Pubdate: Thu, 31 Mar 2016
Source: North Coast Journal (Arcata, CA)
Column: The Week in Weed
Copyright: 2016 North Coast Journal
Authors: Thadeus Greenson and Grant Scott-Goforth


A Harper's Magazine writer recently reiterated a stomach-turning 
admission of racist societal control concocted by the Nixon Administration.

That scandal plagued presidency was the first to declare war on 
drugs, and did so squarely in the midst of social and racial 
upheaval, as well as a foreign war. In a recent article arguing in 
favor of the legalization of drugs, writer Dan Baum recounted how 
he'd tracked down former Nixon advisor John Erlichman in 1994 for a 
book Baum was working on.

Erlichman had served a year and a half in prison after being 
convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury for his 
role in the Watergate scandal, to which Baum attributed Erlichman's 
frankness when asked about the Nixon administration's drugs policy.

"The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, 
had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people," Erlichman told 
Baum. "We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the 
war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with 
marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both 
heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their 
leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them 
night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying 
about the drugs? Of course we did."

There's no way to unpack the many layers to that admission of crooked 
politicking in this column space. Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise. 
There's no question that America's war on drugs has damaged lives and 
our society as a whole. It's created an unforgivable imprisonment 
rate, especially for minorities. It's enabled, if not encouraged, 
violent criminal enterprises within and outside U.S. borders. It's an 
expensive, ineffective deterrent to the real dangers that drugs pose, 
and it's done nothing to support the addicts that the system fosters.

But to hear the adviser to the nation's top lawmaker admit to such a 
pointed, nasty and shortsighted campaign; an exploitation of the 
safety, security and livelihoods of Americans for political gains; 
that shocked even this jaded writer.


And the wheels of justice clang along.

A Whitethorn woman recently pleaded guilty to charges of depredation 
against the property of the United States, admitting to doing more 
than $100,000 worth of environmental damage to federal lands as a 
part of her marijuana cultivation operation.

Melinda Van Horne entered the plea on May 23 and is free on bond 
awaiting sentencing in July, when she faces a maximum term of 10 
years in federal prison.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Van Horne owned property and 
a home in the King Range National Conservation Area, which has 
special environmental protections through an act of Congress, 
including a prohibition against commercial activity and development.

But, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, between 2007 and 2013, 
Van Horne had vegetation stripped from portions of the conservation 
area, and excavated and graded land, in order to erect 11 greenhouses 
to grow marijuana in. Additionally, Van Horne diverted water from 
nearby Bridge Creek to irrigate her more than 1,600 marijuana plants.

The grading and excavating caused the land to become unstable and 
erode into two nearby rivers, both of which "provide crucial spawning 
and rearing habitats for threatened and federal protected salmon and 
steelhead," according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

As a part of her guilty plea, Van Horne has reportedly agreed to pay 
restitution fines to reimburse the federal government for more than 
$100,000 in restoration work performed on the property.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom