written collaboratively by:
<<< Michael C. Kelley editor/publisher
Christine L. Weiss >>> editor/publisher
< Photos by Curt Kelley >
In reply to
re: How much the big 78 plant pot bust in Baxter County, Arkansas, cost us
taxpayers, we at
Gozarks.com went to Shirley High School early in 2004 to
Lt. Col. Moore, head of the Arkansas National Guard Drug
Interdiction Team, to ask that very question.
Since that time, we have remained interested
in the subject and more so recently. Considering the escalation of the War
on Terrorism, spiraling energy costs, and the mire of famine plaguing
parts of our world, we wonder, you know, since we insist on believing that
"money is a limited commodity" (even though "we the people" are the ones
who print it and assign value to it) it seems logical for us to consider
how every public dollar is spent and assign it to the most worthwhile
In this light, we wish Ms. Tempelmeirer's
figure of 'probably hundreds of dollars per (drug-raid confiscated) plant'
were accurate. It is worse. It is unbelievable in fact.
According to Col. Moore, 2 years ago when fuel costs were about half of
what they are now, a Blackhawk helicopter and the equipment on board cost
$2700 per hour to operate, and that was only the cost of the
In addition you have things like the vaunted infra
red scanner mounted under the whirlybird (used to detect heat signatures
of the marijuana plant). These do not come cheap. One little bling-bling
like this can run half-a-million bucks.
On top of that, interdiction teams generally
use dozens of ground troops to swoop into a pot patch once found and
targeted, so we estimate with the personnel and odds and ends, trucks and
transport fuel costs for the troops as well as food and other material
expenditures, you are looking at at least $4000 per hour, and that's just
for the Guard.
"I myself," explains Kelley, "spent four
years in the Navy and six years in the Navy Reserves and I will attest
these figures and manpower are accurate and probably conservative
considering today's fuel costs."
In light of what
There was 50 personnel from seven law
enforcement agencies (Baxter County Sheriff's officials, Mountain Home
Police, Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Civil
Air Patrol, U.S. Forest Service, Drug Enforcement Agency and the 14th
Judicial District Drug Task Force), and four helicopters (two from the
National Guard, one from Baxter County Sheriff's Department and one from
Arkansas State Police).
Kelley continues, "We taxpayers laid out at least $24,000 (per
six hours) for the Blackhawk and crew. Since there
were two of these in service, I peg the cost to us for using the Guard at
a minimum of $40,000 for the Baxter County raid."
Regarding the other eight agencies besides
the Guard and two additional helicopters that rushed in to assist in this
epic war-game, one can only guess but we would say that an additional $50,000
is not outside the box. Therefore, we calculate that this one day of pot
hunting by 'our' government officials comes to at least $90,000.
Now understand that in the month of July, the
pot plants very well may not yet be sexed. This is important for the
uninitiated as one half of any given pot crop is male and hence useless
and these plants are discarded by the grower. That reduces the 78 plants seized in
Baxter County to a legitimate "market value" of about 40.
Given that some plants are perhaps six or
seven feet tall (rangy ones at that) down to the runts of a foot, the
averaged-out amount of saleable pot at harvest is around two ounces per
plant, and this assumes a "full harvest." However your average pot thief
(this includes hikers, off-roaders, etc., and the lazy bastards that just
wait to steal a cultivator's hard grown produce) are far more efficient
than our finest constabulary, removing an uncountable number of hidden plants every season!
So, if those 78 plants in had gone
undiscovered by our drug militia, there is a 50/50 likelihood they never
would have made it to market.
We note with special interest that the police
and various news outlets seem never to make these facts part of the public
record, preferring to exaggerate claims about the significance of such
conquests with dis-loyal propaganda, such as the recent Bush
administration allegation that each and every seized marijuana plant has a
street value of $6000...!!!
