Harrington: Legalize to Keep Your Grandparents Out Of Jail

Heady Vermont Staff 22 Dec 2017

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It’s almost the end of 2017, but we’ve got a late entry for headline of the year thanks to the Omaha World-Herald who yesterday produced this gem about a couple of smugglers old enough to be your grandparents:

Elderly couple claims 60 pounds of marijuana seized in Nebraska was intended for Christmas presents

Here’s the rest of the story, reported by the York News-Times Staff for the Omaha World-Herald on December 20:

YORK, Neb. — A couple in their 80s who were found with 60 pounds of marijuana in their pickup truck told York County sheriff’s deputies that they were going to give the pot away for Christmas gifts.

The marijuana, discovered during a traffic stop Tuesday on Interstate 80 in Nebraska, was considered high grade, Sheriff’s Office officials said. It had an estimated street value of $336,000.

Deputies stopped the couple’s Toyota Tacoma after they saw the pickup truck driving over the center line and the driver failing to signal, Lt. Paul Vrbka said. When they stopped the vehicle, he said, deputies could immediately smell the strong odor of raw marijuana.

Vrbka said the county’s K-9 unit alerted to the presence of a controlled substance. Deputies then searched the pickup and found the pot in boxes stored inside the pickup topper.

As a well-sourced cannabis journalist, I did some further investigating (and also read the next sentence) and learned that these spry smuggling Santas were bringing their sleigh full of seasonal sensei to the state of Vermont!

An 80-year-old man and an 83-year-old woman said they were from Clearlake Oaks, California, and were headed for Vermont. They were arrested on suspicion of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and no drug tax stamp.

It’s funny to chuckle and imagine an OG hippie couple handing out SIXTY POUNDS of California bud to their friends and families.


I’d also be interested to know how the York County Sheriff’s Department calculated the estimated street value of $336,000. I reached out to a legal California grower who’s familiar with the illicit wholesale market, to ask about the current market value for a pound of cannabis.

With a cynical chuckle, the OG Californian responded, “$1200 per pound is probably on the high side and that amount, it could be more like $800 these days.”

By those calculations, the street value isn’t a lofty $336,000, but a mere $72,000 – roughly 80% lower than estimated by the York County Sheriff’s Department.

To be fair, that six-figure estimate is probably more accurate for the end-user who is buying small amounts on the street, but that’s not the main problem with this article.

Without knowing anything about these intrepid octogenarians (that’s my disclaimer in case they turn out to be Nazis or something), I suspect they’ll find some sympathy from a jury, even in Nebraska.

For every 80-year-old who gets busted for a trunkload of weed, there are many, many more 20-year-olds with darker skin who end up incarcerated for possessing far less.

HOWEVER, there are two important takeaways from this otherwise silly story:

For every 80-year-old who gets busted for a trunkload of weed, there are many, many more 20-year-olds with darker skin who end up incarcerated for possessing far less. What would the consequences be for a young African American man with a single pound?  Incarceration rates already show that there are plenty of people of color who’ve had their lives ruined for minor possession or transporting cannabis across state lines.

At the local level, it also highlights the most obvious reason the Vermont Legislature should legalize possession and cultivation of cannabis next month: The demand for cannabis is, by default, ONLY SUPPLIED BY THE ILLICIT MARKET, and, due to prohibition, is so profitable that people will drive or ship it all the way from California.

The most obvious solution to the whole situation is for Vermont to have an organized and regulated cannabis economy.

The Grinch got the Ganja this time and these grandparents won’t be delivering their holiday cheer to Vermont this year. However, I’d bet my jingle bells that the Dankensence and Merrl will still be delivered – whether via pickup truck or mail – to many Green Mountain households this season.

Let’s give a break to ALL the Ganja Grandparents and Sunshine State Santas out there. Instead of perpetuating an illicit economy which supports this ridiculous situation, we have a great opportunity in 2018 to legalize small amounts of personal possession and home cultivation.

But remember, until things change, anyone possessing the “wrong” kind of christmas trees is still facing at least a $200 fine, enforced arbitrarily depending on if the police think you’re being naughty or nice.



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