Swimming in Weed
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Swimming in Weed
Posted by CN Staff on August 15, 2010 at 04:42:49 PT
By Paul Fattig
Source: Mail Tribune
Oregon -- From above, the bushy green plants in backyard after backyard resemble English topiary gardens, neat and tidy. But a closer look at the gardens hidden from passersby behind tall fences tell a different story: cannabis crops mushrooming under the umbrella of the 1998 Oregon Medical Marijuana Act.A helicopter flight this month with U.S. Rep. Greg Walden revealed numerous cannabis crops growing adjacent to homes in every community in Jackson and Josephine counties, ostensibly to service the area's more than 7,000 medical marijuana cardholders.
"Shocked and stunned  I had absolutely no idea the breadth and scope of these backyard grows," exclaimed Walden."I cannot imagine most Oregonians who voted for this law and are sympathetic toward people who are sick and in pain would believe what has happened as a result of this law," added Walden, 53, a Republican from Hood River whose 2nd Congressional District includes Jackson County and a portion of eastern Josephine County. "I don't think people understand how out of control this has gotten."But down on the ground among his cannabis plants in the Ruch area, licensed marijuana grower James Bowman, 50, believes the pot patches are healthy indicators of Oregon's changing culture.Although he acknowledges the 1998 law may need fine-tuning, he looks at it as an important turning point in state history."I think it's going fairly well  probably the best in the nation at the time when it was approved," he said."There is nothing people should be afraid of with this, no more than they should be afraid of the vineyards you see around here."We are a regular farm like any other," he added. "Cannabis should be considered a commodity like anything else."The law allows medical marijuana cardholders to possess six mature plants, 18 starts smaller than 12 inches tall and 24 ounces of processed, usable marijuana.It permits a caregiver to cultivate cannabis for up to four cardholding patients, allowing a registered caregiver to grow up to two dozen adult plants at a time. Growers say the law doesn't limit the number of growers who can work cooperatively.For instance, Bowman has a medical marijuana card for himself and is a registered caregiver, meaning he can grow for up to four other patients. At his site, multiple caregivers are working together, growing cannabis for 70 patients."We have 70 patients, so that would allow us 350 budding plants to have at one time," he said, though he says his site always contains about 100 fewer plants than the legal limit to err on the side of caution. His site currently has fewer than 200 mature plants, he said.Many police officers say the law has too many loopholes, and they question the legitimacy of most of the medical marijuana patches."We either have a lot of sick people or a huge abuse problem  I would say it's the latter," said Medford Police Deputy Chief Tim George."All the law enforcement officers in the state are shaking their heads over this situation," he added. "Nobody in law enforcement is arguing that cancer or glaucoma patients shouldn't have it if they need it. But most people don't need marijuana for medical reasons."Noting that someone with a green thumb can grow a large plant that produces five to seven pounds of "high grade bud" worth some $2,500 a pound on the street, George said it wouldn't be unusual to produce a plant whose harvest exceeds $15,000."I don't want to sound callous about sick people, but this is really about the money," he said. "Our problem with law enforcement is how to keep track of all this. It's off the charts."Like other police departments in the region, his officers regularly deal with medical marijuana growers who are out of compliance, he said, though statistics were not immediately available."I am swimming in weed," he said, describing it as a controlled substance that is out of control. George, an outspoken critic of the 1998 law, fears it will only get worse if Oregonians approve a measure on the Nov. 2 ballot that would establish medical marijuana dispensaries."You can't have a Vicodin tree in your backyard," he said, referring to a prescription pain medication. "This (1998) law was one of the biggest mistakes the state has ever made."During his flight, Walden met with the seven county sheriffs in the region who are part of the Southern Oregon Multi-Agency Marijuana Eradication & Reclamation group organized by Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters.The sheriffs, including Winters, told Walden that the marijuana issue is overtaxing law enforcement efforts. They also expressed concern that today's marijuana is much more powerful than your parents' pot back in their college days."Medical marijuana is a joke," said Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson in an interview with the Mail Tribune. "The amount of people who have those cards is ludicrous. My understanding is that only about four percent of the cardholders have legitimate ailments."This is creating a nightmare for law enforcement," he added. "Who is going to knock on all those doors to check if they are legal? It would take several full-time deputies just to do the checks. We don't have the resources for that."His department frequently receives calls from people alleging that individual medical marijuana growers have too many plants, he said."When that happens, we have to take a deputy off another case to check it out," he said. "It's time-consuming."Williams resident Laird Funk, 