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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Marijuana and Hemp in the Bluegrass: Turning in Dealers or Turning Profits?

The Franklin County, Kentucky Sheriff's Office is asking for drug dealers to turn in their rivals with a flyer on their Facebook page. The flyer contains the image of a marijuana leaf and a nontraditional message addressed to drug dealers.

* "Attention Drug Dealers (in headline print). Is your drug dealing competition costing you money? We offer a free service to help you eliminate your drug competition. Report your competition to us!"

* It continues with a series of fill-in-the-blank statements for drug dealers to complete including information such as "My drug dealing competition is: ________" and "My drug dealing competition lives at ________. "

* At the bottom of the page is the following contact information for the Franklin County Sheriff's Office -- "Mail us your drug dealing competition's information or call/text our text-a-tip line number below! 231 East Main Street, Frankfort, KY 40601 (phone) 502-320-3306."

As a writer, I appreciate the novel, tongue-in-cheek approach. It certainly lends itself to a chuckle or two in a culture where drug abuse is a mounting concern for law enforcement and citizens alike. Some others, like myself, might say the flyer is targeting the wrong drug problem since opiates like heroin and prescription drugs continue to addict and kill the populace in record numbers.

I do admit the text addresses the information on the flyer to all "drug dealers." However, the logo serves to draw public attention to marijuana dealers.

That being said, Kentucky continues to rank third among the states in production of the marijuana. In fact, it's the number one cash crop of the state.

The National Drug Intelligence Center's Kentucky Drug Threat Assessment reports several hundred thousand cannabis plants are eradicated indoors and outdoors each year in the state. Does this effort do much to stop state production? Kentucky is one of five states that produces 90 percent of the nation's domestically produced marijuana, and it is a leading producer state in the nation's southeastern "Marijuana Belt."

The Franklin County Facebook flyer is a humorous posting, yet I question the logic of the law encouraging marijuana dealers to turn in their competition. I mean, when you consider the message, the intent is to increase the business of those who would "rat" on their competition. How does this really aid in reducing Kentucky's production of marijuana? In addressing criminals, are officers essentially encouraging a Marijuana Gang War?

I am fully aware of the Len Bias laws. After Bias's death, these were enacted to make people who illegally manufacture, distribute, or sell illegal drugs strictly liable for a death that results from the inhalation, injection, or ingestion of the drug with which they are associated. I support these efforts, and I also like the idea of prosecuting those highest on the "food chain" by obtaining incriminating evidence from "bottom level" criminals in exchange for reduced sentences.

Yet, voluntarily "ratting" on fellow marijuana dealers is certainly dangerous business. Consider the August 2014 raid on a marijuana growing operation near Tyler, Texas, by the Texas Department of Public Safety that netted  about 700 plants. After receiving an anonymous tip about the marijuana field, DPS officials scouted from the air, confirming the operation. Then, the perimeter was secured by DPS with armored cars and helicopters.

And how about this operation? In August 2010, police raiding a marijuana farm in western Canada were astonished to find black bears apparently guarding it. However, initial alarm wore off when officers realized the 10 or so bears did not behave aggressively and were in fact docile and tame. They believed dog food was used to attract the animals onto the farm in British Columbia. Two people were arrested in the raid.

Plus, consider this recent enactment. In 2013, Kentucky's hemp bill became law when Gov. Steve Beshear opted not to act on it, bringing a successful end to the measure's winding path through the state legislature. Beshear stated ...

"I strongly support efforts to create additional legal cash crops for our farm communities," Beshear said of his decision on SB 50, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. "At the same time, we have a tremendous drug problem in Kentucky, and I want to make sure that we don't do anything that will increase that drug problem. I still share the same concerns our law enforcement officers have about the impact hemp cultivation may have on our drug eradication efforts."

(Nick Wing. "Kentucky Hemp Bill Becomes Law." The Huffington Post. April 09, 2013)

With industrial hemp now legal at the state level, Kentucky must now wait for federal action to approve the crop's planting and harvesting. Under federal law, the plant is a Schedule I substance, alongside heroin and PCP, despite the fact that it typically possesses only 0.3 percent THC, compared to the 3 percent to 22 percent usually found in illegal marijuana strains.

To me, asking drug dealers to turn in their rivals doesn't make much sense in a state where the legislature decides growing and harvesting hemp is legal, and this legislation defies Federal law. Hemp or pot ... legal or illegal ... 0.3 THC or 3.0 THC? Who wants to make bigger money? I guess the question is almost Shakespearean in contemplation:

“To rat, or not to rat: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?"

You know the rest. I guess it's all about grass ... Bluegrass and hemp, that is.

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