope that the fiscal year 2018 appropriations will alleviate the turbulence the Attorney General’s abrupt decision has caused and that the appropriations will help preserve the strong regulatory frameworks the states have created,” the Senators continued. “Doing so will provide the opportunity to pursue federal legislation that both protects the legitimate federal interests at stake and respects the will of the states – both those that have liberalized their marijuana laws and those that have not.”

The letter was also signed by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Edward Markey (D-Mass.).

HPD Charge Man Wanted on Outstanding Warrant

Anthony Louis Gover

The Hawaiʻi Island Police Department has apprehended and charged a 58-year-old man who was wanted for an outstanding warrant of arrest for violating conditions of his release.

At 3:20 p.m. this afternoon, Feb. 13, 2018, Anthony Gover was arrested without incident at a business establishment in Hilo. He is currently being held without bail in the Hilo cellblock pending his initial appearance Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 14, in Circuit Court.

Police appreciate the public’s assistance for their calls on his possible whereabouts during that period.

This information was provided by the authorities. All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Plea Deal Offered to Man Facing 77 Years for Medical Marijuana Collective

A hearing held was held for Mike Ruggles, the man facing 77 years for attempting to start up a medical marijuana collective, this morning, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at the courthouse in Hilo on Hawai‘i Island.

The hearing consisted of a Motions to Compel, a Motion to Dismiss Due to Prosecutorial Misconduct as well as a Frye Hearing, in which the state offered Ruggles a plea agreement.

The state of Missouri prosecutors offered Galin Edward Frye two deals while seeking his conviction for driving while his license was revoked, but his lawyer never told Frye about the offers. Frye pleaded guilty to a felony charge and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Frye appealed, saying his lawyer should have told him about the previous deals. A Missouri appeals court agreed. Prosecutors contend that not knowing about the deals they offered doesn’t mean that Frye didn’t know what he was doing when he decided to plead guilty.

Prosecutor Rick Damerville spoke to Big Island Now after the hearing and explained the process of the Frye Hearing and how it is pertinent to this case.

In a written letter from the prosecutors office, Deputy Prosecuting Damerville offered the following plea:

Dear Mr. Ruggles:
Re: State of Hawai‘i v. Michael Doyle Ruggles, CR. No 15-1-0391

Pursuant to Rule 11 of the Hawai‘i Rules of Criminal Procedure, and a recent suggestion by the Court, the State of Hawai‘ij makes the following plea offer in the above styled case:

  1. Mr. Ruggles may conditionally plead guilty of no contest (for civil liability reason only) to:
  2. Count 3, the lesser included offense of Commercial Promotion of Marijuana in the Second Degree (knowingly possessing marijuana (cannabis) having an aggregate weight of two pounds or more, in violation of Section 712-1249.5(1)(a), HRS; or
  3. Count 5, the lesser included offense of Promoting a Harmful Drug in the Second Degree (knowingly possessing 50 or more capsule, and/or tablets and/or dosage units containing one and/or more of the marijuana (cannabis) concentrates, in violation of Section 712-1245(1)(a), HRS; or
  4. Count 6, the lesser included offense of Commercial Promotion of Marijuana in the Second Degree (knowingly possessing, cultivating, and/or has under his control fifty or more marijuana plants in violation of Section 712-1249.5(1)(c), HRS);
  5. and stipulate the forfeiture of the evidence recovered in this case, unless the State agrees to the return of specified items of evidence; In return, the State will agree to recommend 30 months of probation pursuant to Section 706-622.5, HRS and expungement provided Mr. Ruggles complies with the terms and conditions of his probation.  The State reserves the right to ask for up to one year in jail as a condition of probation; further the parties agree that a PSI will be conducted in this case.  If the PSI writer recommends a lesser amount of jail, the State will concur with that recommendation.  The State Reserves the right for other reasonable terms and conditions of probation including drug testing.
  6. Further, Mr. Ruggles may condition his plea of guilty or no contest reserving in writing the right on appeal from the judgement, to seek review of the adverse determination of the specific pretrial motions listed below, and if Mr. Ruggles prevails on appeal he shall be allowed to withdraw the pleas: (1) An adverse ruling on Ruggles’ motion to quash the warrant filed on February 2, 2016; (2) An adverse ruling on Ruggles motion to dismiss for vagueness and/or on the grounds of entrapment and/or for constitutional violations filed on February 2, 2016; (3) An adverse ruling on Ruggles motion in limine no. 1 to assert the affirmative defense of medical cannabis at trial.
  7. Should Mr. Ruggles enter a conditional plea guilty or no contest as described above, the State will agree to stay any sentence imposed pending appeal should Mr. Ruggles elect to ask for a stay.
  8. If Mr. Ruggles accepts this offer by pleading guilty or no contest as described above and then pending sentencing, inexcusably fails to cooperate in the preparation of the PSI report, or commits a new crime pending sentencing, then the State will not be bound to recommend the sentence described above and can ask the court to impose any legal sentence including up to ten years in prision.
  9. As part of this plea agreement, the State will dismiss the remaining counts of the complaint.
    This offer will remain open unless withdrawn in writing before acceptance.

