Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Can marijuana rescue coal country?

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The issue is health, not jobs. Marijuana, essentially harmless, can substitute for opioids, highly addictive and frequently deadly.

Mark Lynn Ferguson reports in the Washington Post:

Johnsie Gooslin spent Jan. 16, 2015, tending his babies — that’s what he called his marijuana plants. More than 70 of them were growing in a hydroponic system of his own design. Sometimes, he’d stay in his barn for 16 hours straight, perfecting his technique.

That night, he left around 8 o’clock to head home. The moon was waning, down to a sliver, which left the sky as dark as the ridges that lined it. As he pulled away, the lights from his late-model Kia swept across his childhood hollow and his parents’ trailer, which stood just up the road from the barn. He turned onto West Virginia Route 65. Crossing Mingo County, he passed the Delbarton Mine, where he had worked on and off for 14 years before his back gave out. Though Johnsie was built like a linebacker, falling once from a coal truck and twice from end loaders had taken a toll. At 36, his disks were a mess, and sciatica sometimes shot pain to his knees.

Still, he managed to lift the buckets that held his plants; friends sometimes helped. In another part of the barn, they had set up a man cave with a big-screen TV and girlie posters. When they weren’t transplanting and trimming, they played video games and discussed their passion for cultivating pot. None of them had studied marijuana like Johnsie, but they all loved growing, seeing it not just as a hobby or a way to make a buck but as an act of compassion.

“Mostly the people that bought were older men and women, Vietnam veterans and people that’s been hurt,” Johnsie told me. “I mean, to hear them say, ‘You know, ever since I started smoking your pot, I ain’t touched a pain pill … ” He trailed off, shaking his head, but it was clear what he meant. In a state with one of the nation’s highest rates of overdose deaths, most of them opioid-related, it felt good to give people an alternative, one that even the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said this year has never caused an overdose fatality.

Minutes after leaving the barn, Johnsie parked in the light of his own trailer, a newly remodeled 14-by-60 that he shared with his wife, Faye, and 14-year-old daughter Bethany. His phone rang. It was a neighbor from Rutherford Branch Road, where the barn stood. Cops were there, asking about him.

Inside, Johnsie dialed his mother. Two officers, she told him, were standing in her living room. She handed the phone to one of them. Though he didn’t have a search warrant for the barn, the officer said he could get one, according to Johnsie. “But,” he said, “I think it would be better if you come and talk to me first.” (This account is based largely on Johnsie’s recollection. Neither arresting officer was permitted to be interviewed for this story, but it is consistent with a description of Johnsie’s case in the 2015 West Virginia State Police Annual Report.)

Johnsie hung up. He’d placed cameras around his building and vented it out the back, but people were packed tight into that narrow hollow. It was only a matter of time before someone figured out what was inside. Turning to his wife, he said, “Look, I’m going up there, and I’m going to jail.”

With Skoal tobacco, his one chemical vice, pressed tightly against his cheek, Johnsie drove back to Rutherford Branch Road, where officers met him outside. “It’s like this. I got your dad. I got a lot of pot on him,” Senior Trooper D.L. Contos told him. This was no surprise. Sam Gooslin had smoked pot for decades, and half of Johnsie’s pot went to him. His dad relied on it to ease pain from lung cancer, a new ailment layered atop others — diabetes, a stroke, four heart attacks and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“He’s a Vietnam veteran,” Johnsie recalls Contos saying. “I respect that. I don’t want to see a veteran go to jail. If you make me go get a search warrant, I’m taking you to jail, and I’m gonna get your dad on felony conspiracy charges because he’s taking the blame on what’s going on up there.”

Johnsie had only one option. He crossed the road and unlocked the barn, opening a series of doors to release a flood of light. The officers paused. One said he had busted hundreds of marijuana operations and had never seen anything like this. For the next two hours, Johnsie walked the officers through his process. He explained the role of the lights and hydroponics; why he placed three plants in a bucket, not one; how he used gibberellic acid to push the plants at just the right time. At the end, he recalls Contos telling him they had to seize his plants, but, referring to Johnsie’s equipment and supplies, he said, “I’m not going to take it away. One day, this might be legal.”

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 August 2017 at 3:18 pm

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