Marijuana eradication: Law enforcement takes on daunting task

Sunday, August 1, 2010 at 11:45pm
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Lt. Dennis Kent circles the helicopter in a slow turn about 300 feet over a Cumberland County landfill, a spot where he’s previously found what he’s looking for today.

The front doors are off the helicopter to allow a better shot for a photographer’s lens. A crosswind blows through the cockpit, followed closely by the loud chop of propellers smacking the breeze. Whiffs of rotting trash pass through the cabin.

Below, several shades of green coat the ground, and native plants of various shapes spot a hillside, but there’s no sign of the illicit target of today’s operation. Kent flies on.

Miles away, he slides the Bell Jet Ranger helicopter — painted in Tennessee Highway Patrol black and gold — back into the slow-spotting circle over a different green hillside, this one spotted with a few large, sun-bleached rocks.

“There it is, right next to that big, white rock. You see it?” the pilot asks, as he tilts the copter sideways for a better view.

No.

It takes trained eyes to spot marijuana plants from hundreds of feet above. Some pilots look for a shade of green that stands out from the other plants in an area. That can be tricky and unreliable. Kent is looking at the plant’s shape. That knowledge and ability — the keen eye — comes only from experience. From hundreds of feet up, this veteran pilot of the Governor’s Task Force on Marijuana Eradication spots a white dusting on the plants, the telltale sign of cultivation. Growers use the white powder Sevin Dust to keep bugs off their valuable crops.

With eyes on the prize, Kent notes the coordinates. The next move is the cavalry’s.

Ground control

The Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopters provide the air support for the task force, which was the result of an executive order signed by Gov. Lamar Alexander in 1983. The task force consists of members from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Highway Patrol, the Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Tennessee National Guard, which also provides air support.

All of the agencies contribute ground resources, including vehicles and manpower, while the TBI (and periodically, the ABC) provides investigative resources. Local law enforcement organizations can also pitch in as needed.

The majority of the task force flights are concentrated during the summer growing months, but the force operates year-round and is constantly investigating grow operations throughout Tennessee, according to TBI’s T.J. Jordan. The group is split up into three teams — one for each division of the state.

The program is almost fully funded annually by $780,000 from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Domesticated Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program. That’s enough to cover the travel (including hotels and per diem), equipment and operational expenses for the task force, Jordan said. The only costs not covered are the regular salaries and use of the vehicles, which the state would be underwriting with or without the program, he said.

There’s a good reason the state gets federal cash for such a project. In 2005, the Office of National Drug Control Policy labeled seven states — California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia — as the primary states for marijuana cultivation. They’re known as the “M7 states.” According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, which uses data from the TBI, Tennessee eradicated more than a half million indoor and outdoor marijuana plants in 2008. More than 350,000 of those came from one piece of terrain in Cocke County.

The intelligence center, citing 2008 data from the DEA, states “eradication of indoor and outdoor plants in Tennessee (539,370 plants) accounted for 7 percent of all plants eradicated in the United States (8,013,308).” That year only California (5,322,053 plants) and Washington (580,415) ranked higher.

In 2008, about 82 percent — or 442,351 plants — of Tennessee’s marijuana found and destroyed outdoors came from Cocke, Cumberland, Wayne, Lawrence and Hickman counties, according to TBI data provided to the federal government.

The same data showed that only about 100 indoor plants were rooted out in 2008.

Indoor eradication efforts come from law enforcement intelligence gathering and are much less frequent.

“The other side of it is that people are moving indoors when they grow pot,” Jordan said. “And when they do go indoors and grow pot, a lot of times they are growing the marijuana for the purpose of being to able to produce a higher THC content” — THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol), of course, is the chemical compound in marijuana that produces the “high.”

Marijuana usually stays at a steady price unless it’s hydroponically grown — using nutrient solutions instead of soil — with higher THC content, which can draw $3,000 to $5,000 per pound, Jordan said.

“Does our program impact the overall pricing of dope in Tennessee?” he asked rhetorically. “Probably not. It may affect the availability.”

So is it necessary to take to air with helicopters and arm teams of men on the ground to fight marijuana growing across the state?

Jordan is confident efforts to grow marijuana in Tennessee would spin out of control without a program such as the one he oversees.

“We’re a successful program,” he said. “We’re limited in resources. We’re not getting all of the dope that’s being grown in Tennessee — that’s a given.”

Wasted effort?

But then there are those who say the task force’s efforts are a waste of law enforcement resources that ultimately aren’t having the desired effect of curbing drug use and are unfairly criminalizing medical patients, whom they say can benefit from legal, monitored use of marijuana.

Paul Kuhn, who sits on the national board of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and is a member of the organization’s Tennessee chapter, said eradication efforts don’t appear to have an effect on the drug’s overall availability.

“These programs have not been effective in curtailing supply in any state that I’m aware of,” Kuhn said. “It’s affected job creation, and no law enforcement agency is going to turn down federal money, so sure, when the feds from the DEA offer funds, a kind of free money, for eradication you buy your helicopters and send them up in the air. But are you really having a meaningful impact on curbing drug use? No, I don’t think so.”