Thank you for your cooperation,
Very truly yours,
Ricky R. Damerville
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney

HPD Identifies Man Found in Burnt Vehicle

The Hawaiʻi Island Police Department has identified the charred remains found within a burnt vehicle this past Christmas Day as that of 67-year-old Douglas Vernon Don of Kalapana. This identification was made via DNA.

At approximately 10 a.m. Monday morning, Dec. 25, 2017, police and fire units responded to a side road off 39th Avenue near Pōhaku Drive in the Orchidland subdivision to a reported vehicle engulfed in flames. After dousing the flames, firefighters observed burnt human remains in the vehicle. Investigators were unable to immediately identify if the remains are that of male or female.

Police have reason to suspect that this incident is related to evidence located at another property, also on 39th Avenue, but near Auliʻi Drive.

Detectives with the Criminal Investigation Section are continuing this investigation classified as a murder.

Anyone who may have information about this incident is asked to call the police department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311 or Detective Kayne Keli‘i at (808) 961-2378 or Kayne.kelii@hawaiicounty.gov.

HPD Investigating Death of Peruvian National

The Hawaiʻi Island Police Department is investigating the death of a 23-year-old male Peruvian national who died in the waters off of South Point Landing.

Hawaiʻi Island Police received an 911 call concerning two distressed swimmers off of South Point Landing at about 2:09 p.m on Monday, Feb 5, 2018.

When emergency responders arrived, an HFD Rescue Diver was deployed and the man was pulled from the water. He was later taken to the Kona Community Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7:25 p.m.

Police have opened a coroner’s inquest investigation.

Police investigating the matter determined that a 20-year-old female friend of the victim had been swept under a current while jumping off of South Point Landing, from an area commonly referred to as “South Point Cliff Jump.” The man jumped in the water to assist her and the two began to have difficulties getting to shore. The woman was able to get to an area where she could get out of the water. The man was not able to make it to shore.

Both visitors are from Peru. The victim’s name is being withheld pending notification of the next of kin.

The South Point area is a popular spot listed in several social media and tourist web pages; however, the area is not safe for jumping or diving into the water. Police are cautioning the public as warning signs are posted prohibiting jumping or diving into the water.

Interview with Man Who Faces 77 Years in Prison for Medical Marijuana Collective

Mike Ruggles is shown outside Hilo’s courthouse. Courtesy photo.

Fern Acres resident and medical marijuana activist Mike Ruggles will have a court hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, in the Hilo Third Circuit Court in front of Judge Nakamura. Ruggles is charged with running an “un-permitted medical marijuana dispensary” and is facing 77 years in prison.

After the police arrested Ruggles on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, the collective has since closed.

Ruggles daughter, Councilmember Jennifer Ruggles, posted the following to her Facebook account:

“Collectives are like farmers markets while dispensaries are like Walmarts for medical cannabis. I believe patients should options,” said Councilwoman Ruggles. “Come help support the man fighting so our island can have Collectives in addition to Dispensaries. Collectives are patient owned and supported, and support local patients and caregivers by allowing patients to transfer among themselves while Dispensaries are run by the rich for the rich,” she added. 