More accurately, allowing a street value of
roughly $150 per ounce (Note: in more affluent areas such as California or
back East, one ounce of a 'high grade' Indica strain, sometimes referred
to as 'skunk weed,' can readily fetch $300, but remember, we're talking
about Baxter County, Arkansas), an average harvest of 40 female plants
will yield roughly $12,000 (2 ounces per plant X $150 per ounce = $300 per
plant X 40 plants = $12,000). And again, that's IF these "backwoods"
plants actually make it to market.
No matter the market value, the yield per
plant is however the same--way smaller than most government sources and
Factoring all this in to an answer for Ms. Tempelmeier's question,
by our investigative (and highly conservative) calculations, it cost us
taxpayers $90,000 to harvest 40 marketable plants. That's a cost of $2250
each; $90,000 spent to destroy $12,000 worth of
herb. And that accounts nothing for the human
"According to a source I had whom was with
the Guard for years doing this 'work'," Kelley informs, "the sensor
devices mounted on the choppers don't function well at altitudes over one
hundred feet. Hence, the choppers fly dangerously low at tree top level --
we have all seen them -- and have human spotters dangling out the door."
Kelley's 'insider' connection also asserted
that the on-the-ground troops that gather and carry-off the sized
contraband are notorious for filling their pockets with loot,
knowing that since they burn it and theoretically it could get into their
blood, they are not drug tested themselves. This also opens the door for a
great deal of 'insider trading.'
"The largest bust in Arkansas history,"
Kelley continued, "was in Benton County where the Guard found five acres
tended by Mexicans about five years ago. This also came to me from the
Guard-whistleblower who was killed a year ago or so, resultant of an
In light of all these human risks,
the extraordinarily consumptive economic factors and the somewhat pressing
world conditions mentioned earlier on, we at
Gozarks suggest that our government outsource the seizing of
marijuana crops to the pot-luckers and prowlers who wander the forests
trampling and pilfering these paltry plants. They are, overall, far better
at depriving the growers of their harvest and they cost us taxpayers not
one red cent.
Better still, we suggest that "we the people"
get out of the pot-plant business altogether, invest our human, economic
and technological resources more appropriately and stick to waging war
against the real bad guys -- which presently our brave leaders seem to be
doing with equal brilliance.
MARIJUANA OPERATION WAS
04 Aug 2005, The
Author: Louise Tempelmeier
Media Awareness Project Archive
A week or so ago our county judge, Mr. Hall, announced personnel layoffs
because of a money shortage in county funds. He did say things may
improve though before year's end.
Seventy-eight marijuana plants were pulled
from two plots on Tuesday, July 26. If you read the whole article and not
just the headlines, you were either shocked or amused. Not the fact that
78 plants were confiscated but what it took to complete this large
eradication of this evil menace.
Now keep in mind there were 78 plants. There was 50
personnel from seven law enforcement agencies (Baxter County Sheriff's
officials; Mountain Home Police; Arkansas State Police; Arkansas Game and
Fish Commission (wonder what part they played ); Civil Air Patrol, U.S.
Forest Service; Drug Enforcement Agency and the 14th Judicial District
Drug Task Force ); four helicopters, two from the National Guard, one from
Baxter County Sheriff's Department and one from Arkansas State Police.
At one site they found all of three plants, then later the "Biggie Hit" 75
plants in one spot.
This "official action" reminds me of an episode of the Andy Griffith show
when Barney Fife was after a "bank robber" that turned out to be a goat
that wandered into a warehouse.
We will never know how much taxpayer money
was used for this action. It would be too embarrassing if we were told
that it probably cost hundreds of dollars for each of the 78 plants.
Also, not too long ago, the sheriff said the high cost of fuel was putting
a pinch in their funds. Four helicopters and probably 30-plus other
official vehicles scouring the whole county would use a lot of fuel -- all
for 78 plants. I think the action should have been downplayed instead of
front page news.
Our military are being killed almost daily in Iraq, and we have to look
for this news on pages 12A to 14A, the last pages. A theft of a lawn
ornament in a local yard will at least get page 3.
I want to know how much of my ( and your ) money was spent to pull up 78
marijuana plants, cruise the whole county plus flying over it also.
