Green Harvest. Operation Wipeout. Grateful Meds. Which of these things is not like the others? The first two monikers are the nicknames of surveillance operations and raids conducted under Hawaii’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication Suppression Program. The third was a proposed Maui marijuana dispensary name. And the man who wanted to open that Maui marijuana dispensary was none other than a helicopter pilot who spent more than three decades working with law enforcement to destroy crops and bust growers of pakalolo, which is Hawaiian slang for marijuana.
Don Shearer freely admits to helping police departments find and eradicate numerous pakalolo patches on Maui and the Big Island. The would-be medical marijuana dispensary owner explained to MauiTime magazine that he participated in airborne pot busts practically since their inception in the islands.
“We’ve really been involved in that since the beginning. Tom Hauptman of Pacific Helicopters got going with it in 1982, ’83. He was the only one doing it then. But in 1985 we sub-leased to a company in Hilo flying over the volcano, which was erupting. Before I knew it I was agreeing to do marijuana eradication flights for the police there.”
Shearer bragged that during the heyday of the drug war in Hawaii, he and the police departments he worked with typically hauled in at least one dump truck full of cannabis plants every day.
“We’d fly to where the marijuana was growing and land as close to the spot as possible, if we could, and cut down the plants. Or if we couldn’t, we’d land nearby and our guys would get out. We’d then take off and drop 100 feet of rope. The officers would hook on, and then I would carry them over to the patches. They’d disconnect, and then I’d leave the area until they were done cutting down the plants, and then I’d fly back and pick them up.”
Green Harvest and Operation Rabbit: The scourge of pakalolo growers
Operation Green Harvest, in which Shearer and the National Guard were directly involved, started as an undercover operation on the Big Island in 1979. Within a few years, Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign was going full-tilt, and Operation Green Harvest was a statewide DEA operation with a very enthusiastic chopper pilot. Operation Rabbit was an on-the-ground undercover operation that targeted patrons of a fertilizer store in the Kona district of the Big Island and resulted in multiple arrests.
The extinction of Maui Wowie
In the early 1990s, Shearer cooperated with numerous government agencies to destroy countless pakalolo patches throughout the state of Hawaii. Many blame Shearer and his cronies for the near-extinction of the spicy Sativa strain known as “Maui Wowie.” The Operation Wipeout pilot did not disclose the kind of chemicals used, but in 2016, he did admit to spraying pot patches until every plant was dead.
“In 1990, ’91, we had Operation Wipeout. There were 13 agencies involved, including the Department of the Interior, the National Guard, the Army, and the DEA. We gridded the entire state of Hawaii into 10-kilometer squares. Then we did each square until there was no more marijuana. We started on the Big Island. It took us 16 weeks straight to do the state. We found patches the size of basketball courts. We got to the point where we developed a spray system. Now we have a spot-sprayer. I can spray a three-foot circle with no over-spray. Now we can just spray it, kill it, and move on.”
Zealous pilot terrorized island growers for over 30 years
A longtime Maui marijuana grower named Isaac described the terrorizing effect of Shearer’s helicopter surveillance and cannabis eradication to Big Buds magazine.
“During the peak of the helicopter drug wars, Hawaii drug warrior copters were flying day and night, as low as 50 feet off the ground in violation of aviation laws, scaring children and animals, invading everyone’s privacy, especially terrorizing Native Hawaiian communities, harming the environment and native animals, carrying state and federal police and military personnel who poisoned and ripped up hundreds of thousands of cannabis plants.”
Isaac, who is a disabled Vietnam vet, also offered his opinion about the helicopter pilot who aspired to profit from sales of the crop that he was so intent on destroying.
“Shearer is the last person that should be awarded a dispensary license — he’s ruined so many lives, destroyed so many plants and has poisoned the Earth. He’s the enemy to marijuana and its followers. What should be done is allow Maui growers the ability to cultivate and sell the fruits of their labor to the dispensaries. Nobody wants pot grown indoor under huge light in substrates from space — that have nothing to do with Hawaiian pot.”
Eight licenses to dispense medical marijuana in Hawaii were awarded
When chopper pilot Don Shearer, actor and Hawaii resident Woody Harrelson, Tetris publisher Henk Rogers, and 63 others submitted pricey, non-refundable applications to own and operate marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii, only eight permits were available statewide, and only two of those permits were for Maui marijuana dispensaries.
It is worth noting that Shearer told MauiTime that if he received a Maui marijuana dispensary permit, he would not hire cannabis users and that he would monitor his employees for drug use.
None of those licenses went to the pilot who destroyed countless cannabis plants
As of this week, two privately-owned companies have been licensed to dispense medical marijuana on Maui, and neither of them is Shearer’s proposed Grateful Meds dispensary. At the time of this writing, Maui Grown Therapies is accepting intake applications at their open shop at 44 Paa Street in Wailuku, but their display cases are devoid of Maui marijuana due to the fact that Hawaii does not yet have an approved cannabis testing facility. According to Herb magazine, the company that was awarded the second dispensary license is Pono Life Sciences.
[Feature Image by Den Potisev/Thinkstock/Getty Images]