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Monday, November 3, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Aerial War on Pot

     Georgia police raided a retired Atlanta man's garden on October 1, 2014 after a helicopter crew with the Governor's Task Force for Drug Suppression spotted suspicious-looking plants on the man's property. A heavily-armed K9 unit arrived and discovered that the plants were, in fact, okra bushes.

     The officers eventually apologized and left, but they took some of the suspicious okra leaves with them for analysis. A Georgia State Patrol spokesperson told reporters that, "We've not been able to identify the plants as yet. But they did have quite a number of characteristics that were similar to a cannabis plant." Indeed, like cannabis, okra is green and has leaves.

     Okra busts like these are good reasons for taxpayers to be skeptical about the wisdom of sending drug cops up in helicopters to fly around aimlessly, looking for drugs in suburban gardens. [It's a lot easier than wearing out shoe leather working on difficult criminal cases.] And that's not to mention the issue of whether we want a society where heavily-armed cops can burst onto your property, with no grounds for suspicion beyond what somebody thought he saw from several hundred yards up in a helicopter.

     Marijuana eradication programs, like the one that sent the helicopter up above the Georgia man's house, are typically funded partly via the Drug Enforcement Agency's Cannabis Eradication Program. Many of these funds come from the controversial asset forfeiture programs that allow law enforcement officials to seize property from citizens never even charged--much less convicted--of a crime.

     The Cannabis Eradication programs have historically inflated the size of their hauls by including non-psychoactive "ditchweed" in their totals of plants seized. In past years, ditchweed accounted for up to 98 percent of outdoor plant totals….

Christopher Ingraham, "Heavily Armed Drug Cops Raid Retiree's Garden, Seize Okra Plants," The Washington Post, October 6, 2014 

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