Supporters of Ruggles set up a crowd funding page where 70 people so far have contributed over $3,500.

Ruggles stated on Facebook, “I opened Hawai‘i’s first medical marijuana collective modeled after successful collectives in California, and we were raided a few months ago. While I’m facing 77 years in prison, this is an opportunity to set precedence for medical marijuana collectives in Hawai‘i.”

Big Island Now spoke to Ruggles at his house today in Fern Acres:

The following is a release that was sent to media following his arrest while he was still in jail:

Michael Ruggles, 58, a medical cannabis patient and activist who operates the Alternative Pain Management Pu`uhonua’s Collective out of his home in Fern Acres, was raided and arrested on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015.

Ruggles’ private medical cannabis collective provides a means for members to dispose of excess medical cannabis via transfer to other members who have also been authorized to use medical cannabis. Ruggles’ collective allows members to comply with the quantity restrictions set forth in Hawai`i’s medical marijuana laws and maintain an uninterrupted supply of safe medical cannabis.
The police served a search warrant and seized all the medical cannabis being cultivated on the property registered to multiple patients and caregivers, in addition to several Collective member’s excess medical cannabis in its various forms.

All business and tax records, members’ files containing protected health information, electronic devices, fine jewelry, professional music recording gear, other property resident firearms, his daughter’s college text book, a greeting card containing a personal message and some food were also confiscated from the collective. No property receipt was left by the police for the seized items.
Ruggles is being charged with 30 violations for allegedly operating an unauthorized dispensary even though the Pu’uhonua is operated as a collective. Bail has been set at $84,500.

The numerous collective medical cannabis patients who relied on the collective as a safe means to obtain their doctor approved medicine are now being forced to turn to the black market or go without.

The raid was based upon an undercover officer who presented a false doctor’s written certification that stated he was in the process of obtaining a medical marijuana card under an alias and was allowed to be processed as a member.

Under HRS 329 Medical Use of Marijuana Laws, conditions of use are defined and specify that patients must have a written certification under a physician to use medical cannibis and does not require the patient to register with the Department of Health and Department of Safety as a condition of use. It was under this premise, that the undercover officer was allowed to acquire medical cannabis according to a collective volunteer and member.

Ruggles’ is currently being held at a Hilo police cell block and his first court appearance is on Monday, Sept. 14, 2015 at 1 p.m. Friends who recently visited Ruggles say that he is in high spirits and prepared to defend the rights of medical cannabis patients to safely dispose and acquire medicine within the confines of the law.

Search Continues for Woman Swept Away in Flash Flood

The search continues for a woman that went missing during a flash flood in Hilo on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018.

The Hawai‘i Fire Department sent divers into the water near Pi‘ihonua Falls this morning, however, heavy rains created a danger for the divers as another flash flood could have happened at anytime.

The fire department suspended their search at Pi’ihonua Falls and moved their search down the river to the Boiling Pots area of the Wailuku River.

Officer of the Month: Officer Murray Toledo

The Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawaiʻi recognized South Hilo Patrol Officer Murray Toledo on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, as the East Hawaiʻi “Officer of the Month” for December 2017.

Officer Toledo, a 12-year veteran with the police department, was honored for his “outstanding application of his investigative and interrogation skills” while investigating a theft case that occurred on the Big Island but stemming from a burglary that took place on Maui.

On Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, Officer Toledo was assigned to a theft of services cases that occurred at a hotel on Banyan Drive in Hilo. It was reported that the suspect, after a stay at the hotel, attempted to use a stolen check to use as payment for his hotel stay. Officer Toledo was able to confirm that the suspect was a forme r employee of the business from where the check was stolen.

Officer Toledo also contacted the Maui Police Department and learned that the stolen check was taken during a burglary that occurred on Maui, and they were also investigating the series of stolen checks in their jurisdiction.

Officer Toledo arrested the suspect and obtained a confession, and he was subsequently charged with theft, forgery, and unauthorized possession of personal/confidential information. In addition, the suspect also confessed to being responsible for the burglary that occurred on Maui.

