The classification of cannabis remains a highly contentious issue and one that has caused problems for governments across the world for many years.
One of the most compelling arguments for the legalization of cannabis is for medical use, as there is some scientific evidence that suggests the drug may be useful in alleviating pain caused by a wide range of conditions. Evidence shows that it reduces the side effects of chemotherapy treatment, for example. (1)
Using cannabis for medical purposes does however remain “inconclusive”, and the complex nature of the substances found in the plant makes it difficult for medical research to clarify the efficiency or safety of using marijuana for medical uses.
The ‘confusion’ of medical marijuana certainly surfaced in the U.S. federal system in the 70s, when, in 1978, Robert Randall sued the federal government for arresting him for using cigarettes to treat his glaucoma. According to Wikipedia, the judge ruled that Randall needed cannabis for medical purposes, and as a result of this ruling the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a cannabis farm at the University of Mississippi to distributed cannabis cigarettes to Randall. (2)
However in 1992, George W Bush closed the Mississippi cannabis farm after it was discovered Randall was trying to make AIDS patients qualify for the program. Regardless, 13 of those people that were enrolled were allowed to remain on the program to receive the cigarettes.
Legalization of Marijuana
According to an article in the Seattle Times, Alaska, MA and NH are the only states in America where possession of marijuana is legal, although only up to one ounce. (4)
In 2011, the ‘confusion’ and ‘confliction’ surrounding the medical marijuana debate resurfaced once again when the American Society of Addiction Medicine issued a white paper citing the dangers of cannabis, and the lack of clinical research to support its medical value.
The paper recommended decriminalizing using marijuana for medical purposes in the U.S., where it is presently legal. (5)
In the state of California, despite marijuana of any kind being illegal, the drug is grown in abundance in the Central Valley, America’s most productive farm belt. According to a NPR report, in Central Valley, cannabis has become a more lucrative crop than grapes or almonds. (6)
In California, federal agencies are cracking down on “medical marijuana”, which, as the NPR report states, is actually being sold on the black market. Aside from raiding the cannabis farms in California and “yanking marijuana plants”, feds are now using a new tool in the crackdown against marijuana in California – targeting landlords. The Feds are threatening to seize buildings where marijuana is sold and farmland where it is grown. (7)
The Fed’s Weed Identification Techniques
Talking to NPR, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wanger spoke of California ‘isolating itself’ in refusing to have medical marijuana laws.
“California can’t just isolate itself and say, ‘We’re just doing something else,’” says Wanger. He continued:
“There’s rampant interstate sales of marijuana that are going, money that’s pouring into California from criminal organizations all over the country, places that don’t have medical marijuana laws.” (8)
The report continues that the collision between state and federal laws in California is creating ‘confusion and panic’ amongst medical marijuana users, and California attorney general has called on the feds to “show restraint in their crackdown”.
The Feds however, show no sign of restraining their crackdown on marijuana growing, whether it is for medical purposes or any other purpose. Part of the drive to crackdown on cannabis throughout the U.S. has resulted in an increase in fed weed identification techniques.
In a detailed report titled ‘How to avoid pot busts!’ the Marijuana’s Grower’s Page talks about the various police investigative techniques involved in locating and arresting cannabis growers.
These weed identification techniques include the police surveillance of grow equipment shops. The Marijuana Grower’s site describes the recent tendency for feds to place stores which sell gardening equipment under surveillance as being like “the watering holes in the desert”, where the “predators hang out, waiting for their prey to come to them.”
The Marijuana Grower’s Page says that although the surveillance of grow shop technique “generates leads without snitches,” it has its dangers in a free society.
“Gardening has become a common form of recreation in America. Its popularity, including the popularity of legitimate indoor gardening is exploding. Thus, not only does this investigative technique raise an issue of the chilling effect upon protected legitimate conduct, it also casts doubt upon police observations, which are as probative of a legal indoor garden as of an illegal one.” (9)
Is Power Consumption Detection Over the Line?
Another Federal weed identification that is somewhat ‘iffy’ in the sense that it poses questions over a ‘free society’, is the examination of power consumption.
According to the Marijuana Grower’s Page, as indoor cannabis cultivation relies heavily on electricity, examining power consumption records has become a common investigative fed tool.
“If your use is high, the cops say that’s probable cause. If your use is low, cops say that’s probable cause, too, because you must be stealing the power,” says the Marijuana Grower’s Page, before advising that the solution to the problem is “don’t be greedy.” (10)
The use of infrared thermal imagers is also being widely used to identify cannabis growers in the U.S. With this technique, feds use infrared thermal images to observe what they consider to be “excessively high levels of heat escaping from a residence,” of which, according to the Grower’s Page, they will point to marijuana growing as the probable cause of the “excessive heat”.
These cameras are also used from the air to identify patches of marijuana being grown on a grower’s property, even when concealed by other plants or trees. (11)
As we can see, these investigative techniques that federal agents are using across America in an attempt to crackdown on marijuana growing are unreliable and presumptuous to say the least, and do, as the Grower’s Page points out, pose dangers in what is considered to be a ‘free society’.
These questionable and hardly ‘conclusive’ Federal weed identification techniques are yet more evidence of the confusion, additional work for federal agents, and not to mention the millions of tax payer’s money being pumped into such surveillance.
Ironically, the criminalisation of marijuana creates more of a problem, and it serves to fuel even greater demand and higher prices. It also offers fodder for medical marijuana advocators to use in their plight to decriminalise marijuana.