A state taskforce with a helicopter and drug-sniffing dogs raided a Georgia man’s house and garden – only to find okra.
The Governor’s Taskforce for Drug Suppression mistook okra, a popular vegetable widely grown in the South, for marijuana.
“I do the right thing and they come to my house strapped with weapons for no reason,” the innocent man, Dwayne Perry, told WSB-TV in Atlanta. Deputies woke Perry up early in the morning after a taskforce member in a helicopter spotted his okra patch near Cartersville, Georgia.
“They were strapped to the gills.”
After going through Perry’s garden, the taskforce members apologized to him.
It is easy to tell okra from marijuana because okra has five leaves and the cannabis plant from which marijuana is harvested has seven, Perry said. A spokesman for the Governor’s Taskforce admitted that his people could not tell okra from weed.
“We’ve not been able to identify it as of yet. But it did have quite a number of characteristics that were similar to a cannabis plant,” Captain Kermit Stokes of the Georgia State Patrol told the station.
Funded by the DEA with Forfeiture Money
Marijuana eradication efforts like the Governor’s Taskforce take place all over the country, Washington Post blogger Christopher Ingraham noted. They are part of a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) effort called the Cannabis Eradication Program.
Much of the money that supports the program comes from asset forfeiture, Ingraham reported. That means money taken from citizens not charged with crimes could be used to fund eradication.
“Okra busts like these are good reason for taxpayers to be skeptical about the wisdom of sending guys up in helicopters to fly around aimlessly, looking for drugs in suburban gardens,” Ingraham wrote. “And that’s not to mention the issue of whether we want a society where heavily-armed cops can burst into your property, with no grounds for suspicion beyond what somebody thought he saw from several hundred yards up in a helicopter.”
The DEA itself has admitted that as much as 98 percent of the “marijuana” eradicated by the program is actually non-psychoactive ditchweed or wild marijuana which grows as a weed in many parts of the nation, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) alleged.
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Authorities in Indiana alone seized more than 212 million ditchweed plants as part of an eradication effort, according to a NORML press release. Incredibly, much of the marijuana the DEA is trying to eradicate was planted before World War II as part of a federal program to encourage the growing of hemp. Hemp was used to make rope for the Navy and considered vital for national security until World War II.
Man Rattled by Okra Raid
One person who is not amused by the eradication policy is Perry, who admits he is still upset by it.
“The more I thought about it, what could have happened?” Perry, who is retired, said of the raid. “Anything could have happened.”
Neighbors, Perry told WSB, are still calling him asking what happened. He fears it ruined his reputation.
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