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DON’T SMOKE THE MESSENGER: Hiding in the Caves

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don't smoke.aiA friend of mine works as a forester. He was recently on the job near Cave Junction when a man come out of the woods and demanded the crew vamoose or he’d get his gun. They didn’t leave and he made good on his threat, chasing the foresters off with a couple shots.

While there are endless reasons insane people could be living in the woods with guns, the word from my friend was that he was protecting a grow site. This is an issue many hikers have dealt with for years, accidentally stumbling across a deep-woods pot farm and a heap of trouble in the process.

But pending legalization changes that dynamic.

When I heard this story, I couldn’t help but think of the Japanese soldiers hiding in caves that kept fighting WWII, unaware it was over. What irony that now, only weeks before growing pot becomes legal, that man may go to prison for growing it.

I had similar thoughts earlier this month when a man was arrested near Lakeview with more than 60 pounds of pot in the trunk of his car, and when a national guard helicopter was called in to remove a grow operation in the hills around Boulder, Colorado in Sept. 2014, nine months after full legalization.

The issues above are why when I called the governor’s office to ask about their plans for people in prison for pot post-legalization, a rep that asked to stay off-record told me the biggest challenge to figuring out what to do with them was that most folks that were in jail for pot had a lot of other legal baggage as well, often issues surrounding gun-violence and smuggling.

The pot business has been bloody for a long time, part of why the jail sentences were so copious. That violence was driven by prohibition and the war on drugs rather than marijuana in vacuum, but it’s been that way for long it’s become standard operating procedure. In order for prohibition to actually serve as liberation, and to keep people out of jail for pot, that culture will need to change. The outlaw paradigm sure sounds cool at parties, but courting prison for something that is legal isn’t just stupid; it’s harmful to the cause.

But it isn’t just the lunatics living in the woods that need to change their perspective. We recently wrote about the wrongheaded effort in Grants Pass to ban outdoor grows. Other cities around Oregon (including Medford) have considered similar restrictions. But those are the sorts of flawed guidelines that push people back towards the black market and all its ills. Regardless of whether or you have any interest in using cannabis in any fashion, I think we can all agree that you should be able to go on a hike, or work in the woods, without running the risk of getting shot at by someone still fighting a war that is supposed to be over.

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