Bernie Ellis, an epidemiologist with a master’s degree in public health education who now works with states and national organizations to create and promote legal medical marijuana programs, found himself the target of one such task force operation in August 2002.

“I grew and provided cannabis to essentially terminally ill patients for around 17 years,” Ellis said. “I decided that if I was going to grow it to use myself, which I did to help with fibromyalgia and degenerative joint disease in my hips and spine, if I was made aware of anyone else who needed it I would make it available to them free if I had it.”

Three days after Ellis said he refused to sell his marijuana to a local drug dealer (whom Ellis believes tipped off authorities), two of the task force’s helicopters and its men on the ground swooped in to raid his Maury County farm.

They found 7 to 8 pounds of usable marijuana on Ellis’ farm. For that amount, Ellis was sentenced to four years probation and 18 months in a Federal Bureau of Prisons halfway house in Nashville. Just last December, a court ruled he had to turn over to the feds 25 acres of his land worth between $150,000 and $200,000 for the marijuana found on it.

‘Illegal smiles’

As a public health epidemiologist, “Much of my professional work over the last 20 years has been researching substance abuse as a public health problem, so I really sort of have a foot in both worlds,” Ellis said.

He wrote and, along with Kuhn, spoke on behalf of the Safe Access to Medical Cannabis Act. The bill, which aims to create a tightly controlled yet patient-friendly state medical marijuana program, surprised its supporters with the dialogue it created in Tennessee’s House of Representatives last session. It floundered in the Senate, and its backers decided to pull back and regroup for another session with the understanding that it could take several years to get the bill passed.

According to NORML’s website, 14 states have legalized the use of medical marijuana. Ellis said another 14 states have pending legislation regarding the programs. California voters could take one step further Nov. 2 when they’ll vote on The Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Initiative of 2010, which would essentially allow anyone older than 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use and to grow up to 25 square feet of it per residence.

To Ellis, who believes at least the medical use of marijuana should be allowed, eradication programs are an unnecessary overreaction.

“This whole notion of things spinning out of control [without the task force’s efforts] — to me what’s out of control is the disproportionate nature of the relatively benign nature of cannabis versus the pretty Draconian response to cannabis.”

But Ellis doesn’t see the issue as one between law enforcement and pot growers.

“I know they’re doing their job, but I’d certainly rather they’d be spending their time arresting child abusers and drunk drivers than people who are suffering from illegal smiles, which is basically what pot is all about.”

After reassessing and strengthening the Safe Access bill, Ellis, along with Kuhn and other supporters will look to reintroduce the bill next legislative session.

Asked if legalizing marijuana would sweep the legs out from under the illegal drug trade and the money made by it, Jordan pointed to the illegal trade of prescription pills.

“Pills are legal all day long,” he said. “You can find them in your mom and dad’s medicine cabinet, in your medicine cabinet, in your grandma’s medicine cabinet. There’s still an illegal drug trade as it relates to pharmaceutical drugs.”

But as it is, Jordan and the task have a job. Marijuana, whatever it’s used for, is still illegal.

High stakes

In late June, a small convoy of task force members from the various agencies headed out from a staging area — this time it’s the Crossville Memorial Airport-Whitson Field — to the general location of where the pilots spotted pot plants before.

Four utility-sized pickup trucks play follow the leader, hauling trailers loaded with ATVs and coolers. The coolers are packed with water, tea, bread, turkey, roast beef, cheese, pickles, mustard, cookies, and so forth, because lunchtime could come in the middle of nowhere.

The vehicles are marked with stickers showing a pot leaf circled in red with a red bar crossing through the iconic image. On the back of a trailer, a large white sign reads “Police” in black lettering — just so there’s no confusion.

On this particular operation, Lanny Janeway leads the way, winding the convoy down state highways and back roads, and telling of dangers in the line of duty.

The value of each marijuana plant to its grower, along with the amount of time, money and energy expended, means sometimes growers go to great lengths to discourage or outright prevent the task force — or anyone else — from destroying their crops.

Task force agents face the potential for booby traps. Sometimes it’s a punji pit, a dugout hole filled with sharpened stakes pointed straight up and covered with leaves or brush. Sometimes it’s a tripwire connected to explosives; agents tripped one such device several years back, but brush and limbs smothered
the explosion.

Sometimes it’s a set of fish hooks hung at eye level. Sometimes it’s just a man with a gun.

During an operation in 2005, as Kent circled the Bell Jet Ranger over a crop, the grower decided to pop off some rounds into the side of the chopper. Under the hum of the engine and the whir of the blades, Kent didn’t realize he was a flying target until the ground crew radioed the information. The heat-packing grower apparently neglected to consider a possible nearby cavalry, which promptly moved in for the arrest.

Though the dangers can’t be written off, they’ve become less frequent over the years, as the task force continues to refine its operations.

“Because we’ve had issues with them in the past, we go into every patch like there’s a booby trap,” Jordan said.

Trailblazers

As the convoy snakes along the highway nearing the entry point, the chopper hovers overhead.

“There you are,” Janeway calls over the radio. “I’m out your left window.”

