Can you talk about the growers you have met over the years?
Twenty years before I had done a lot of undercover work--it was mainly amphetamine,
LSD, heroin and cocaine--I thought all the dealers were scum. When I got
into the marijuana program, one thing that amazed me was how cooperative a lot
of the people were. How proud of what they're doing. How normal in every other
respect they were.
This is confusing and I'm not used to lawbreakers that took their kids to
school and worked as crossing guards and that sort of thing. Whole different
attitude. It made it a lot more complex, but it made it a lot more interesting.
Then, as I learned more about the agriculture, itself, and was able to talk to
these people, they became even more interesting because they had devoted a lot
of time into learning as much as they could. The amount of expertise that
they had was at the university level quite a bit because I went to IU [Indiana University] and
talked to people in the biology department to find out what was being done.
They were always on the cutting edge of the technology and they took some very
common technology and utilized it in the growers. So, I'd have to honestly say
I was impressed by them and I found a lot of them to be engaging personally.
There's some of them that I, quite frankly, like. But I still put 'em in jail.
They're breaking the law.
But they're different. They're not crack dealers. They're not South Americans
with machine guns. But here, thank goodness, we were able to escape the violence
in some other areas. I think part of it was the philosophy of law enforcement
here in Indiana. We did not go up and crash through doors. You cannot flush
down 300 pounds of marijuana and 15 growing lights and the attendant
We'd walk up and knock on the door. Here we are. Let you do it peacefully, and
most of the time we go in with a video camera and they'd take us through and
tell us where, because there are danger areas in there as far as electric power
and water and fertilizers, and most of them cooperated, which I wasn't used to.
I can't recall one ever physically resisting. Sometimes they're a little
unhappy, and there was harsh language used, but that doesn't hurt.
So they're different. They impress me.
Did you come to any conclusions?
I still reflect about it. We've got alcohol, we've got tobacco. Why are so
many people dedicated to this drug? I don't believe it has any medicinal
value. At one time, the government did run a program, which I partially
administered here, where we had marijuana cigarettes available. We couldn't
find a physician in the state that would write a prescription for them. It's
been much ballyhooed, but that existed for over ten years and the medical
community rejected it.
I think a lot of people that grow, actually grow it to stay off the mean streets.
They don't have to go out and buy dope, and go to the places where it's sold
and deal with the people that sell it. But the downside and reverse side of
that is sometime along the line they say, "Gee, I've spent this much on
equipment and this much on fertilizer. Why don't I grow a little more and sell
it, and pay for that?"
People get hurt, not physically, but families get hurt. It happens, but that's
very fair and simple. If you're in there, in your house, growing marijuana for
your own use, chances are we will probably never show up, because you're not
going to use that much power. Nothing, people are not going to know about
it. You asked me about informants. One year, we did three indoor grows here
based on the children [of] the growers, through the D.A.R.E. program. They not only told
us about it. They drew diagrams. How to get to daddy's indoor grow. So, that's
tough on a family.
Well, if the law is creating a situation in which kids are spying on their
parents. Do you think about that?
Oh, I don't see that like Nazi Germany or Communist Russia. No. No. I just put
that out because it happened and I find that unusual noteworthy, maybe even
scary. But on the other hand, most people in this country will tell you they
want education on drug abuse. This is what you're going to get from your
What do you think about the idea of decriminalization?
I am just opposed to decriminalizing it. Where do we stop? Do we tell our young
people that marijuana's bad, but under 30 grams is good? That doesn't make
sense. If 30 grams is good, then 31 grams, what's bad about that? They're
intelligent enough to see through that argument.
The toughest audience you ever have speaking about drugs is a bunch of teenage
kids. Not only do they have most of the answers, but they think they know the
ones they don't have. I'm against decriminalization because I believe we have
to draw the line somewhere, and we have enough problems without legalizing
marijuana. You say to decriminalize small amounts, but then where does that
There are anti-drug people who paint marijuana as not only valueless, but evil.
Do you think that we go too far in painting it.