65, a longtime marijuana advocate and a member of the Oregon Department of Human Services' Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana, doesn't believe growers purposefully ignore the law."I wouldn't be concerned even if they were," he said. "But I don't think anyone is stupid enough to overtly grow more than the limit."Instead, he believes law enforcement agencies are going out of their way to find reasons to bust medical marijuana growers."I think people are cognizant of the fact police are still playing gotcha with sick people," he said.Bowman, who said he hopes Walden will someday visit his medical marijuana operation in Ruch, said he understands the dilemma police face."I feel like the police are in an awkward spot," Bowman said. "The law is very gray so the police are left to make individual interpretations of it."The problem is you don't have a clear law that all the cops can follow," he said. "The Medford cops, they interpret a different way than the sheriff might. They see it from the traditional crime point of view. The cops have been addicted to the money they get from the war on drugs."Bowman said he has no major issues with the enforcement being done by both Winters and Gilbertson in regard to the medical marijuana law.In fact, the Jackson County Sheriff's Department helped avoid an "armed invasion" four years ago at his site, he said."They called us up out of the blue and said, 'Hey, we need to talk. We've got this information and we would like to prevent something bad from happening,' " he said, noting that several people had apparently planned an attempted theft of pot grown on his property."I'm really indebted to them and see that as the future of how we can all work together, rather than this rhetoric of 'how bad the cops are,' " he said.However, theft isn't a paramount concern like it was just a few years ago, he said."Theft is still an issue but not as much because cannabis growing is becoming more prevalent," he said.Although his property covers five acres, only two acres are in cultivation, he said. About 30 volunteers help care for the cannabis, he said."One of my concerns about the law is that none of the workers can legally be paid," he said. "The law specifically says all expenses can be reimbursed except for labor."He would like to see that aspect of the law changed.Bowman said he supports the eventual full legalization of marijuana."Take cannabis off the controlled substance list  alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes aren't on it," he said, although cautioning it should be used in moderation.He also sees it as a potential major source of tax income for the state, as well as an employment opportunity for Oregonians."We grow better cannabis than anywhere else in the world  without a doubt," he said. "Southern Oregon is renowned for its cannabis, as well as its red wine."He figures some three-dozen sites in the region, from Glendale south, could be used for processing centers."They could easily hire 100 people at each center," he said. "That would be new jobs right now. We're asking for the economy to be set free and let the Rogue Valley benefit from this to grow this industry."Let's go beyond the medical argument and go to legalization," he added.Meanwhile, Bowman doesn't much like it when a helicopter flies overhead and hovers, apparently checking out his crop."And that's even though we are doing everything we can do to be legal," he said. "They fly 100 feet or so above us. You can see their faces. It makes you wonder what are we doing that deserves that kind of treatment. The law enforcement agencies need to use their resources on something else  gang intervention or whatever."But by the same token I like the fact they can use that technology so they aren't bugging us down here every other day," he added.Walden, whose helicopter did not hover over Bowman's grow site, indicated he would take Bowman's invitation into consideration. However, the lawmaker is adamantly opposed to legalizing marijuana."Mark me down as old-fashioned, but I don't think that would be helpful to our communities or families," Walden said, who believes the use and production of cannabis is linked to other crimes."This is not the ditch weed of the '70s," he said."Somebody needs to do an independent review of this law so we can understand how the law is being used or misused," he said. "But it's clear there are very few prosecutions now of illegal backyard grows. It's the Wild West of marijuana out there now."Sidebar: Oregon Medical Marijuana Program at a Glance:Cardholders statewide as of July 1: 36,380Cardholders statewide same time last year: 23,873Applications for new cards or renewal of cards currently being processed by OMMP: 5,037Number of cardholders statewide who said they use marijuana to control severe pain: 32,614Counties with the most cardholders:Multnomah  6,379Jackson  4,302Lane  3,993Josephine  2,784Physicians statewide with OMMP patients: 1,584Number of states with medical marijuana laws: 14Sources: Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, National Conference of State LegislaturesSource: Mail Tribune, The (Medford, OR)Author: Paul FattigPublished: August 15, 2010Copyright: 2010 The Mail TribuneContact: letters mailtribune.comWebsite: Medical Marijuana Archives 
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Comment #11 posted by Storm Crow on August 17, 2010 at 08:50:49 PT
May Kathryn rest in peace! 
She, and all the victims of the War on Cannabis- we have WON, and the prohibs know it. Tragedies (and cover-ups) like Kathryn's will become rarer and rarer as the laws change to reflect this. 