The eye in the sky gets a visual on the men on the ground and dictates the last few turn-by-turn directions off the highway, onto a dirt road, around a field and up a hill. Here, it turns out, is the best spot to park the trucks and unload the four-wheelers.

It’s the job of the task force pilots to guide the ground crews in through the path of least resistance, and they know they’ll hear about it afterward if the trek goes otherwise.

From a clearing along the dirt road, the men fire up the four-wheelers and set out for the pot patches with directions still coming from above. The four-wheelers plow over brush as deadfall — fallen tree trunks and limbs — and large, disguised rocks threaten to buck the riders. Soon the thicket is too dense for driving.

A few hundred feet in the air, the blanket of vegetation appeared relatively tame and manageable. It isn’t. From the ground, it becomes apparent the situation is drastically — painfully — different.

ABC Special Agent Cary Webb heads into the thick of the brush, reaching over his shoulder and grabbing the handle of his machete, a 2-foot-long blade of necessity for the trek ahead.

Even on this day, with temperatures in the upper 80s, gloves, long sleeves and long pants tucked into Danner boots with their high, stiff ankle supports and reinforced soles aren’t a bad idea. Copperheads don’t always yield their position to drop-in guests, Webb warns.

As he blazes a trail through the vegetation, it’s a slow, deliberate step-by-step march through blackberry briars and other prickly plants that reach out and latch onto clothing and skin without bias.

After a few pauses to redirect the path based on direction from the circling helicopter overhead, Webb reaches a small opening surrounding the big, white rock, and there it is: a patch of 13 six-foot-tall plants with the infamous leaves.

The marijuana plants are neatly arranged, glazed with Sevin Dust and encircled by chicken wire at their bases. All the hard work, by both the growers and the hunters, culminates unceremoniously with a few tugs and — rip — the plants disconnect from the ground with the roots intact. A few machete chops and the roots are left behind.

Webb lays the plants in a neat bundle and wraps them in twine. After a brief pause for breath, he shoulders the bundle and heads out the way he came, this time with the burden of the plants and a path only slightly visible from the trek in.

After dropping off the haul at the trucks, the task force must make another, steeper pass at a different patch a little further down the hill. That yields another bundle of 15 plants.

Is it worth it?

“What we generally say — and I think this is conservative,” Jordan said, “is that if one plant is eradicated basically that’s equivalent to a pound of pot. Cultivated marijuana like we’re getting generally sells for anywhere from $600 to $800 a pound.”

The numbers are conservative because a plant could yield more than a pound or the quality could dictate a higher value, Jordan said. But by crunching the numbers of an $800 plant multiplied by the 500,000 plants Jordan said the task force destroyed last year, the total hits roughly $400 million of street value.

“That’s the impact we’re having,” he said. “At the end of the day, the amount of money that we spend per pound of pot that we eradicate is about the least amount and best money you can spend for drug enforcement.”

But it’s still worth it for growers, obviously. If one plant can draw anywhere from $600 to maybe $1,000 based on yield and quality, a small crop could provide a nice supplemental income, a down payment or a steady supply for the grow-your-own contingency.

The down side for law enforcement is that prosecuting growers is difficult. It’s even a bit of a reward when a prosecution results from the discovery of an operation, because even finding a patch of marijuana not far from a building doesn’t make it easy to bring charges against someone.

For Jordan and the task force, it usually comes down to not only the location of the operation but also being able to prove a property owner was in on it or even knew about the operation, since growers don’t necessarily ask permission to grow illegal plants on someone else’s property.

One man made it easy a few years back, when agents found a few rows of pot growing alongside cucumber plants. Agents were able to pin down the grower by simply following the garden hose back to the house to which it was connected.

‘Drive-by dope’

For the task force’s last run of that June day, Kent guided the men on the ground to a spot not far off Interstate 40 and the roadside restaurant where the men had lunched on a previous trip to Cumberland County.

The trucks pull into a driveway and around the back of a house, where a small office and a large garage sit. A company that builds trusses occupies the two buildings, and behind the larger building there’s a hillside with a wide dirt clearing heading down it. On either side of it are tall patches of overgrown plants. At first glance, it’s just a bunch of perfectly legal overgrowth.

“They’re in pots,” says the voice from above.

As the men move in closer, black pots on the ground begin to appear through the overgrowth. The potted marijuana plants are ripped up and their roots are chopped off as the men stop to pop tart blackberries into their mouths, still making their way through the hillside patch.

It’s what the guys on the task force call “walk-up dope” or “drive-by dope,” no four-wheelers necessary. The plants are piled up, concentrating that distinct, pungent smell sometimes described as skunky, like the grass seats at a Lynryd Skynyrd concert.

There are about 30 plants in the pile: perhaps $24,000. As the men haul them back and toss them in the bed of one of the trucks, a large woman in a pink top and khaki shorts listens to Janeway as he explains who they are and why they’re there.

There’s a look of disbelief on her face while she stares into the truck bed full of pot. It’s not hers, she says. “Y’all can drug-test my whole family.”

The guys get back in their trucks and start to drive away. With a glance back at a car parked in front of the truss company, Janeway observes, “I’d say it was going to pay for that orange Challenger back there” — manufacturers’ suggested retail price for a base model 2010 Dodge Challenger: $23,695 — “or make a good down payment on it at least.”

