Pot harvest time

It’s harvest time for marijuana growers, which means it’s also the time when patch pirates get busy ripping off gardens. The result is heightened tension and the possibility of violence, as recent incidents up in neighboring rural areas like Butte County demonstrate.

One fellow up near Chico was awakened from sleep last week by thieves stealing his medical marijuana. He rushed naked into the backyard and was shot at. The next night, somebody else tried to steal his pot, and this time, he did the shooting, driving them away.

Before Proposition 215 passed in 1996, backyard gardens were relatively rare. Besides being illegal, they were hard to conceal from neighbors. Now they’re legal for up to six plants with a doctor’s recommendation. But a well-tended plant can produce a pound of pot or more, with a street value of anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000—a tempting target for thieves.

Some people are suggesting Proposition 215 needs to be reformed—that it’s being abused by profiteers. But the real issue here isn’t the voter-approved measure to relieve the suffering of sick people. Proposition 215 would work fine if marijuana weren’t so valuable and thieves weren’t tempted to steal it. And the reason it’s valuable is because, for everyone except med-pot users, it’s illegal.

Prohibition of marijuana has the same consequences that prohibition of alcohol had in the 1930s—illegal trafficking, gangsterism and violence—and serves no useful purpose. As drugs go, pot is relatively innocuous. If it were decriminalized, its value would plunge, innocent medical-marijuana users wouldn’t have to worry about thieves and neighborhoods wouldn’t be disrupted by violence. It’s not Proposition 215 that needs reform; it’s the laws prohibiting marijuana use.