Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Mother Of All Conspiracies

I recently read a story about Steve Tucker, the so-called “forgotten man.” In case you’re not familiar with Mr. Tucker’s story, and there’s no reason you should be, it is very tragic, to say the least, and more than a little scary. You see, Mr. Tucker was recently released after serving a 10-year prison sentence. Yes, that’s right, 10 years! This Steve Tucker must have been one dangerous criminal to be held in a federal prison for so long, right? I mean the average time a convicted murderer spends in federal prison is only 7 years. So what could Mr. Tucker have possibly have done to deserve such a severe punishment? Simple—he was convicted of selling electric lights. Yes, you heard me right. But just to make sure there’s no misunderstanding, I’ll say it again. Mr. Tucker was sentenced to 10 years, without possibility of parole, in federal prison for selling electric lights.

Technically, the federal crime he was convicted of was “conspiracy to manufacture marijuana.” So, you might be thinking, marijuana was involved after all; that’s a different story. But wait. There was no actual marijuana directly involved in the crime Mr. Tucker was convicted of. He was not accused of, nor convicted for, buying, selling, growing, transporting, smoking, or even possessing marijuana. After a multi-million dollar, 18-month-long investigation, the DEA was not able to connect Mr. Tucker with even a single joint. But that’s where the conspiracy charge comes in so handy. You don’t have to commit a crime, or if you do, you don’t need to even be aware you did. When a prosecutor throws the word “conspiracy” in front of a charge, it’s just a matter of waiting for the fat lady to sing. It’s all over but the sentencing.

So what exactly did Mr. Tucker do to land himself in jail for 10 long years? He operated a hydroponics store in Atlanta. In case you don’t know, that means his business sold electric lights, fertilizers, and other gardening supplies. It was a legitimate business and Mr. Tucker was a law-abiding, tax-paying business owner, living the American dream. Or so he thought. As it turns out though, some of Mr. Tucker’s customers were using products purchased at his store to grow marijuana. Now Mr. Tucker didn’t promote the use of his hydroponics equipment for growing marijuana. He didn’t advertise products specifically made for growing marijuana, and in fact if anyone asked him about growing marijuana they were asked to leave his store. But beyond that, Mr. Tucker didn’t question his customers or try to insure they were only using his products for legal purposes. And that was his fatal mistake. Even though he was running a legal business, selling legal products, he was still responsible for what those products were used for after they left his store. And so he had to pay for his life of “crime.” Let that be a lesson to others committing crimes that they have no idea they are committing.

But I don’t think the DEA went far enough. I’ve been doing a little research and have discovered that marijuana growers don’t purchase all of their growing supplies at hydroponics stores. It’s true. The same lights sold at these specialty stores are also sold at home improvement stores, often at lower prices (very important when you’re in a for-profit business, like growing marijuana commercially). Not to mention plumbing and other gardening products. So why stop at shutting down a few mom-and-pop hydroponics stores when much bigger fish are just asking to be caught? National chains like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Central Hardware, Ace Hardware, to name a few, should also be investigated. I’d be willing to bet that they don’t routinely question people who purchase high-pressure sodium lights as to their intended use. And when it comes to gardening supplies like soil, fertilizer, and pots, there’s no better place to get them at a guaranteed low price than Wal-Mart. Or K-Mart. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve purchased potting soil at Wal-Mart and was not asked a single question about it. They were practically encouraging me to use that soil to grow marijuana. And, as I understand it, growing with hydroponics requires things like water pumps and air pumps. As someone who keeps tropical fish, I know that these items can easily be purchased at any pet shop. And I also know that pet shop owners could care less what you do with a pump after it leaves their store. How irresponsible can they be? They might as well have a big sign in their store that reads, “Our pumps work great in hydroponics marijuana-growing operations.”

So I think the DEA’s mission is clear. Any store anywhere any time that sells anything that could conceivably be used to grow marijuana needs to be shut down. Not only that, but their merchandise should be seized by the DEA. Isn’t that what the forfeiture laws are for? And their owners need to be held responsible for their actions—they need to be prosecuted and their assets seized. And here’s the really neat part about this: Most of these national chains are publicly traded companies. That’s right, they have thousands of owners—their stockholders. Each and every one of them must be held responsible. By owning even a small part of a business that sells to people who use their products to grow marijuana, they are all involved in a conspiracy as much as Mr. Tucker was. The mother of all conspiracies. And there’s no excuse for that. This is the U.S. of A. after all.

As if that wasn’t enough to make our government cream their jeans, it gets even better. Just think of all that “loot,” aka proceeds of crime, seized by the federal government. I bet when all is said and done, it would be the total assets of over half the population. Maybe three-quarters. That’d be enough to pay off the national debt, and then some. Of course a lot more prisons would need to be built. But since those are private businesses nowadays, it would be a great boost to our economy. It might be a little tricky to handle, what with more people being in prison than out, but since when has our government backed down from a challenge? And if that’s what it takes to finally, once and for all, rid our country of the scourge of marijuana, then so be it. If our government did anything less, what kind of message would it send to our children?

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