Even still, the task force isn’t about prosecution per se. As the name of the program that funds it — the Domesticated Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program — suggests, it’s about squashing the grow efforts before the illegal weed hits the market.

“Our effort in Tennessee on a day-to-day basis when we’re out there in the heat faced with the dangers of people getting hurt and possible booby traps,” Jordan said, “it’s our intention to make it a bad day for pot growers when we swipe their efforts before they make it to the streets.”

Landing prosecutions would be nice for the men who regularly put themselves on the line, Jordan said.

“But at least if we’re able to eradicate, or through our efforts cause somebody not to grow it because they don’t know when we might come swooping down on them, then we have suppressed marijuana growing.”

67 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 8/2/10 at 5:06

Long article on the hugh expenditures and manpower used on a worthless endeavor. The war on drugs has lasted for 20 yrs + and by most reasonable accounts has been a total failure for everyone except for the full employment of law enforcement. Serious criminals committing armed robbery, murder, kidnapping, etc are released on short sentences inorder to make room for someone growing pot. A long flawed priority!

By: Kosh III on 8/2/10 at 7:21

Legalization now!

By: bccoolj on 8/2/10 at 7:27

Keep it illegal!!

By: stevebest2 on 8/2/10 at 7:37

Tennessee should take a hint from California who legalized and tax it so we can get out of debt! I think California brought in 1.4billion last year from taxing it alone!
If it was regulated the same way, Tennessee could possibly be out of debt within 2 years and we wouldn't need the $780,000 to get rid of something that can bring in 10 times that amount and not have to rely on other sources! Or use that money to concentrate on getting rid of more destructive drugs like Methamphetamine and Cocaine!!!
I also believe in the medicinal properties of it as far a pain, nausea, and especially loss of appetite!
Let's get smart and follow California's example and not need any outside funding!

By: TakePrideInNash on 8/2/10 at 8:18

If your screen name has "skeptic" in it, you might be paranoid.

Keep it illegal!

Take a hint from California? Lol!

By: Walter Sobchak on 8/2/10 at 8:22

These are your tax dollars at work people. What a wasteful and worthless endeavor. The medicinal properties of this flower have long been researched and proven. If this substance were patentable, it would have been legalized long ago. Big Pharma would have made sure of it. All of these resources should be used to fight the growing meth problem. Children dying of various cancers from coming in contact with fumes from meth labs etc. and we're spending a million dollars in a futile attempt to eradicate a plant that's full of natural anti-oxidants and analgesics. Absolutely backwards and dumb!

By: Walter Sobchak on 8/2/10 at 8:25

And ANYONE who refutes any of the medicinal data on Cannabis is simply ignorant.

By: ddeere on 8/2/10 at 8:48

It is sad to read this article…..it is like watching the diligent Law Enforcement (LE) work in black & white photos and kinescope films of the 1920’s busting stills and “Speakeasies”…….and the history will be the same.

Last Monday, Rasmussen reported the results of a survey which showed that more Americans favored the legalization of Marijuana (MQ) than were against it 43%:42% and 65% felt it would be legal within a decade. The next day, Rasmussen went on to report that by 3 to 1 Adults felt alcohol was riskier than MQ, 50%:17% and 46% felt smoking cigarettes were more dangerous.

Currently 17 states have legalized “Medical MQ” where a “Prescription” from a physician for use, let’s say insomnia, allows you to legally purchase. Entrepreneurs in CA have made this very convenient; e.g. get your Rx, scan it and e-mail it to a site and then select from a “menu” of options (pay by credit card) and the “Rx” will be delivered to your door, all completely legal.

The Justice Department under Obama and Holder have stopped enforcement of Federal Laws; i.e. MQ as an DEA Schedule 1 drug substance (illegal, NO medical use).

In November, a referendum goes before the people of CA to “fully” Legalize and tax MQ for adults, dropping the “medical pretense” and it looks like it will pass.

With the above poll numbers, do not expect the current administration to “enforce” Federal Laws prohibiting it and many of the other states will follow suit.

TN is “not an island”….nor is any state, and considering that >65% of ALL criminal activities involve illegal drugs and 2/3 of this is MQ, BILLIONS of $$$ will be saved and BILLIONS of taxes will be collected from legalization.

The ONLY reason that criminalization has been maintained this long is due to the Law-Enforcement-Judicial (judges & defense Attorneys) “vested financial interest’ in maintaining the status quo; e.g. 70% of TN Public defenders time is spent on “drug case” and ~40% of rural/suburban police budgets are directly related to drug enforcement with MQ accounting for +80%.

Again, sad to see such dedicated professional chronicled in this article “fighting windmills” that the larger society does not agree with fighting anymore

By: AmyLiorate on 8/2/10 at 9:06

BINGO Govskeptic and Steve!

That is $780,000 that would have been much better spent on rehab. It's time to pull the cops away from victimless crimes and focus on real crime where people have been injured or had property stolen/damaged.

End Prohibition Now

What drives this is plunder? The cops like to confiscate cars and property via pot busts. If it didn't generate revenue at auction they would not care half as much.

