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The War on Drugs


Researched and written collaboratively by:
<<< Michael C. Kelley editor/publisher ACH
Christine L. Weiss >>> editor/publisher Gozarks

< Photos by Curt Kelley >

In reply to Louise Tempelmeirer, re: How much the big 78 plant pot bust in Baxter County, Arkansas, cost us taxpayers, we at ArmchairHoodlum.com and Gozarks.com went to Shirley High School early in 2004 to interview 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 cause.

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 machine.

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 Louise Tempelmeier reports:

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 prohibitionists claim.

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 risk.

"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 apparent accident."

In light of all these human risks, the extraordinarily consumptive economic factors and the somewhat pressing world conditions mentioned earlier on, we at ACH & 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.

04 Aug 2005, The Baxter Bulletin
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.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for us to take action. This battle has been ongoing for over 30 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.

Read this INDEPENDENT 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 here. Also, see our Arkansas and National news-links pages.) Call, write or email your state and federal legislators (In Arkansas, support for your efforts may be found at DPEG and 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.

Arkansas Army National Guard visits Shirley Schools
Gozarks front page, February 2004, by Shalom Weiss, apprentice editor

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.

Michael 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 x-ray technology.

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."

Underneath 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 color.

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 hour.

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That you may be filled with strength and power, rooted and grounded in love that surpasses all knowledge: Be kind to one another; live with compassion, producing every kind of goodness; stand firm and hold your ground in truth, righteousness and peace; be courageous; embrace faith which is perfect trust in justice. ~Ephesians 3-6 (condensed)