I think we did that in the 30s. I think we did it in the 50s with my
generation, when I was a kid. My parents told me horror stories about marijuana
and they wouldn't have known marijuana if it had hit them in the face. Frankly,
as you get a little older and get into service and see marijuana, you realize
it will not make hair grow in the palms of your hand.
Some people say it's a benign drug, but I don't think it is because quite
frankly, I [have] seen too many instances of people smoking and then they get thirsty
and then they throw a little wine, maybe a quart or two. We talked to a
fellow earlier today who almost blew up a laboratory because the ether and the
marijuana and wine altogether. We don't know how many traffic accidents to
attribute to it.
Plus in my experience I've seen people that have smoked for over 20 years and
I've seen them become dull. Not everybody, by any chance, but a number of them
and I can't account for any other thing they did in their life that made them
dull, and these were not heavy smokers, but they smoked a joint or two a day.
That's scary. That's not much. That's a couple of grams.
Was there a particular case that stands out as really affecting you?
It was a five-year investigation and involved individuals here and in Colorado
and in New Mexico. Basically, they had a hothouse operation in southern
Indiana that appeared to turn out about 7,000 to 8,000 plants every
quarter. They owned at least two farms. One of a 119 acres and the other one of
a 120, and they would set the plants out there and initially grow them in the
hothouse and then set them out, harvest them and then transfer the dope out
Now, the investigation that we conducted indicated that these folks made $7 or $8
million in about a four year period of time. They admitted to
making $1 million, so the truth is somewhere in between but $1 million
is a lot of money for a part-time operation like that.
I'm concerned about the corruption that I have seen particularly in a couple of
other areas in this country, not only to law enforcement, but to communities, in
general, where the economic conditions are such that marijuana becomes a
dominant force in that county or in that region and the police while a lot of
times not involved are paid not to be involved if that makes any sense. They'll
patrol this road for a month or two or for three or four days, or at
night, and your business community, your banks, your merchants, they become a
part of it because your children and citizens see them taking that money which
they have to do to survive. It's not an easy answer, but it happens.
So there again, I'm against it. I've seen it happen. I see people get into it
for one year of the growing season, "We're going to make the big win and quit." And
they can't. The money's too easy, and eventually, those are the ones we catch.
They have a saying in the marijuana business, "We're not millionaires, but we
live like millionaires." Well, that's one way that we catch them, and they do it
quite frequently--a lot of trips, lot of toys.
Tell me about the case of the two brothers--an architect and a lawyer.
Well, the two brothers had started on a small scale in Colorado. The architect
was growing in his basement, he and his wife in his home in a suburb of Boulder.
They made so much money with this fairly small crop of 300 or 400 plants,
because it was an Afghani strain and that was new at the time. That must have
been over ten years ago. That the next year they put in 3,000.
They jumped seedlings. They transported half of them to Nebraska and half of
them out here. The brother that was an attorney had found a farmer that was in
some financial difficulties, which a lot of people were about that time. The
Reagan prosperity had busted out, and a lot of farmers had bought land high and
crops prices had fallen, and the farmer agreed [to] plant a camouflage corn crop and
basically nurture this marijuana crop--1,500 plants.
There were several participants, pickers and harvesters. This is formalized.
It's almost [like] GM. People have different jobs and the low-level people make about
$30,000 a year and the higher up in the organization you were, the more money
Next year, they did it on a larger scale, but they had bad weather, and the guy
that set the crops out didn't put the right herbicide in and they had a little
agricultural disaster. So about that time, we'd become aware of it. There were
search warrants and information that the Indiana State Police had developed out
of the local community, and they got in one more crop and probably did fairly
well with that probably. My guess is about 600 plants. And we were able to arrest them.
There were initially 16 people indicted. Seven of them pled guilty. Nine went to
trial. The trial took nine weeks. We had offered a plea bargain of sentences
from ten years down to three. They took, what we call the constitutional cruise, and
when it was over the jury was out, I think, [for] four hours ...
and they got sentences up to 20 plus years, all guilty.
Now their contention is that they only made about $1 million, but by the
money spent and the paper trail we were able to develop, we thought it was a
lot more and there were fines levied particularly on the attorney for the
amount of income. Their contention is that it all went for legal fees. I don't
Was there something about the two brothers that struck you particularly?