Serious overkill in my opinion.
gentlemen, it is time for us to take action. This battle has been ongoing for
years. Its cost, in terms of dollars, has been astronomical. In the
billions. And it has, in the most real sense, wreaked devastation on more
lives than the composite total of all previous battles ever waged on the
face of the Earth.
REPORT commissioned by the U.S. government (and paid for with our tax
dollars) about the ineffectiveness of the anti-drug strategy being
pursued... then WRITE A LETTER to the editor of your local newspaper. (An
excellent reference source to walk you through this process is
Also, see our Arkansas
news-links pages.) Call, write or email your state and federal legislators
(In Arkansas, support for your efforts may be found at
ARDPArk.) Sponsor a
LEGITIMATE debate in your community, perhaps with the support of the
administrators (whose salaries you pay) at your local high school.
Speak your mind... but before you do, please...
LEARN THE TRUTH.
Army National Guard visits Shirley Schools
Gozarks front page, February 2004, by
Randy Moore, Principal
of Shirley High
School, made it possible for his little brother, LTC Richard
Moore, Counterdrug Coordinator of the
Arkansas Army National Guard, to come to the school on February 3,
2004, with their Drug Enforcement surveillance helicopter. Richard and
other Army personnel were there to talk to and answer questions.
The National Guard is in
the process of changing out all the old UH-1 fleet with the new
H-60 Blackhawks, to operate one of these is about $2,700 an hour.
They don’t go out with the helicopter looking for plants and such unless
they are working for a law enforcement agency, whether it’s for the
Drug Enforcement Agency
(DEA) or the State
Police. They don’t go unless they are asked for their assistance.
During the summer months, July through the end of September, they will go
wherever the law enforcement agency asks them. They do county by county,
maybe a county a day. “Wherever the law enforcement is working they will
tell us specifically what to look for,” Richard Moore said.
Kelly, editor of
ArmchairHoodlum, asked “Does the government consider the drug-ops
cost effective? In other words, is it worth the money?” Richard Moore
believes “yes.” Going out and actually cutting the plants down is part of
it, and what they were doing at the school, what the Drug Commander does,
is just basically teaching the kids to just say no to drugs.
My mom, Christine, editor of
Gozarks, asked about
their general surveillance technology. Richard replied there is a lot of
current technology out there. Some of the stuff that this particular
helicopter is equipped with is a heat-seeking device. This is commonly
used in the event that someone is lost. If it is within the first 24
hours, they can fly at night and detect heat signatures, but after 24
hours it may be too late.
There is no surveillance done on “people” and no surveillance on anything
else unless there is a house that is a suspected drug house. All other
local resources (officer patrols, investigative techniques) are used for
detecting this kind of stuff, first. But, if local law enforcement asks
the Arkansas Army National Guard to look at a house from the helicopter,
the kind of things they are looking for include people coming and going
often, but not what is happening inside the house.
Meth labs put off a particular heat signature. If any house is putting off
this heat signature, they will be able to tell. They are not using any
No weapons are carried on the Drug Enforcement helicopter or on any of the
people on it. Michael asked if there have been any accidents with
helicopters. Richard said one, because of an engine failure.
Captain Dickinson piloted that helicopter. He received a “Broken Wing
Award” for the job that he did landing the aircraft in a field with hay
bales, ditches and other obstacles. That information and the rest of his
story will be printed in this month's "Flight Facts."
the helicopter is a thirty million candle power spotlight and the infrared
sensor/day camera with a seventy-two-times zoom on it. It has six auto
tracker functions. It can track a moving target, a stationary target, a
heat source and also it can track something that is gray or any given
With the technology they have on the helicopter, they can pick a person
out of a crowd from one hundred feet, even sometimes from two hundred feet
or more, depending what they are looking for.
They have three helicopters plus light and heavy armored vehicles. The
heavy armored vehicle is a wheeled vehicle, not track. It is known to be
an impressive piece of machinery, and it will run about fifty miles an