Can Legalizing Marijuana Help Appalachia?

By Michael P. Tremoglie

 

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Will legalizing marijuana help or hinder some of the poorest of Americans? Appalachia has long been known for intractable poverty, coal and moonshine. But what many do not know is that marijuana is an Appalachian cash crop.

Some say it will only help; after all, Appalachians make quite a bit of dough from grass. “Outdoor cannabis cultivation is common throughout the Appalachia…region,” reads a June 2007 report by the Department of Justice (DOJ). “The number of outdoor plants eradicated from grow operations in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia increased from 1,004,329 in 2005 to 1,252,524 in 2006. Cannabis cultivators deliberately locate outdoor grow sites in remote areas of public and private lands to reduce the chance of discovery by passersby or law enforcement and, more commonly, to protect their crops from theft. Cannabis is cultivated in Kentucky on broad areas of privately owned land, in the Daniel Boone National Forest, and on the Cumberland Plateau.”

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What coca leaves are to the mountain people of Peru, marijuana is to the mountain people of America. These growers take their their marijuana cultivation seriously, too. They are not shy about using lethal force to protect it. The DOJ describes some of the efforts to protect crops, “Cannabis cultivators frequently use camouflage, counter surveillance techniques, and booby traps to protect their outdoor grow sites. …These sites are often protected by armed guards who conduct counter surveillance. Moreover, the use of booby traps significantly increased in 2006….some cannabis cultivators used punji sticks, which may be camouflaged by leaves and brush or incorporated into pits and explosive devices, to reduce the risk of crop theft.”

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