"Authorities say their efforts keep drugs off the streets and illicit profits out of criminal hands," Kenning writes for the Louisville newspaper. "But critics call it a waste of time and money that has failed to curb availability or demand." Eastern Kentucky University criminal justice professor Gary Potter, a longtime student of the phenomenon, told The C-J, "Trying to eradicate marijuana is like taking a teaspoon and saying you're going to empty the Atlantic Ocean."
"I think it's the lack of economic opportunities that's really driven this beast," Lt. Ed Shemelya, head of the Kentucky State Police marijuana unit, told Kenning in a four-minute video that accompanies the story. The new enforcement wrinkle this year is that the Department of Justice has dropped its "usual 100-plant threshold used as a guideline to bring federal cultivation charges. . . . The idea is to push more growers onto private land, which can be seized."
Most of the region is part of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (map below), 68 counties in Eastern Kentucky, East Tennessee and West Virginia that "have less than 1 percent of the country's population, but were home to roughly 10 percent of the marijuana eradicated nationwide in 2006," Kenning writes. (Read more) For a map of other HIDTAs around the country, click here.