There is a two way street here; the booby traps are because of the police.
"...through our efforts cause somebody not to grow it..."

There wouldn't be booby traps if it was legal to grow. Farmers would just put up a fence and grow it right in the open. If someone was sneaking in they could call the sheriff.

Cops and helicopters wouldn't be in danger for such petty things.

By: AmyLiorate on 8/2/10 at 9:30

"70% of TN Public defenders time is spent on “drug case” and ~40% of rural/suburban police budgets are directly related to drug enforcement with MQ accounting for +80%."

WOW, imagine if 70% of their time was spent on buglars, rapists, murderers and the like. I wonder how much more thorough those investigations and prosecutions would be.

Maybe the true victim of drug laws are the people who suffer from criminals that would have gotten more or faster attention if the police weren't chasing down pot growers!

By: Blanketnazi2 on 8/2/10 at 10:33

By: AmyLiorate on 8/2/10 at 10:30
Maybe the true victim of drug laws are the people who suffer from criminals that would have gotten more or faster attention if the police weren't chasing down pot growers!

Yep, i totally agree with that.

By: dargent7 on 8/2/10 at 11:03

The COPS used to do these "sweeps" in Hawai'i all the time. Meanwhile, you've got lunatics, crazies, nut cases, robbing tourists daily. Car break- ins, credit card theft, home invasions, and crystal meth "labs" on every street corner.
If California legalizes the "personal consumption" law this Nov. I'm outta here!
Marijuana is a PLANT. It's a herb. It cannot kill you like alcohol, cigarettes, meth, crack, heroin, cocaine.
It's benign. It helps AIDS people and others who cannot tolerate the noxious effects of 95% of the garbage the big pharmas mfg.
My God, people. Wake up.

By: TakePrideInNash on 8/2/10 at 11:44

Walter maybe you are the ignorant one. I've heard debates on this issue. There is no proven fact that this illegal drug does anything that a prescribed LEGAL drug would not do. It is also said that this illegal drug is addicting and causes cancer. Those who want it legalized have no concern if it has medicinal qualities or not. They just want to get high because they can't face reality and want to try to escape it. FACE YOUR PROBLEMS PEOPLE! DON'T TRY TO HIDE FROM THEM!

By: dangerlover on 8/2/10 at 11:57

TakePrideInNash should take pride in actually learning about what they are speaking. Marijuana is not addictive, it does not cause cancer, and has huge medicinal benefits that can be achieved through oral ingestion, but what's the difference. Alcohol and tobacco do much more damage every year than pot could ever do. Your arguments are pathetic.

You should take a look back at the history books and figure out why hemp was made illegal. Hint: it has a lot of similarities to the reasons alcohol was outlawed during prohibition.(Underwriting by huge industrial interests...alcohol was a threat to the oil undustry and so prohibition was supported and financed by Standard Oil.)

Everyone is entitiled to their opinion about marijuana, but don't start shoveling dogsh1t and expect other people to eat it.

By: stlgtr55@yahoo.com on 8/2/10 at 12:25

I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but people who think they're experts/pundits on drugs, usually are those that have never been around them, done any of them, and absolutely know nothing other than what they've been told and read about them. Ironically, they end up influencing lawmakers to prohibit different things. Marijuana is definitely not harmless, but it is less harmful than some substances that are legal. I would much rather be around someone who is stoned than to be around a drunk.

That being said, if we examine the cost of all these wars: The War on Poverty, The War on Drugs, The War on Terror, and such. Look at the money and the lives these things have cost our society, and they haven't diminished the problems they were meant to address one iota. There are more poor people today than ever; Drugs are rampant; Terrorists are growing in numbers by leaps and bounds. Now we have a war on childhood obesity. What is that going to end up costing us, and how much will it reduce childhood obesity?

By: NewsReader01 on 8/2/10 at 12:27

Marijuana is a PLANT. It's a herb. It cannot kill you like alcohol, cigarettes, meth, crack, heroin, cocaine.

....Tobacco is a plant too you idiot. Marijuana will destroy your lungs just as bad as tobacco. Smoke is smoke... it all covers your lungs. Anyone who says marijuana isn't bad for you is a stupid ignorant dumbsh*t.

By: DREIFMA on 8/2/10 at 12:28

Seems like the Highway Patrol needs to justify their continued existance in the budget. Speeding tickets and Marijuana supression. Dont we have have something else more pressing to spend out tax dollars and limited manpower on. They cant keep slower drives out of the passing lane. How do you expect them to be successful at more complicated problems.

By: Kosh III on 8/2/10 at 12:43

"Marijuana will destroy your lungs just as bad as tobacco. Smoke is smoke"

Nice try but it won't fly.

Sure they both are smoked but there is a huge difference between one joint a day and 20 cigarettes. Smoke from cars and industry is more dangerous to lung health than an occasional bit of marijuana.

By: NewsReader01 on 8/2/10 at 1:01

Your assuming people are only going to smoke 1 a day.... With that assumption cigarettes aren't dangerous either. Saying weed is better because some people will smoke less than others is a totally pointless argument. In that case cigarettes aren't bad either.

