The nation's "Forests Are Severely Damaged By Marijuana Grow Sites," reads the headline on the Dec. 7 news release from the U.S. Forest Service.
Marijuana cultivation sites in 20 states on 67 national forests "have caused severe damage," said Forest Service Director of Law Enforcement David Ferrell. In California alone, the service has cleaned up and restored 335 sites, removing 130 tons of trash, 300 pounds of pesticides, five tons of fertilizer and nearly 260 miles of irrigation piping, the agriculture cop testified.
"Natural vegetation and wildlife are killed as growers use liberal doses of herbicides, rodenticides and pesticides, some of them banned in the U.S.," Mr. Ferrell told whatever staff members were filtering in and out of the room. "These chemicals can cause extensive ... damage to ecosystems. Human waste and trash ... are widespread. Winter rains create severe soil erosion and wash the poisons, this waste and trash into streams and rivers -- including congressionally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers."
No! Not the Wild and Scenic Rivers!
"It is incumbent on the agency to do what is necessary to ensure that the resources we manage are protected and visitors as well as employees are safe," Mr. Ferrell told the fearless drug warriors.
I'm glad to hear it.
I then proceeded to read the rest of the news release, seeking word on how precisely the Forest Service now plans to join the battle to nip this problem in the bud by seeking re-legalization of marijuana cultivation on private lands -- land the owners would have an obvious incentive to keep in better shape so they can plant again the following year -- since it's clear to everyone the only reason people run the risk of having their crops regularly seized and destroyed on Forest Service land is because this popular medicinal plant has been absurdly banned from private cultivation for 80 years.
Why? Because of racist propaganda back in the early 20th century that "the devil's weed" was widely used by black and Hispanic males to seduce white women, and because Harry Anslinger's Prohibition boys needed a new mission after that great saint of progressivism, Franklin Roosevelt, re-legalized alcohol (the far more dangerous drug favored by white folks) back in 1933.
And ... nothing. Instead, the Forest Service "will continue to enhance partnerships with other federal, state, local and Tribal agencies in a cooperative effort to investigate and eradicate marijuana cultivation and other narcotic activities occurring on Forest System lands," Ferrell said.
So, at a time when the federal government seeks bankruptcy in a lemming-like cliff dive, the agency simply wants more money to do what's been failing so spectacularly for years. In fact, pot farming on public lands is one of America's few remaining billion-dollar growth industries!
Why does the service keep destroying every million-dollar harvest it stumbles on, rather than earn some return for the Treasury by selling the herb at market rates to legitimate medical patients holding legitimate physician recommendations in states that have legalized those uses? Such patients now suffer without that medicine because both federal and local law enforcement agencies flout those laws, busting even those who seek to distribute high-quality cannabis products free of charge (as I see our local sheriff's deputies busted another marijuana dispensary last week, right here in River City).
So what If the ninth and 10th amendments guarantee us freedom from federal intervention with our medical liberties? We've got federal payrolls that need growing.
Fund more failure!
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You know that big copper-roofed facility you can see from the Spaghetti Bowl? It's the Downtown Transportation Center, a huge, tile-floored facility built with millions of city and federal tax dollars back in 1987. It has been a dark spot in downtown Las Vegas since the Regional Transportation Commission opened a new transit center at Casino Center Boulevard and Bonneville Avenue, near the Unnecessary New City Hall.
Talk about bad planning and a huge waste of taxpayer dollars. I'll bet some heads rolled over that fiasco! Let's just Google "Las Vegas scandal over abandoning high-priced downtown bus terminal."
Not a word. I guess it's pretty far down the list of fiscal missteps in a city that lost millions of dollars using eminent domain to drive out thriving small downtown businesses to create NeoFlopolis and its adjacent White Elephant Parking Garage, not to mention turning over the perfectly good "old" City Hall to a shoe company. (There's a money-maker!)
Anyway, I now read in the newspaper that some folks hope to set up a farmer's market in the not-so-old abandoned bus station. Our reporter was there, a week back, as Kerry Clasby, one of the organizers, reached into "a basket of specialty produce that included cauliflower, artichokes and heirloom tomatoes" and "peeled open an organically raised tangerine to share with a small group."
Lucky thing Southern Nevada Health District inspector Mary Oaks wasn't on scene to order that "unlabeled" produce doused with bleach, as she did at the Quail Run Farm out in Overton a few months back.
Farmers markets are a great idea. I wish Ms. Clasby and her associates well. Unfortunately, I've talked to lots of entrepreneurs over the years who had high hopes for ventures in downtown Las Vegas -- until the meter maids and the code enforcement guys showed up.
They end up waxing nostalgic about the days when all a businessman had to worry about were roving Apache war parties and the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang.
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and author of the books "The Ballad of Carl Drega" and "The Black Arrow." See www.vinsuprynowicz.com.