“Officer Toledo’s work ethic and exemplary application of his investigative skills are to be applauded,” wrote Lieutenant William Derr, who nominated Officer Toledo for the award. Lieutenant Derr added, “He is a prime example of how we hope all our police officers will conduct their investigations.”

As “Officer of the Month,” Officer Toledo is eligible for “Officer of the Year.

The East Hawai‘i “Officer of the Month” award is a project of the Aloha Exchange Club Hawai‘i.

Update on Hawi Standoff – Two Arrested

The Hawaiʻi Island Police Department is continuing an investigation which stemmed from a shooting incident in the Hawi area of North Kohala on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018.

Britney Wolf

At approximately 9:45 a.m., patrol officers responded to a report of a gunshot fired on a property located in the 55-3500 block of Alaalae Road in Hawi.

Officers determined that a 65-year-old male victim attempted to evict a 27-year-old male, identified as Lucas Wolf, and a 28-year-old woman, identified as Britney Wolf, from his property on Alaalae Road.

During the victim’s attempt to evict the couple, they exhibited aggressive behaviors towards the victim. As the victim retreated from the immediate area, Britney Wolf fired a single shot from a weapon. The victim was not injured, and he subsequently notified police.

Upon officers’ arrival, Lucas Wolf was located on foot and arrested for Terroristic Threatening in the Second Degree. Britney Wolf was located within a parked vehicle, however, she refused to comply with officers’ orders to exit the vehicle and made several statements which led officers to believe she was in possession of a firearm.

The department’s Special Response Team (SRT) responded to the scene and eventually, crisis negotiators were able to establish communication with the suspect who remained within the parked vehicle.

As this incident continued, the suspect fired two additional gunshots and as a result of one of the gunshots, the SRT’s armored vehicle, known as the BearCat, sustained damage.

At approximately 5:11 p.m., Britney Wolf surrendered to police and was arrested with no further incident of Terroristic Threatening in the First Degree.

Upon execution of a search warrant, detectives with the Area II Criminal Investigation Section recovered one shotgun, one rifle, one semi-automatic handgun, spent ammunition casings, and numerous rounds of unspent ammunition from within the vehicle the female suspect was located.

Lucas and Britney Wolf were transported to the Kealakehe Police Station as detectives with the Area II Criminal Investigation Section continue this investigation.

Alaalae Road was closed for the duration of the incident, however, has since been re-opened.

Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to contact police at (808) 935-3311, or Detective Jerome Manuel, via email at Jerome.Manuel@hawaiicounty.gov, or at (808) 326-4646 ext. 262.

This information was provided by the authorities. All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

BREAKING: Police Standoff in Hawi

Update (6:53 p.m.):  Hawai‘i Police report that Hawi Road, makai of Highway 270, in the North Kohala District, is still closed as a standoff in the area continues.

Residents in the immediate area have been asked to leave the area.

The incident allegedly stemmed from a landlord-tenant dispute. The suspect allegedly shot a gun at and/or towards the landlord earlier today.

Previous Post:

The Hawi Road, makai of Highway 270, in the North Kohala District is closed due to police activity.

The Hawai‘i Police Department asks residents to avoid the area.

HPD has confirmed that a woman has fired shots in the area and a police standoff is currently happening.

Big Island Now will update this story as more information becomes available.

Man Identified in Hawaiian Beaches Suicide

The Hawai‘i Island Police Department reports that an autopsy was held today on the man who shot himself, ending the standoff with police in Hawaiian Beaches earlier this week.

The standoff the Hawaiʻi Island Police Department had been investigating involving a lone, barricaded man in the Hawaiian Beaches subdivision in lower Puna came to an end with the subject taking his own life just before 1 p.m., today, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. PC: Anna Pelayo

Hawai‘i Island police have identified the man as 51-year-old Keith K. Cummings of Pāhoa. The pathologist was able to confirm that he died from a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The manner of death has been determined to be suicide.