By: NewsReader01 on 8/2/10 at 1:03

I'm sure if its legalized it will be sold pre-rolled in packs just like cigarettes. That convenience will increase consumption.

By: TakePrideInNash on 8/2/10 at 1:56

It destroys your lungs and your brain cells, and makes you dangerous to others. It IS that simple.

By: TakePrideInNash on 8/2/10 at 1:58

Occasional bit? It is addicting!

By: dargent7 on 8/2/10 at 2:12

Where else but in Tenn. can you find bigger morons? If they're not pimping out their sisters, they're sleeping with them.
Tobacco has chemicals and additives added to the mix.
Marijuana, if grown personally, right out of the ground, is like basil in it's purity.
That's the point, pin-heads. If Liggett, Philip-Morris got ahold of the stuff, they'd screw it up, add in 50% fillers and chemicals, and make it toxic.
Stay with Budweiser. I'm sure you idiots think that's a great beer.

By: Papa T on 8/2/10 at 2:13

NEWSFLASH: "Stupidity eradication: But who will take on this daunting task?"

By: TakePrideInNash on 8/2/10 at 3:03

dargent7, it looks like you are the idiot. Now you think anyone who doesn't want marijuana legalized drinks alcohol? As for your stupid remark about the people of Tennessee, I don't know anyone who pimps out their sisters or sleeps with them, but it sounds like you know a lot about it.

By: dargent7 on 8/2/10 at 3:20

No, sir, you are the idiot. You think anything marijuana might do for you is nothing that a big pharma drug cannot do?
You watch TV? Almost every big pharma drug co. has had their 'wonder" drugs pulled OFF the market and face lawsuits in the billions. Because they KILL people.
Marijuana doesn't KILL anyone. Side effects do include laughing at nothing, and an incredible appetite.
Side effects for any pharma drug include suicidal thoughts, heart attack, kidney failure...got it now?

By: UrbanNashvillian1 on 8/2/10 at 3:49

IT IS NOT ADDICTIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Don't be so stupid as to say it is TakePride. Scientifically proven that it's not. Do your homework. And no one gets violent because of pot either.

By: Papa T on 8/2/10 at 4:03

Excellent example:

"You're an idiot."

"No, you're an idiot."

Yes. Big Pharma is in the profit game and many of their products have dangerous side-effects.

Yes. Marijuana is a naturally occurring plant. But there are many naturally occurring plants that are toxic to humans and other animals in varying degrees.

Yes. If 'the government' and commercial interests get in 'the game' of distributing another plant, it will become FUBAR.

As a freedom-loving person -- who happens to be a citizen of this country and the great state of Tennessee (sibling pimping and incest notwithstanding) -- the question boils down to one of Collectivism vs. Individualism. The lungs (and/or other body parts) and brain cells that you may or may not destroy by using these substances do not concern me...MINE do. I believe that everyone should have THE CHOICE to be as happy and healthy as he or she can be. He also should have the choice to end his own life -- quickly or slowly. We're all gonna die soon enough anyway.

And remember: Apathetic stupidity has always been -- and will always be -- the friend of the Criminal Justice System.

By: Papa T on 8/2/10 at 4:07

An excellent example of stupidity and arrogance in action:

"You're an idiot."

"No, you're an idiot."

Yes. Big Pharma is in the profit game and many of their products have dangerous side-effects.

Yes. Marijuana is a naturally occurring plant. But there are many naturally occurring plants that are toxic to humans and other animals in varying degrees.

Yes. If 'the government' and commercial interests get in 'the game' of distributing another plant, it will become FUBAR.

As a freedom-loving person -- who happens to be a citizen of this country and the great state of Tennessee (sibling pimping and incest notwithstanding) -- the question boils down to one of Collectivism vs. Individualism. The lungs (and/or other body parts) and brain cells that you may or may not destroy by using these substances do not concern me...MINE do. I believe that everyone should have THE CHOICE to be as happy and healthy as he or she can be. He also should have the choice to end his own life -- quickly or slowly. We're all gonna die soon enough anyway.

And remember: Apathetic stupidity has always been -- and will always be -- a 'friend' of the Criminal Justice System and all forms of Collective Tyranny.

By: Papa T on 8/2/10 at 4:14

Unless we count water, food, and air, there are NO arbitrarily addictive substances. No chemical is addictive to EVERY human being. Every substance CAN lead to addiction...some are more likely to than others.

There are 'scientific studies' that 'show' that marijuana use is addictive. There are studies that show that it's not. So what? So what if it is? So what if it's not? Science schmience.

By: AmyLiorate on 8/2/10 at 5:05

NewsReader01 on 8/2/10 at 2:01

Your assuming people are only going to smoke 1 a day.... With that assumption cigarettes aren't dangerous either. Saying weed is better because some people will smoke less than others is a totally pointless argument. In that case cigarettes aren't bad either.

NewsReader supports state control. Great!

If you want to drink a beer why should anyone else interfere?
Same with cigarettes... same with the weed.

Why do you and the others really gain from all these police raids? Do you get a take?