Well, it was an interesting case in the organization and the loyalty that the
people showed to each other. In a way, it was typical of marijuana cases in
that these people were much better educated. The attorney was particularly hard
to pin down because he was so well liked.
He was the epitome of a small-town lawyer. He did a lot of free work for
people. He knew his job. He was respected in the profession, he was a good
neighbor and people liked him. They're from a prominent Indiana family. The
other brother very likable. They had a lot of charisma and I became fairly well
acquainted with them and I believe it's genuine. They're likable people.
They're smarter than the average man and they were tougher to catch. It made
the case very interesting. They had the money to hire the best legal talent,
and got the best defense they could and then they went to prison.
It sounds like the all-American family.
They were the all-American boys. I had police information where they dabbled
with drugs in junior high school, but they were the all-American boys. You would
be very happy to sit down and talk to these people. They're interesting,
they're engaging, they're sincere. They love their children. Smart. Nice.
They broke the law and they knew better.
Should they have [received] the kind of sentence they got?
I think they should. It's one thing to catch somebody with 101 plant,s which is
generally the threshold for federal prosecution, but these people kept it up.
They kept it up after we knew that we were investigating. I think they felt
they could get away with it. I don't think they thought we could put the case
There were a lot of people in the community that shielded them out of misplaced
loyalty or genuine loyalty and maybe dislike of the police. Who knows? Maybe
they identified with the pirates more than they did with the Royal Navy. I
don't know. That's a subject to itself. But should they have gotten the
sentences. Yes, they should have, because that sends a message out that the
people of Indiana will not tolerate this type of behavior.
Why should we say it's OK for a guy to make $1 million raising
marijuana? Who are the end users of this marijuana? Marijuana is the threshold
drug. It's the drug that most children start out with. In respect of what you
were talking about earlier about, is there really a difference between big
marijuana and little marijuana? Remember there's two things about death and
pregnancy, both being sort of final. Well, you could take the same view about
marijuana. How much is enough? Too much.
What do you see happening now with federal sentencing and the mandatory
I think that the sentences are tougher, but I think the judges are more
creative. I think you're seeing more alternative sentencing in marijuana cases.
I think that if we trooped you in with a pound of crack, you would go to prison
for 20 or 30 years. If we trooped you in with a 100 pounds of marijuana, you'd
probably be doing some community service down at the Girl's Club teaching
girls how to make documentary films and everybody would be better off.
You wouldn't be in prison. You wouldn't be a burden on the taxpayer. You'd
still be holding a job, hopefully paying taxes.
It's a philosophical thing with them that I disagree with, but you'd still be
contributing to the community. The second time we got you, good-bye.
How about the marijuana sentences? Are they proportionate to what violent
criminals are getting?
I cannot see somebody in there doing eight years for marijuana and a rapist being
set free. Anybody that abuses another human being, I have a certain loathing
for. There's a disparity there, but that's not with law enforcement. We don't
make the laws and we don't sentence the offenders. All we do is catch people. A
lot of these people that we're talking about have only done one thing wrong.
You know what that is? They got caught.
With your experience of working with growers, dealing with them, do you think
that some kind of alternative sentencing in the marijuana area would work?
Oh, I think it does work. I think particularly on the first offense, but you got
to understand, the first offense is not the first time they did it. They
may have done it for ten years, it's just the first tie we caught 'em.
But the judge has to sentence them from the facts in that case, and that's the
law, and that's the way it should be and that's all the jury gets to hear if
they go to trial. But it gets back to what I said earlier. A lot of these
people have a skill. A lot of them have a legitimate job. And I believe they
should be given a second chance. That's what America is. It's the land of the
second chance. And these first time marijuana growers give them a second
chance. Now the second time around I kind of take a harsher viewpoint.
The guy who is growing ten plants in his closet, what do you feel is appropriate
for something like that?
Without knowing more facts on the case I couldn't tell you. What's his
attitude? Was he violent to the police officers? Did he beat up his children
when they protested the fact that he was growing marijuana? All these things
have to figure in. If he's growing ten plants, let's say, just to make it a
simple scenario, so he doesn't have to go out on the street,
purchase marijuana, expose himself to the danger. I think the court would do
well to consider alternative sentencing if there's an alternative there.