Tuesday morning, Jan. 9, 2018 at about 12:20 a.m., patrol officers responded to a report of gunshots fired at a residence on Kamanu Street in Hawaiian Beaches. Upon their arrival, officers were confronted by a male with a firearm seated within a vehicle parked in the driveway of a residence. Several more shots were fired upon the officers’ arrival, though it is unclear if any shots were directed at the officers. The occupant of the residence was able to leave home safely and is physically unharmed.

The department’s Special Response Team responded to the scene and crisis negotiators established communication with the suspect who remained in his vehicle.

Hilo Attorneys Recognized for Assisting 1,000 People in 2017

Attorneys were recognized during the Hilo Self-Help Center Recognition Awards on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018 for providing free legal information to more than 1,000 people on Hawai‘i Island who sought assistance at the Hilo Courthouse Self-Help Center in 2017. This is the most the Hilo Self-Help Center has ever served in a single year.

Forty-seven attorneys were recognized during the Hilo Self-Help Center Recognition Awards. Courtesy photo.

The Hilo Self-Help Center was established in July 2012 as part of the Hawai‘i State Judiciary’s commitment to increasing access to justice in the courts. Since opening, more than 4,900 people have been assisted by volunteer attorneys providing legal information on civil matters, such as temporary restraining orders and divorce. These services have been provided at almost no cost to the state.

“I am grateful to the attorneys who volunteer at our Self-Help Centers, assisting individuals who are representing themselves in court,” said Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald. “The dedication and commitment of these attorneys has been essential to advancing our goal of ensuring that everyone has equal access to justice in our civil courts.”

Volunteers were recognized for their service by Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Third Circuit Chief Judge Greg Nakamura, Chief Court Administrator Lester Oshiro, and Deputy Chief Court Administrators Cheryl Salmo and Dawn West.

The individual attorneys who were honored are: Francis Alcain, Lincoln Ashida, Chris Bridges, Michael Garbarino, Kenneth Goodenow, Jo Anne Goya, Belinda Hall, Doug Halsted, Paul Hamano, Jill Hasegawa, Ray Hasegawa, Charles Heaukulani, William Heflin, Mahilani Hiatt, Ted Hong, Austin Hsu, Michael Kagami, Haaheo Kahoohalahala, Edith Kawai, Jo Kim, Nelson Kinoshita, Al Konishi, Peter Kubota, Breann Larios, Bruce Larson, Justin Lee, Dwayne Lerma, Shaunda Liu, Jacky Mena, Jeff Ng, Jennifer Ng, Michelle Oishi, Danny Patel, Melody Parker, Christopher Rothfus, Jill Razov, Joy San Buenaventura, Chris Schlueter, Steven Strauss, Andrew Son, Albert Thompson, Sylvia Wan, Molly Ward, Jennifer Wharton, Zachary Wingert, Jay Yoshimoto and Jennifer Zelko-Schlueter.

Also acknowledged was AmeriCorps Advocate Katie Kamelamela, who, through the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i, organizes the Self-Help Center at the Hilo Courthouse each week.

“I am pleased by the support the Hawai‘i County Bar Association and our local attorneys have given to this effort,” said Managing Attorney of the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii’s Hilo Office Laura Knudsen. “Every week, Hawai‘i Island residents use the Hilo Self-Help Center to gain information and receive procedural support in navigating the court system so that they may represent themselves in their legal affairs. With the donation of their time and expertise, today’s honorees are helping to make access to justice a reality for our Hawai‘i Island community.”

The Chief Justice and Knudsen also thanked the Hawai‘i County Bar Association, the Hawaii State Bar Association, the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i, and the Access to Justice Commission for their support of the Judiciary’s efforts to bring self-help services to Hawai‘i residents statewide.

Attorneys who would like to become involved with the Hilo or Kona Self-Help Centers are invited to contact the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i about the next volunteer attorney training. Information is available online.

For more information on the Self-Help Centers, visit the Hawai‘i State Judiciary website and click on the “Self-Help” tab near the top of the page.

IRS Advisory: Prepaid Real Property Taxes May Be Deductible in 2017 if Assessed & Paid

The Internal Revenue Service advised tax professionals and taxpayers today that pre-paying 2018 state and local real property taxes in 2017 may be tax deductible under certain circumstances.


