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Every year, an unknowable number of people died of the result of cannabis prohibition. There are countless people who have medical conditions whose lives could be extended or improve with cannabis medicines. There are also people who died as the result of attempting to buy, sell or grow cannabis in an unregulated market. Some of these deaths are murders, while others may relate to law enforcement.
A recent tragedy out of Pennsylvania highlights how ridiculous prohibition policies truly are. A man attempting to flee law enforcement who had located his outdoor cannabis garden ended up dead during a unnecessary chase.
Gregory Longenecker was a 51 year old man from Reading Pennsylvania. On July 9th, a State Game Commission employee spotted a vehicle parked inside state land in Berks County. It didn’t take long for that employee to locate a small marijuana garden on state land. Local law enforcement was called. police located two men shortly thereafter, one of whom was immediately taken into custody while the other fled on foot.
Roughly an hour after the state employee first noticed the vehicle, the state actually sent out both a bulldozer and a police helicopter to search for one man over a 10 plant cannabis garden. The helicopter spotted but then lost Longenecker.
Sharing the information of his most recent whereabouts with police and state staff on the ground proved to be a tragic mistake. The bulldozer, which a state Game Commission employee was driving, ran over the fleeing man. So far, results from the autopsy are conclusive with death due to traumatic injuries.
A man is dead and another man is in jail, all over 10 cannabis plants. Unfortunately, cultivation of any number of plants is a felony in Pennsylvania. Concerned about the potential for a$15,000 fine and up to five years in jail with certainly what led the victim to flee the scene.
It seems like an unconscionable waste of State funds and law enforcement time and resources to hunt a man down through thick vegetation with both a bulldozer and a helicopter. Neither man involved with a grow was accused of any sort of violent crime. There is no reason to suspect they posed any sort of actual danger to the public. While they did violate state law, both by growing cannabis and by doing so on state-owned land, those offenses should certainly not results in an instant death sentence.
There is no doubt that what happened in this case was a tragic accident. Officials did not intend to kill Gregory Longnecker, but that is still the outcome. So long as there is a massive financial incentive for law enforcement to pursue drug crimes over actual violent crime, this kind of unnecessary conflict will continue to occur.
The War on Drugs is a waste of resources that endangers both the public and law enforcement unnecessarily. One can only hope that this tragic death will be the inspiration for lawmakers and citizens in Pennsylvania to demand reform now.
For previous Ladybud coverage of the War on Drugs, click here.
Photo Credit: Kristian Pikner under CC BY-SA 4.0