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Meth, medical marijuana are separate issues

By Robert A. Collesano

LAST UPDATED: 1:59 a.m. HST, Sep 22, 2010

I used to work at the Maui County jail as the clinical supervisor of a substance abuse program there. When I worked there, the inmates indicated to me that the Meth Project's ads were very effective. They saw the ads on TV, during their free time. In an effort to enhance the chance of success for recovering inmates who were about to be released, I used Hawaii Meth Project videos in some of my presentations.

The inmates thought that the Meth Project's television ads would definitely have an impact on someone thinking of starting to use crystal meth, and might prevent someone young from initially starting to use the drug. Seasoned meth addicts, too, were impacted by the ads and reported that what was depicted in the ads was authentic.

I am suspect of the agenda of Jeanne Y. Ohta, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, who was quoted in the Star-Advertiser's article ("Sending a meth message: Does it work?" Sept. 19).

The DPFHI website ( reports that it is a " ... drug policy reform organization in Hawaii ... to safeguard the rights of sick and dying patients and their physicians under the state medical marijuana laws ... "

The DPFHI's motive, in wading in on this discussion, is pretty transparent, and thus should be suspect to anyone who knows what its agenda is.

I can see how the Meth Project ads might foster a negative public opinion toward illegal drug use. As a result, Ohta might be fearful that the Meth Project ads could negatively affect the DPFHI's efforts to enhance the use of medical marijuana in Hawaii.

Since 2005, The Meth Project (started in Montana) has gained nationwide attention for its uncompromising look at the use of crystal methamphetamine and meth's demonstrated negative impact on society.

Since about 80 percent of the men and women that I worked with at the Maui County jail were there because of methamphetamine use, Ohta and DPFHI should stick to their knitting. They should not be getting involved in a discussion regarding the findings of University of Washington graduate student D. Mark Anderson's economics paper and making bold statements to the Hawaii press regarding the efficacy of the Hawaii Meth Project. They should instead focus their attention on studies demonstrating the benefits of medical marijuana use.

The Hawaii Meth Project has only just begun its work of education here in Hawaii. The Meth Project is a research-based messaging campaign. The program, upon which it is based, has won 45 major advertising awards, including 11 Gold ADDY Awards, 19 Silver ADDY Awards, two Gold Effie Awards, and the Cannes Lions Award at the Cannes International Advertising Festival.

The two issues -- medical marijuana and methamphetamine use -- should be kept separate. They are two entirely different issues and DPFHI should back out of the discussion it started in the Star-Advertiser on Sept. 19.

Robert A. Collesano, of Maui, is a certified substance abuse counselor.

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