The IRS has received a number of questions from the tax community concerning the deductibility of prepaid real property taxes. In general, whether a taxpayer is allowed a deduction for the prepayment of state or local real property taxes in 2017 depends on whether the taxpayer makes the payment in 2017 and the real property taxes are assessed prior to 2018.  A prepayment of anticipated real property taxes that have not been assessed prior to 2018 are not deductible in 2017.  State or local law determines whether and when a property tax is assessed, which is generally when the taxpayer becomes liable for the property tax imposed.

The following examples illustrate these points.

Example 1:  Assume County A assesses property tax on July 1, 2017 for the period July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018.  On July 31, 2017, County A sends notices to residents notifying them of the assessment and billing the property tax in two installments with the first installment due Sept. 30, 2017 and the second installment due Jan. 31, 2018.   Assuming taxpayer has paid the first installment in 2017, the taxpayer may choose to pay the second installment on Dec. 31, 2017, and may claim a deduction for this prepayment on the taxpayer’s 2017 return.

Example 2:  County B also assesses and bills its residents for property taxes on July 1, 2017, for the period July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018.  County B intends to make the usual assessment in July 2018 for the period July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019.  However, because county residents wish to prepay their 2018-2019 property taxes in 2017, County B has revised its computer systems to accept prepayment of property taxes for the 2018-2019 property tax year.  Taxpayers who prepay their 2018-2019 property taxes in 2017 will not be allowed to deduct the prepayment on their federal tax returns because the county will not assess the property tax for the 2018-2019 tax year until July 1, 2018.

The IRS reminds taxpayers that a number of provisions remain available this week that could affect 2017 tax bills. Time remains to make charitable donations. See IR-17-191 for more information. The deadline to make contributions for individual retirement accounts – which can be used by some taxpayers on 2017 tax returns – is the April 2018 tax deadline.

HPD Asking Public’s Assistance in Reporting Illegal Fireworks

Hawaiʻi Island police, concerned about illegal aerial fireworks, are asking for the public’s assistance in reporting information about the location of these dangerous and illegal pyrotechnic devices as well as the identity of people in possession of them.

An incident on Oʻahu just last New Year’s Day resulted in a woman’s death and her male companion being critically injured. These explosive aerial devices are extremely dangerous to anyone nearby and should only be handled by trained, licensed professionals. We have already had numerous reports of these devices being ignited on the island.

Hawaiʻi state law dictates that anyone purchasing, possessing, storing, setting off, igniting or discharging aerial devices, display fireworks or articles pyrotechnic without a valid pyrotechnic permit may face felony charges resulting in a five-year term of imprisonment if convicted.

Please remember that anyone igniting aerial pyrotechnic displays risk not only their life but also the lives of loved ones nearby and potentially neighbors as well.

Anyone having information about the location of illegal fireworks is asked to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311 or 911 if it is an emergency situation.

HPD Searching for Walbert LeeLoy

The Hawaii Island Police Department has reported that Walbert LeeLoy is missing. He is described as a 62 year-old Hawaiian male, 5’10”, 190 lbs, brown eyes, grey hair and has a tan complexion. He as last seen wearing a blue shirt and blue jeans.

Walbert LeeLoy

LeeLoy was last seen at his Hilo residence on Friday, December 22, 2017 at about 6:30 pm.

Police are concerned for his well being and if he is seen, ask the public to notify police on the non-emergency number 935-3311.

DOH Approves ALS as Qualifying Condition for Medical Marijuana Use

The Hawaii Department of Health has added Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis use. The decision was based on a rigorous review and analysis of written and oral testimony, a public hearing, and peer-reviewed scientific evidence.

Of the 29 states and U.S. jurisdictions that permit medical cannabis, 19 include ALS as a qualifying health condition.

Although the Hawaii Department of Health found little evidence to support the value of medical cannabis for ALS; DOH determined medical cannabis may be appropriate for patients diagnosed with ALS after receiving a comprehensive assessment by a patient’s physician or APRN and a risk-benefit discussion.

