For years, advocates of the War on Drugs have promoted increased penalties for marijuana possession, claiming that the drug has a profoundly negative impact on American society.
Because of this emphasis on drug control, thousands of Americans have taken on positions that attempt to control the illegal growth of marijuana in forests and other wild lands.
It turns out, however, that some of these watchdogs have turned to growing pot themselves.
According to a recent report in the Chicago Sun-Times, a “resident watchman,” whose job is to prevent people from growing pot in Illinois’ Cook County Forest Preserve, was accused of growing marijuana in the forest she was paid to protect.
The alleged pot grower, 45-year-old Cynthia Wojtanowski, and her boyfriend are now facing felony criminal charges for illegally growing marijuana on public land.
Police were alerted to the marijuana patch after receiving an anonymous tip from a neighbor. Illinois police say that they catch many marijuana growers due to similar anonymous tips.
The arrest put a damper on Wojtanowski’s cushy deal with the Cook County Forest Preserve, which allowed her to live in her house at a deeply discounted price in exchange for her work.
The arrested woman’s duties for the Forest Preserve included clearing snow in the winter, removing wood, watching for fires, and preventing the development of marijuana farms.
Sources indicate that police found much more pot than could be consumed by a single individual, and that the cannabis was found in a location right next to Wojtanowski’s house.
Due to the proximity of the pot to her home, and the large amount of pot being grown, police may assume that she was dealing the marijuana in addition to consuming it herself.
After their arrest, the woman and her boyfriend spent the night in a county jail, and were released later the next morning on $25,000 recognizance bonds.
In addition to her criminal charges, Wojtanowski is also facing the pain of an eviction. After learning of the charges, the Forest Preserve gave Wojtanowski 30 days to leave the home. She has also been summoned to a disciplinary hearing, where she may risk losing her job with the Preserve.
Wojtanowski’s arrest has provided fodder for critics of the country’s strong laws against marijuana cultivation.
If the watchdogs are growing their own pot, the war on drugs may be crippled from the inside.
Also, critics of the war on drugs argue that, if a government employee can get away with growing pot on public land for such a long period of time, how are police to be trusted to effectively enforce the laws?
This arrest has caused further criticism in Cook County, where jobs such as Wojtanowski’s have long been criticized for being given to friends of politicians as rewards for political favors.
After the fallout of this arrest, it can safely be assumed that the Forest Preserve’s next watchdog will be watched a bit more closely.