By: TenaseHB on 8/2/10 at 5:53

Thanks to the City Paper for this in-depth report. It is amazing to be able to ride along vicariously with the Task Force as they wasted $tens of thousands$ to find 60 plants (wow!) Those 60 plants were probably three different hillbillies' personal stashes, each of them about to be reduced in size anyway as the male plants began to show themselves in July and Ayugust and get yanked from the patch. So all of this effort (and lucre) was expended for what would likely be 25-30 female plants, producing a grand total of six to eight pounds of usable bud. Enough for the three hillbillies and their baby mamas.

Ah yes, Cumberland county is really some serious crime-land, worth spending time, effort and $$$$$ to change. Right? (Not hardly.)

So thanks again for the in-depth story. I hope it is the start of a series on this issue. I suspect we could find you dozens of medical marijuana users whose own access and supply are at risk from the same helicopter-swooping, gun-toting "drug worriers" you profiled in your story. Please show soon the other face, and the other reality, of this senseless war on (some) drugs.

BTW, for the "marijuana is a deadly drug, as hazardous -- if not more -- than tobacco" commenters on this article, well .... no. I would suggest you Google "Donald Tashkin UCLA lung cancer marijuana" for a review of the largest case-control study ever conducted on the risks of lung cancer from marijuana. Dr. Tashkin's conclusion -- marijuana use does not raise the risk of lung cancer one iota. None. Nada. Zilch. Again, Google can be your friend.

Likewise, you can Google "Karl Kelsey Brown University head neck cancer marijuana" to find (in an equally robust study) that not only does marijuana use not raise one's risk of head/neck cancer, it actually reduces that risk. This amazing research conclusion is bolstered by evidence from thousands of other research studies that components in cannabis actually retard the growth (and accelerate the death) of at least six different cancer cell lines.

All of these studies are in the medical literature, along with 20,000+ more studies on this remarkable medicinal plant. Almost 3,000 of those articles were published in 2009 alone. So for those few "drug worriers" in our midst here, I have only one question -- are your opinions based on even one of those published studies? (If so, please name it/them.)

By: Sacratez on 8/2/10 at 6:30

If anyone needs the correct info, read ddeere's response.
I purpose a 22% tax hike in alchoholic consumer beverages to pay for this so called war on drugs.

God Bless America!
If you voted for Osama Obama, may god have mercy on your soul because his murderous Allajha will not.

By: Bonklees on 8/3/10 at 2:46

DON'T BE BRAINWASHED!

Marijuana (Cannabis) is non-toxic. (Look it up.)

Cannabis does not kill brain cells. Alcohol does. (Look it up.)

It grows easily, and helps those suffering from many types of conditions to lead lives closer to normal than they'd otherwise be able to. It's medicine that grows out of the ground without very much effort.

Aspirin is absolutely DEADLY in comparison.

The history of marijuana prohibition has more to do with INDUSTRY than with health. (See hemp)

You can build houses, make plastics, fuels, oils, food, paper, clothing and more from cannabis. All that, and it's great medicine, too.

By: Bonklees on 8/3/10 at 2:52

"We must not blindly add to the body count and the terrible cost of the War on Drugs,
only to learn from another Robert McNamara 30 years from now that what we've
been doing is, 'wrong, terribly wrong.'"

---- Walter Cronkite - 1995

By: conservarage on 8/3/10 at 9:01

i cannot think of a bigger waste of time and resources than marijuana enforcement.

how many millions (billions?) of dollars do we waste on this per year? how many man hours of law enforcement time that could go to a better use?

By: dargent7 on 8/3/10 at 9:29

Just remember the 7 CEO's of the cigarette mfgrs. who all stood up before Congress, riased their right hands, and stated, "Cigarettes are not addictive".
I think the follow-up was, "nicotine is not addictive".
Maybe marijuana isn't the best medicine for what ails you, but I know the pills the big pharma's put out are TOXIC. The side effects alone will kill you.
Marijuana, if grown personally, is extremely healthful.
If the cigarette mfgrs. get a hold of it, they'll add 50%-80% fillers, and ruin it.
Tenn. will never legalize the personal grow law coming before the CA people.
All we want is to carry a fully loaded weapon into a bar.
Get me outta here!

By: TakePrideInNash on 8/3/10 at 11:50

Well dargent7, after the STUPID comments you made about people in Tennessee what is holding you back from leaving our great state? You leaving would be one less idiot here.

By: dangerlover on 8/3/10 at 11:54

You said it, dargent7. I've noticed that a lot of the people posting their hatred for marijuana because "it kills you" (even though they don't smoke it) are the same ones who insist on their right to carry a gun wherever they please and who would jump at the chance to shoot (and kill) someone.

By: TakePrideInNash on 8/3/10 at 11:55

From familydoctor.org

Marijuana's Adverse Effects
Could I become chemically dependent on marijuana?
Yes. When you’re chemically dependent on marijuana, it means you crave it and you need to use more and more to get the same effect. You may have withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it, such as depressed feelings, trouble sleeping or nausea. Because marijuana is a lot stronger now than it used to be, people are also more likely to abuse it and become dependent on it than they were in the past.