The Petition Process

In April 2017, the Department of Health opened the petition process to allow patients, physicians, and advance practice registered nurses (APRNs) to petition the department to add new debilitating medical conditions to the existing list of conditions that could benefit from the use medical cannabis.

Unlike prescription medications that undergo rigorous clinical trials for the treatment of certain health conditions before being released to consumers, medical cannabis does not have that same level of evaluation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Under Hawaii Revised Statutes, all new conditions must be thoroughly reviewed from an evidence-based perspective and be subject to a public hearing. This year, the Department of Health received two such requests and began the review process.

The other condition submitted for consideration was general anxiety disorder (GAD). The Department of Health declined this request because at this time there is inconclusive medical evidence that cannabis has beneficial use in the treatment or alleviation of symptoms of anxiety, social phobia, and social anxiety disorder (SAD), and no evidence specific to GAD.

In addition, because the prevalence of GAD, high rate of comorbidities, and dearth of scientific evidence to support the use of cannabis in the treatment of GAD, the potential for adverse outcomes is a public health concern.

Next Year’s Petition Process Deadline

Next year’s deadline to request the addition of new health conditions is Feb. 19, 2018. The petition form is available online for patients, physicians, and APRNs and must be submitted by the deadline to be included in the public hearings tentatively scheduled for May 2018. Any petitions received after Feb. 19 may be considered the following year.

Man Shot in Leilani Estates – Ongoing Hostage Situation

2:43 p.m. UPDATE:  The hostage situation has ended in the Puna District. A 33-year-old suspect has been arrested. Leilani Blvd.between Highway 130 and Hapuu Street remains closed.

Hawaiʻi Police are investigating an ongoing hostage incident in the Leilani Estates subdivision in Puna.

This morning at about 5:40 a.m., Puna District Patrol Officers responded to a call of a shooting on Nohea Street. A 25-year-old male victim was located shot several times about his body. That male victim was then transported to Hilo Medical Center where he remains in stable condition.

The suspect in this shooting was then located at a residence on Leilani Boulevard where he barricaded himself inside. This incident is currently being investigated as a hostage situation, and the Hawaiʻi Police Department Special Response Team and Crisis Negotiators are on the scene.

The suspect, in this case, is believed to be armed with a firearm.

Leilani Boulevard between Highway 130 and Hapuu Street remains closed and neighboring residents have been asked to evacuate. Police ask that members of the public avoid the area for their safety as well as that of the first responders in the area.

Hawaii Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument Regarding the Parental Rights and Responsibilities of Married Same-Sex Couples

On December 14, 2017, the State of Hawaii presented oral argument to the Hawaii Supreme Court in the case of C.C. v. D.D., arguing that same-sex spouses must be treated as the presumed parents of children born during their marriage, just as opposite-sex spouses are.

The case involves a dispute between a former married same-sex couple regarding whether C.C. is a legal parent of a child conceived using anonymous donor sperm and born to D.D. during the marriage. C.C. is asking the Hawaii Supreme Court to rule that she is not a legal parent and has no obligation to pay child support because she is not biologically related to the child. The State of Hawaii submitted a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of D.D., urging the Court to read Hawaii parentage law in a gender-neutral manner, as required by the Marriage Equality Act, and to apply the marital presumption of parentage equally to both same-sex and opposite-sex married couples.

Attorney General Doug Chin

Attorney General Doug Chin said, “The State has a strong interest in ensuring that the Marriage Equality Act is properly enforced and that both same-sex and opposite-sex married couples are treated equally, so their children have the same opportunity to receive child support.”

At oral argument, Solicitor General Clyde Wadsworth said to the Court, “All means all. The Marriage Equality Act mandates that ‘all gender-specific terminology’ in ‘all sources of law’ regarding the rights and responsibilities of spouses must be construed in a gender-neutral manner. . . . So the presumption of parentage must be construed in a gender-neutral manner and applied equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.”

The Court took the matter under advisement and will later issue a written opinion.