Does he have something to offer the community? Can he be punished and
rehabilitated? Because, unfortunately, in this country we look for both. We never
made up our mind. Do we want to punish these people or do we want to
rehabilitate them? Almost 30 years in law enforcement, I have to believe some
of them will never be rehabilitated. But quite a few can. And I've seen it
happen and some times it's worth giving ten a break to rehabilitate
What was it that led you to advocate alternative sentencing?
I support alternative sentencing based on my experience with the marijuana
traffickers in the Midwest. What I've seen the courts do here, in the Midwest,
with alternative sentencing. Based on my past twenty years prior experience
dealing with heroin and cocaine and amphetamine and LSD dealers. Some of who
did me physical damage and some who I did physical damage. Because, they're
violent people and I quite frequently hear the argument that narcotics
traffickers shouldn't be in prison with violent people. You better wake up
because most of them are violent people. And they'll hurt 'ya.
But these marijuana growers and traffickers, even though they have a
substantial capitol investment in here and are not violent towards us (the
police) here. In some other states they are. I can only speak [from] my
experience. But they're not violent toward the police. They're not violent
toward their confederates. They're not violent towards the citizens. Now,
they're different than the people that come out of Chicago, or Cincinnati on
the weekend to cut the fences and run their four wheels in here and pick as
much as they can. These are people who have preserved these fields and do as
little as possible to disturb the legitimate residents here. These are rural
people and they mind their own business. They don't support crime and they were
very supportive of us in our investigation. But they mind their own business.
So that's the culture down here.
And these people are part of their culture and they take advantage of it. They
have a place in the community and the courts. In one case I had 16 defendants in
a marijuana conspiracy. Fourteen got alternative sentences. I agreed with that.
It was Judge Sara Evans Barker in Indianapolis. She looked very much at what
each individual had to offer the community and put them to work in the
Why put these people into a prison where they're going to get a master's or a
Ph.D. in crime, which most of them haven't been exposed to anyway. They're just
people growing marijuana. Give them a chance. Second time around? Sorry. No
chance. First time, if they merit that break, give it to them. It's better for
the community. Less people in the prison system. They're still out working
and contributing. They're going to make an extra contribution whether it's
picking up trash or teaching children or repairing toilets. That is a positive
role. And I believe in that.
Trigger point issues. Do you think that marijuana has become one of those?
It's an emotional issue I think. It's right there with gays in the military
and abortion. Everybody's got an opinion on it. When I started in law
enforcement, the general opinion, particularly in the white middle class
community was, "Marijuana? Send them to jail." Because they're probably black or
Chicano to begin with. And it wasn't something that affected us. Now it touches
everybody in America. And I don't think anybody doesn't have a family member in
an extended family that hasn't been touched by it. So, there are some strong
A lot of times, I think they're irrational. I generally don't even talk to
people about the subject. People find out that I was an agent, "What do you
think of this?" I don't think about it very often. Because I don't know what I'm
going to set off in these people and frankly I don't want to hear it. They
don't, most cases, know as much about it as I do. They only know what happened
to their nephew or their daughter. Or their son got beat up by the police. And
maybe he did and maybe he didn't. I wasn't there, I don't know. But generally
there's two sides to every question.
And you hear from people who say you've got to send this guy away.
Yes. There's not a particular middle ground. People just have very strong
feelings about and I don't think anybody's unemotional about marijuana. People
a little younger than myself who particularly grew up, probably from the late
60s on, they tried it. And they in their cases got through it no fault, no
foul. No harm. But yet, when you talk to them ... I did a lot of public speaking
when I was on the job, because I believe the public should be informed about
this. And people would come up and say, "I do not want my children exposed to
what I went through in the 60s, the 70s, the 80s." ...
each one of them really sees it within the era that they were teenager, in
college or this, that and the other. And they have strong opinions. Most
of them, most people who are parents are anti-marijuana. There is no middle
ground for them. And that's why, I think, you see a lot of things going the way
In Indiana and the Midwest, how are people balancing out in their opinion
about marijuana right now?