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Is marijuana use associated with other drug use?
Yes. Many people use legal drugs like alcohol or cigarettes before they start using marijuana. Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal substance in the United States. It’s often the first illegal drug a person will try. Sometimes marijuana use leads to the use of other illegal drugs.

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What are the common side effects of marijuana use?
The following are some of the common side effects of using marijuana:

* Trouble remembering things
* Slowed reaction time
* Difficulty concentrating
* Sleepiness
* Anxiety
* Paranoia (feeling that people are "out to get you")
* Altered time perception
* Red, bloodshot eyes

Using marijuana for a long time makes some people lose interest in school, work, relationships and other activities. It may also cause legal problems. Using marijuana can be especially dangerous in certain situations, such as when you are driving, because your reaction time is slower. This make it more difficult to react to a dangerous situation, which could cause an accident.

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How can marijuana affect me physically?
The following are some of the common physical effects of marijuana:

* Tremors (shaking)
* Nausea
* Headache
* Decreased coordination
* Breathing problems
* Increased appetite
* Reduced blood flow to the brain
* Changes in the reproductive organs

Like tobacco, marijuana contains many chemicals that can hurt the lungs and cause cancer. One marijuana cigarette can cause more damage to the lungs than many tobacco cigarettes because marijuana has more tar in it and is usually smoked without filters.

By: dangerlover on 8/3/10 at 11:59

For the record, TakePrideInNash, you're wrong about marijuana killing brain cells. It doesn't. I don't really care what you think because I have a feeling you are a 60 year old menopausal woman, but come on. Stop making crap up. Better yet, stop opining on issues about which you clearly are not educated.

Alcohol, FWIW, does in fact kill brain cells.

By: dangerlover on 8/3/10 at 12:03

Go vote for Sarah Palin with your familydoctor.org proaganda BS.

By: TakePrideInNash on 8/3/10 at 12:11

dangerlover, so when I post a medical article showing the dangers of this drug you call it BS? I see your eyes are only open to what you want to read and believe. It might be too late for you.

By: TakePrideInNash on 8/3/10 at 12:26

I smoked it some when I was young and stupid. I know first hand what its effects are and I am glad I wised up. Anyone with any common sense and IF they wanted to be honest knows the dangers of this drug.

By: Papa T on 8/3/10 at 2:07

ONE article, from ONE website, does NOT settle every question about the potential effects of marijuana...or anything else for that mattter.

Yet, even in this article, there are key 'qualifying' words and phrases. For instance, just because marijuana use CAN cause certain side effects, it doesn't mean that it WILL -- especially not in EVERY case. Gross generalities are of little use in this matter.

To echo some words above: Anyone with common sense and IF they wanted to be honest...and IF they cared about freedom and responsibility...and IF they recognized the oppressiveness of trying to tell everybody how they should act, what they should say, and how they should think, would know the dangers of collectivism and tyranny.

ALL people's eyes are only open to what they want to read and believe. And, yes, it just might be too late for them/you.

By: TakePrideInNash on 8/3/10 at 2:27

But it does point out the dangers unlike what many people want to admit. Most people as we all know would smoke it only to get high. We have people getting high/drunk off alcohol and getting behind the wheel of a car or truck, why make it easier to add more morons to that?

By: Walter Sobchak on 8/3/10 at 2:29

Take Pride's posting wasn't even an article. It is from familydoctor.org. It's an FAQ list.

Cannabis is full of cannabinoids, which are related to flavanoids. Flavanoids are the anti-oxidants that make wine consumption a healthy endeavor, in reasonable amounts. Someone posted the head and neck cancer study on here and I'm glad to see it. It showed a DECREASED risk of cancer due to the presence of cannabinoids. There's another study that was done in 08 that showed the control group that used cigs had a far greater likelyhood of developing lung cancer than the control group that smoked MJ AND CIGS.

Anyone who's not too closed-minded to do so can google cannabinoids, cannabis and telomere length, etc. and you'll have enough material to read for days.

By: Walter Sobchak on 8/3/10 at 2:34

Also Pride. Stoned people are dealing with heightened inhibitions and probably either aren't driving or are driving very slow. Drunk people have lost all inhibitions and are probably doing 120 when they strike and kill innocent drivers or peds.

By: TakePrideInNash on 8/3/10 at 2:38

Keep ignoring the facts and it will make you an idiot. Believe what you want, but I have seen first hand what it will do and it is not good.

By: Papa T on 8/3/10 at 2:40

From the article:

"But it’s still worth it for growers, obviously. If one plant can draw anywhere from $600 to maybe $1,000 based on yield and quality, a small crop could provide a nice supplemental income, a down payment or a steady supply for the grow-your-own contingency."

Besides the goofy, inflated 'mathematical' estimations of per plant 'value', there are some interesting points raised here. In our plummeting economy, some "nice supplemental income" could come in handy. The thing that is hardly ever recognized is that the so-called War on Drugs has caused the prices for the substances to skyrocket. The demand has not increased disproportionately to population, but the profit potential and ensuing criminality have.

Unfortunately, this is yet another example of the impact of excessive government. And it probably won't change until some point in time when government can no longer sustain or justify the charade. There might be a silver lining to financial ruin after all.