The woman was a mess. Because she was shaking and crying so hard, she was barely coherent enough to answer questions about the events of the last hour. And it had been a pretty nasty one.
As the details finally emerged, I learned that four armed men had entered her residence and threatened harm to the woman and her sleeping children. They took cash, property and, she added almost as an afterthought, her marijuana. Specifically, they had taken her medicinal marijuana grow operation, about fifteen plants in all. It soon became plain that the home invasion had occurred because the woman, a medical marijuana permit holder, had sold some pot to a friend of one of the robbers, and people had talked. Fortunately, the robbers did not harm the woman or her children, but such is not always the case during drug rips.
For anyone who keeps up on the news, it would be impossible not to recognize the danger involved in operating even a small scale marijuana grow. The plants bring respectable street profit, and there are no shortage of armed criminals ready to invade a home for such a lucrative target. The fact that many of these residences may now be growing the marijuana legally, under the auspices of a medical marijuana permit, matters little to armed and desperate individuals.
Therefore, it seems logical to conclude that many of these home invasion robberies may be the unintended result of the legislature’s failure to frame a workable marijuana statute.
Marijuana legalization is obviously a contentious issue. Advocates proclaim pot’s healthful properties and denounce what they view as our society’s fear-based prohibition against a drug that, by their estimation, is on par with alcohol. On the other end of the issue, conservatives view any loosening of restrictions as both a win for dope dealers and a degradation of our social values. When you throw in the federal government’s negative position, it’s no wonder our legislature is having such a tough time.
To see the problem further exemplied, one has only to peruse a single page of Saturday’s Trib. Page A3 contained two seemingly unrelated articles that in fact were intertwined because of Washington’s incomplete and faulty marijuana legislation. The first was a brief report on a South Hill homicide, described in an earlier story as a possible home invasion involving a marijuana grow operation. The second was a lengthier piece on I-502, an initiative that seeks to completely decriminalize marijuana.
Though I have yet to read the initiative, I-502 would reportedly, “create a system of state licensed growers, processors and stores…” That model may be a better solution than our current statute, but only if it mandates that any growing, processing and selling be done through legitimate businesses in commercial storefronts. Anything less than that stipulation would encourage the current standard, the sketchy garage business enterpreneur. This phenomenon is the apparent cause of the regional increase in home invasion robberies.
The I-502 article also highlighted the unexpected opposition to this initiative: medical marijuana patients. At least a few of these folks became concerned about the “overly strict blood-test limit for driving under the influence under I-502.” In response, they are suggesting a counter idea entitled the “Safe Cannabis Act.” Both of these proposals merit a thorough read, but it definitely points out the splintered shape of the movement to legalize pot. It also begs the question why a so-called patients’ group felt the need to tweak a signed initiative based on a concern about getting busted for DUI (though Cheech and Chong would give it a thumbs up).
However this saga plays out, it’s too late to put the marijuana genie back in the bottle. The violent consequences of ineffectual legislation have become plain, and there is a vital need to fix the problem. Even the status quo of the last few decades of pot “prohibition” might be a better scenario, if only from a public safety standpoint. Either way, taking a half step towards legalizing marijuana could be described as ineffectual at best, and dangerous at worst.
In the case of legalizing marijuana, it will eventually be all or nothing.