Thursday, October 13, 2005

Exercise in Futility

It's time for my annual rant on wasted resources. This just in from Yahoo news - Drug agents can't keep up with pot growers. Well no kidding, as if they ever have. This is such a typical cause and effect of prohibition. They more law enforcement goes after farmers, the more elaborate the growing operations become and as the risks go up, the owners of the growing operations tend to be from bigger organizations since they're the only ones able to afford the expense of protecting their crops. To recoup their expenses and make a profit, they increase the size of the grow.

This leaves the public in more danger, not less. Whereas in the "old days" you had small time growers, who planted just enough for themselves and a few friends, you now have people with large crops who have more to lose, thus take greater measures to protect their investment. This is why fields are now bobby trapped and protected with armed guards. You rarely heard of this sort of security in the days of lax enforcement. Furthermore, whereas before we had scores of people able to circumvent the black market by growing their own in order to obtain their herb, prohibition guarantees the large growers a black market for their product since the small grower cannot afford to take the same chances in order to grow a few plants.

Of course, the main concern for all taxpayers, consumers or otherwise is the cost of prohibition.

CAMP, an arm of the state attorney general's office, was formed in 1983 to help understaffed local authorities ferret out large-scale marijuana crops grown for profit, particularly in isolated areas far from roads where helicopters were needed. Five eradication teams deployed in different regions of the state operated this year on a $1.1 million budget, about three-quarters of it supplied by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

CAMP agents, with help from local sheriff's deputies and loaners from the National Guard, the state forestry department, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service, have arrested 42 suspects, seized 76 weapons and raided 742 gardens.

That's just for CAMP. (Other smaller programs around the state operate on budgets of hundreds of thousands of tax dollars as well.) CAMP claims the destruction of 1.1 million plants worth 4.5 billion dollars - which if I did the calculations correctly - comes out to almost $5,000 for each plant, an absurd valuation even if every one of the plants were all fully mature and already stripped down to just the dry buds.

They overvalue to justify the cost of the futile program. Even if it was worth it, chasing after the plants in remote areas is the least efficient way to intercept the plants. If they really wanted to stop the trade, they would watch the fields until they were harvested and catch the growers when they got them out to the road but then the cops wouldn't get to ride around in the helicopters - usually provided by the National Guard units and whose exorbitant cost to run I assume is picked up by the Guard rather than being counted in as part of the budget.

Meanwhile they essentially spent over $26,000 per suspect just to catch them. That doesn't begin to address the costs of prosecuting them and eventually incarcerating at least some of them to the tune of millions more of our tax dollars. And all for what? To keep the country "safe" from a plant and the non-violent consumers who use it?

If they allowed those who wish to use it to grow a few plants in their own back yards, all these "problems" they cite in justification for this nonsenical campaign, would solve themselves. At a time when our country is being bled dry by natural disasters and the so called war on terror, perhaps the time is ripe to ask our legislators to show some fiscal sense and end the war on a simple plant.


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