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Comment #10 posted by Hope on August 16, 2010 at 22:09:44 PT
Kathryn Johnston .... Atlanta, Georgia
$4.9 million awarded to the family.It's about time they, the narc drug war monsters, started having to pay for their crimes.It's about time.Of course, she's still dead, and dead so wrong and unjustly. But this is better than acting like it never happened, which is what the prohibitionists usually get away with doing.
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Comment #9 posted by Hope on August 16, 2010 at 21:58:07 PT
BGreen and FoM
You both made me laugh.BGreen unprepared for the "Test", and FoM, "Luckily there isn't any good news to post."Lol!
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on August 16, 2010 at 13:34:05 PT
It should be fixed soon. Matt's been working on it. The only problem I see now is the top article which is just codes. Luckily there isn't any good news to post.
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Comment #7 posted by BGreen on August 16, 2010 at 13:04:17 PT
I told you I hate tests
I didn't even study.:)The totally unprepared Reverend Bud Green
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on August 16, 2010 at 11:52:59 PT
Just testing.
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Comment #5 posted by ripit on August 15, 2010 at 11:43:30 PT
i plan on moving
 to oregon just as soon as i can. my health is going downhill so fast that i don't think i any choice or can wait for idaho to change. i don't want to leave my home but i just don't think i'll make it! i still get angry every time i think about the way we are being treated an abused. they abolished slavery now lets work on prohibition! peace all!
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Comment #4 posted by Canis420 on August 15, 2010 at 09:54:39 PT:
Every time he was quoted I laughed out loud! Gooooo Oregon!
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on August 15, 2010 at 07:25:49 PT
On a Happy Note
We're watching an older Farm-Aid concert on the 101 on DirecTV and this was just on. I love this song and he does it justice. We are winning! Spirit In the Sky - Jason Mraz
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Comment #2 posted by runruff on August 15, 2010 at 07:02:35 PT
This man speaking is my "county mounty"
""When that happens, we have to take a deputy off another case to check it out," he said. "It's time-consuming."This statement is about as disingenuous at it can get! In my county you cannot get a cop to call for any reason. The only thing cops here have been known to be interested in is pot! They will send five squad cars out to bust a teen with a joint. Well not any more, but at the height of the drug war that is what happened. Then they drill the kid to find out where he got it. They then worked their way up the food chain until they found the person with the money, real estate, cars, ect. so they could take it. Robbers and thieves! It was their heavy handed way of dealing with pot bust and the shooting of family pets, treating strip searches like a burlesque show complete with whistles and cat calls while they forced young women and wives to strip in plane view.They Busted my friend Glen and his family in 1992, two weeks before Xmas. They took 15 lbs. $30,000 in cash, his house, shot both family dogs in the snow, in front of his two young kids.Cleaned out every gift under the tree. Had the uncouthness to ask what each gift was so they would not have to unwrap them. They were given to their families for Xmas.Of course "they" pine for the good ol' days!Do you wanna talk about control? Who really is out of control here, marauding cops, or peaceable herb farmers?
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on August 15, 2010 at 06:32:57 PT:
By their words, shall they be revealed the fascist SOB's they are.I knew even before the article had gotten around to mentioning what party he belonged to that U.S. Rep. Greg Walden was an "R". His words betray his mindset:""I cannot imagine most Oregonians who voted for this law and are sympathetic toward people who are sick and in pain would believe what has happened as a result of this law..."Typical faux 'compassionate conservatism' from a member of a party that has demonstrated time and again what portion of the cortex far too many of them think with: the so-called 'lizard brain'.But here's the kicker. Here's where their heads are at. Here's where they show their true colors.""I don't think people understand how out of control this has gotten."The operant word is, of course, control. Control over other people's lives (they don't need such control, themselves, of course; they're above the hoi polloi by grace of intelligence and sturdier moral fiber, and have the restraint of saints).Control freaks, through and through. I always thought Heinlein had the right idea with his Terran Federation: you only got to vote or hold office if you were willing to serve the society for two years, at whatever you were good at doing (or had talent for). You'd be paid very little (yet your basic needs would be met) and if you were in the Navy or Mobile Infantry (Only 5% were), you had to be willing to literally put your  $$ on the line for that society. That would weed out a lot of the would-be satraps which plague the rest of us free-thinking people who have no desire to control others. But for right now? Oregonians who are reading this, remember this guy's name, come November, and vote him and his ilk out. Enough of that, and the control freaks will have it even harder to mess up our lives with their pathetic neuroses...
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