Tough Aloha

As Hawaii’s top federal prosecutor, Ed Kubo engages in some tough talk. Recall the “medical marijuana is dead” quote recently? When it comes to things like drugs or terrorism, Kubo is all business. But under that suit and tie is the relaxed aloha of a local boy

Wednesday - July 28, 2005
By Alice Keesing
E-mail this story | Print this page | Archive | RSS |

Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Butrick, Ron Johnson
and Mike Purpura discuss a case with U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo

As Hawaii’s top federal prosecutor, Ed Kubo engages in some tough talk. Recall the “medical marijuana is dead” quote recently?

When it comes to things like drugs or terrorism, Kubo is all business. But under that suit and tie is the relaxed aloha of a local boy who’s as ready to talk about Jasmine Trias as he is about constitutional rights vs. the Patriot Act.

Tough talk may be the prosecutors’M.O., but Kubo’s “got a big heart,” says friend and colleague Larry Butrick.

“He’s very concerned about his community,” says Butrick, the executive assistant U.S. attorney and criminal chief. “He spends more time in town hall meetings, and Read to Me sessions at schools, and at neighborhood meetings. Any kind of club or activity that wants him to come out, he goes.”

Kubo is particularly passionate about his local roots, which explains his desire to make Hawaii a safer place and enlightens the terse statements you see him making on the evening news.

And so, what about medical marijuana? Kubo kicked up some dust when he pronounced the state’s medical marijuana program dead as a result of a Supreme Court ruling.

The American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue over his remarks and there was some Internet chat suggesting he needed to smoke something to relax a bit.

Nonplussed by the reaction, Kubo sticks by his statement that medical marijuana is dead under federal law.

“We will continue what we have in the past going after big time dealers,” Kubo says. “We’re not intending to prosecute at all, and I will oppose using federal resources to go after the sick and dying.”

Kubo also says he does not intend to go after doctors merely for certifying marijuana for patients. But — and here is the “but”— if there is evidence that doctors are involved in the distribution of marijuana, or are providing certification for patients who are not legally qualified, they could be prosecuted like anyone else, he says.

This policy all could change, however, as a result of meetings in Spokane, Wash., last week. Kubo and U.S. attorneys from the 10 other medical marijuana states met to discuss the issue. If there is no agreement on how to handle it, the final say could go to the U.S. Attorney General, Kubo says.

The long and the short of it: The issue is still far from dead.

Given all the ruckus, you just have to ask Kubo if he ever tried pakalolo himself while attending Waipahu High School in the early ’70s when the drug culture was flourishing.

“No,” Kubo says. “And you know why? My father is a typical …” he stops and thinks hard, then continues with a twinkle in his eye “… strict, military, old-fashioned Japanese with a ‘you never bring shame to your family’ attitude. My mother was an expert in the art of ‘shame on you.’And in that strict household,my parents not only would have shamed me and I would have brought shame to my family, but my father would have done things to me that would have put me in a hospital. It was that fear factor of what would happen if I ever did, and so I never even experimented.”

“Even talking about it, look at this, my hands are sweating,” adds the 52-year-old, laughing.

Kubo is quick to add that, along with the strictness, there was plenty of love and compassion in his family. It’s this background that gives Kubo that interesting mix of samurai and social worker, which now makes him as ready to reach out a helping hand as the long arm of the law.

“He’s the proverbial nice guy, very low-key, extremely modest and he’s very well regarded by the entire law enforcement community,” says Rep. Barbara Marumoto, who initially recommended Kubo for the job.

While there is a tendency for tension and rivalry between the different law enforcement agencies, Kubo has gone out of his way to create an atmosphere of cooperation, says City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle. And that makes them more effective.

“With Ed what you see is what you get,” Carlisle says. “It’s not watered down by scheming or ambition or power and control issues. I think he’s pretty genuine in what he would like to do, and he goes ahead and does it in a straightforward way.”

Despite the recent debate over medical marijuana, Kubo’s No. 1 target has always been ice. Concerned by the devastating effects of a drug that has some Hawaii children addicted as early as sixth grade, Kubo has been a staunch proponent of not just prosecution but support programs and education.

And he believes the state is winning the war. Ice use in high schools is starting to drop, he says. More people are in treatment, “and we’re starting to see the ice prices go up, which means we’re starting to cut off the supply.”

Even if the community does manage to lick ice, new challenges lie ahead. Yaba, as in the Flintstones’Yaba Daba Doo, is a pill form of ice that already is encroaching on Hawaii shores.

Page 1 of 2 pages for this story  1 2 >

E-mail this story | Print this page | Comments (0) | Archive | RSS

Most Recent Comment(s):

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.
Sign Up for MidWeek newsletter Times Supermarket



Hawaii Luxury

Tiare Asia and Alex Bing
were spotted at the Sugar Ray's Bar Lounge