Well, this is the law and order part of the country. It is a pleasure to work
here. Law enforcement is held in probably higher esteem here than any place I've
ever been. And government here is, generally, very clean. People are hard
working. I would say that it is probably more conservative than any place I've
been, but I haven't been everywhere so I don't know. Certainly, I know when I
was in the Southwest, I think it was kind of rites of passage for people to
smoke marijuana there. Up here, even though it grew so abundantly, I've met a
lot of people who [have] never smoked marijuana. There's a different attitude here.
You think the fact that the people are different says something about
No. Not about marijuana. [It] says something about the people that like marijuana,
but marijuana is still a weed.
It sounds like what you're saying is you have one image as a person and as a
law enforcement officer. Of people who use or deal with marijuana--you've come
to have a slightly different view of that.
Probably. I entered into it with not really much of any impression of
marijuana growers. Because I hadn't been around them that much. To me, they were
just another class of law breakers. And then, in the five years that I ran the
program and when I did so much work with them and worked the investigations, I
came to see them as a different breed of cat. They're still criminals, but they
don't have some of the characteristics of all the others that I dealt with in
the 20 years previously. You'll find disagreements within the marijuana
irradication community and law enforcement. There are guys in Northern
California will say you're nuts. People out here shoot at us regularly. People
in southern Oregon. Troopers in Kentucky and agents over there. They have a
lot of violence there and they have a different culture. But, we're talking
about what I've experienced. And it's what I've experienced. They are
Marijuana policy and law really is a hard area to talk about for many
people. Why is this issue so hard for people to discuss?
Well, because everybody has an opinion and it's based mostly on emotion
rather than rationale. We decriminalized marijuana in this country in
response with requests from other nations. At the turn of the century we were a
source country for marijuana to North Africa and the Middle East. And they were
under the Ottomans. They clamped down on marijuana production, hashish, hemp.
And in return we signed treaties with them because we had a serious opiate and
cocaine problem in this country from the Civil War on up. And we wanted to shut
some of that traffic down.
All that was codified in the 1914 Harrison Narcotic Act, but it existed
for a reason. It was there because at the time, it was a sincere problem.
Whether we're not supplying marijuana to the Middle East, I doubt. But we're
growing plenty for ourselves and it's better than what we import from Mexico
and Colombia. So do we just roll over and play dead and say, "Hey, we give up?"
That's non-tasters the American way. I do not believe that
decriminalizing or legalizing is going to help in any way. The drug is still
there. I do not care what people say. I talk to many people. It's an addictive
drug. If not, physically, psychologically to make people have to have it every
day. To get the heart started. To mellow out at the end of the day. I think
it's a dangerous drug. I don't think it does any good. Period. It makes you
feel better. Take your shoes off, put your feet in some hot water and that will
But it's a tough issue. We have to look at the history. We have to go
back in time as to why it happened. Like the 30s, we had gotten carried away
with it. We got into that period of excess. Not only in the enforcement of the
law but in the educational information that we put out on it. And that lasted
through the 5's. The 6's came along and destroyed a lot of the myths about
it. But, on the other hand, they have also because of the research done down
at the University of Mississippi show that it's a carcinogen, there's no
health value to it. [It has] 400 carcinogens in it. A lot more than tobacco does.
And five times the potency. When you take that, coupled with the fact that
marijuana burns at a higher temperature, it's dangerous. I see no benefit to
You're not for decriminalization or legalization. But it seems fair to say
that you would like to see room made to step back and look at this whole area
a little more objectively and calmly without so much emotion in the way we
think about marijuana.
Let me put it to you this way. We probably spend more in this country to
advertise coffee in one day than we do on marijuana research. We need more
done in that area. The American public deserves the facts. What is this drug?
The arguments are still, if you read the prior issue of High Times, some very
good arguments for medical marijuana in there. But they're also shot with a
couple of fallacies that I find. We need somebody people can believe in. To
actually say this is what it does. This is what it doesn't do and try and take
some of the emotion out of it. It has become too emotional an issue to too
many people. But to say that I would ever be for decriminalization. There's
no evidence that I've seen at this point in time that would make me go along