Alaska Woman Charged for Attempted Murder

Hawaiʻi Island police have charged an Alaska woman in connection with an Attempt Murder 2 investigation.

Crystal Young

On (December 15), officers were responding to a reported traffic casualty with injuries that occurred on the Old Airport Runway involving a vehicle and pedestrian. Information was received that the traffic casualty had started as a domestic dispute between an unidentified male and female. The male was struck by the female who was operating a black sedan.

After striking the male with the vehicle, the female drove to the dead end side of the park and fled on foot into the brush area where she was later located by police.

Police arrested the driver of the vehicle, 30-year-old female, Crystal Young of Anchorage Alaska, who was taken to the Kona cellblock while detectives with the Juvenile Aid Section continued the investigation.

The male, later identified as Emil Dushkin, is the boyfriend of Young, and was taken to Kona Community Hospital and then medevaced Queens Medical Center for treatment of his injuries where he remains in critical condition.

At 6:15 p.m., Saturday, (December 16), police charged Young with Attempted Murder II, Accident Involving Death or Serious Bodily Injury, Abuse of a Family/Household Member and Failure to Give Information or Render Aid. Her bail was set at $281,000. Young remains in the Kona cellblock pending her initial appearance scheduled for this afternoon, (December 18), in Kona District Court.

Anyone who may have information or witnessed this incident is asked to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311 or Detective Brandon Mansur of the Area II Juvenile Aid Section at (808) 326-4646 or Brandon.Mansur@hawaiicounty.gov or call Lieutenant Rio Amon-Wilkins of the Juvenile Aid Section at (808) 326-4646 or Rio.Amon-Wilkins@hawaiicounty.gov.

Hawaii Supreme Court Holds Oral Argument at Castle High School

The Hawaii Supreme Court held oral argument today at Castle High School with about 200 Oahu high school students in attendance.

Students from Castle, Farrington, McKinley, and Mililani high schools and Le Jardin Academy participated in the Judiciary’s Courts in the Community outreach program. They prepared to watch the oral argument by working through a curriculum developed by the Kamehameha V Judiciary History Center and the Students for Public Outreach and Civic Education of the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law. Attorneys from the Hawaii State Bar Association also volunteered their time to visit classrooms to assist in preparing students for the argument.

The case heard at Castle, CC vs. DD, is a parentage case involving a former same sex married couple. The issue is whether Appellant has a legal parent/child relationship with the child born to Appellee during the marriage.

The goal of Courts in the Community is to enhance students’ understanding of the Judiciary’s role in government and its function in resolving disputes in a democratic society. The Hawaii Supreme Court convenes in schools to hear oral argument in actual cases pending before the court. Since the program’s inception in 2012, 56 schools and about 3,900 students have participated. This is the 11th oral argument under this program.

“Our Courts in the Community program enables students to discover how our judicial system operates in practice,” said Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald. “Through this experience, we hope that the students realize the judicial process is designed to get to the truth by carefully considering both sides of the case. That understanding of the rule of law is vital to the future of our democracy.

“I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the teachers, the Hawaii State Bar Association, the Hawaii State Bar Foundation, and the volunteer attorneys who helped make this happen. These invaluable partnerships are what make the program a success,” added Chief Justice Recktenwald.

The Hawaii State Bar Association and the Hawaii State Bar Foundation generously provided the students with lunches and transportation to and from their schools.

“The Hawaii State Bar Association would like to thank and congratulate the many dedicated teachers, volunteer attorneys, school and court administrators, and especially the students, who together made the Hawaii Courts in the Community Supreme Court session at Castle High School such an overwhelming success,” said Howard Luke, president-elect of the Hawaii State Bar Association. “The attorneys arguing each side of the many unique, challenging issues presented in this case set the stage for a very spirited question-and-answer session following the Court proceedings.

“It was especially encouraging to see how well prepared and thoroughly engaged the students were, as demonstrated by their very thoughtful, relevant questions to the justices. We are grateful for this wonderful opportunity made possible by our Hawaii Supreme Court,” added Luke.

Oral argument was followed by two separate question-and-answer sessions for the students – one with the attorneys and another with justices.