The startling aspect of these statistics is that despite concerted law enforcement efforts, thousands and thousands of plants remain undetected annually and are consumed locally or transported to urban areas for resale. According to a National Drug Intelligence Center report, domestic Caucasian cultivators continue to be the primary retailers of marijuana throughout the state. And because of the readily availability of Kentucky pot, prices remain stable, averaging between $1,800 - $2,400 a pound in Kentucky cities, and about five dollars a gram on average throughout the state in the retail market.
The availability of public lands is another factor which contributes to the preeminence of Kentucky in the marijuana community. Our national forests, management areas and other public lands are targeted by cultivators because of the sparse population, accessibility, and optimal growing conditions. According to published Drug Enforcement Administration accounts, timber practices of the National Forest Service create openings in the forest canopy which permit sunlight to reach the forest floor. All of these conditions, coupled with the vast availability of public lands, contribute to optimal conditions for cultivation which pose limited risks of detection.
A cursory review of cultivating literature, Internet sites, or just plain old conversation with those individuals who grow marijuana reveal the intensity of feeling that these illegal farmers have towards their illicit crops. Growers wax poetic about their love of the "girls" or "ladies", referring to the female marijuana plant (male plants being discarded as part of the cultivation process), they compare detailed notes regarding appropriate ph balances and soil consistency, the attributes of particular seed strains, and the microscopic examination of the buds to determine the optimum moment of harvest. Growing tips abound about methods to avoid detection and discourage predation by insects and deer. And unfortunately, the zeal of some, the motivating power of untold illicit wealth, prompts some to endanger human life by the placement of booby traps and the use of armed guards.
Though many continue to extol the harmless virtues of marijuana and its supposed medicinal qualities, I don't buy it. Every week, addicts charged with trafficking in cocaine or powerful painkillers, manufactures of methamphetamine, burglars and thieves, appear for final sentencing. Frequently, these individuals, many of them bound for years in prison, recite a history of substantial marijuana abuse. Pot continues to be the most frequently abused illegal drug in the Commonwealth, and admissions for substance abuse treatment attributable to marijuana use continue to rise. Marijuana use is frequently abused in conjunction with other drugs or alcohol, producing a synergistic effect which corresponds to criminal conduct. Weapon seizures in conjunction with cannabis eradications have doubled in the last decade according to the NDIC. Cultivators destroy public lands, damage archaeological sites, and use dangerous chemicals which adversely impact our forest lands. Most critically, our students continue to abuse marijuana at alarming rates.
We should all be content to enjoy the blessings of Kentucky's beautiful fall season without consideration of its darker secrets. But I can't. I welcome fall's killing frosts. And so do Kentucky's law enforcement officers.