Apparently this month's crop of stabbings, armed robberies, rapes/molestations and teacher/student sex scandals in Catawba County, North Carolina aren't enough to keep the sheriff's department busy. Or maybe they just have too many deputies on the payroll. Something's obviously out of balance: They have time to go after gardeners.
"A man was arrested after deputies found nearly an acre of opium poppy in a Catawba County field," Charlotte's WBTV News reports. "Deputies spent the day pulling plants and loading them into their trailers." According to the Charlotte Observer, the uniformed bandits also stole the victim's pets and livestock.
Our fearless flower thieves estimate the value of their haul at an insane $500 million. That's a goody from the American drug warriors' bag of dirty tricks: Their guess is based on the total weight of the plants, not on the tiny amount of opium that might eventually have been extracted from each flower. They also love to do this with LSD, which is measured in micrograms, including the weight of the paper the chemical is embedded in. Bigger numbers make for harsher charges and more publicity. In reality, if those poppies were destined for the street market, the take would have been closer to half a million dollars than half a billion.
A few other numbers to put this circus into perspective:
According to Statista, approved pharmaceuticals are a $446 billion per year industry in America, a country accounting, per CNBC for about 80% of global prescriptions of opiates. Call that particular market $20 billion per year. And its giants don't like competition.
Then there are the tens of billions of dollars in tax money spent every year on the "war on drugs," which has over time become a make-work program to pad the budgets and payrolls of law enforcement at every level.
Meanwhile, as I note above, there are actual criminals committing actual crimes in Catawba County. But solving those crimes and busting those criminals isn't nearly as sexy or lucrative as trampling a guy's garden, seizing his other property, and talking smack about it on TV.
If you're a taxpayer in Catawba County or anywhere else, you're paying for this "drug bust" in two ways: Higher taxes and higher crime. Every dime and every minute spent busting pot-smokers, heroin junkies and flower farmers is a dime taken out of your pocket and a minute spent making you less, not more, safe from real crime.