Criminal Gardeners

Cost of 5 pot plants: Jobs, not housePhiladelphia Inquirer

What got him interested in indoor growing, he said, “was an interest in gardening, not an interest in drugs. … The true irony of this whole situation is that I really hadn’t been a regular user for about 15 years.”

On Feb. 29, Haver, now 47, pleaded guilty “to put an end to this thing,” he said yesterday. The same day, his wife, 38, began a 30-day probationary period in a program under which charges have already been dismissed.

The consequences, however, haven’t ended.

“I anticipate losing my employment, losing my health insurance, losing my educational benefits, nine credits away from getting an MBA,” Steve Haver said.

What an awful headline, and how great an example of mass media just touching the surface of an issue and walk away. It also shows the the implicit classism of such cases. What makes this case any much touching than a grower or distributor in Strawberry Mansion receiving the same consequences? The same criminalization and control of drugs ripping apart our inner cities is doing the same to our suburbs, everyone should be concerned.

It’s worth understanding where our law enforcement and especially our incarceration priorities are at, and how poorly they are treating the real terror of drug addiction and poverty in our country. In Philadelphia, there is extreme concern for gun violence, but abatement programs are centered around heavy police work, which generally means more incarceration into already overcrowded prisons. Advocacy work for the poor in Philadelphia is a good start, but it’s like bailing water with holes in the sides of your buckets. The type of systemic change needed to correct the momentum of this system is daunting, decriminalization is not a popular rally call for many activists, let alone NGO’s or the general public. The 3rd season of The Wire does a remarkable job of demonstrating what controlled decriminalization could do in a city like Baltimore. What was particularly interesting was how non-profit organizations were elated to have a concentrated population of drug users to offer services to. Would probably make for a beautiful end-of-the-year report with great “numbers-served” for their next run of grant applications.

Some statistics to ponder:


Impassioned momentum.


If you live in the North East, you should be awfully concerned.


Poor Prescription: The Costs of Imprisoning Drug Offenders in the United States from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice