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rhoden-family-massacr

Pike County, OH — Authorities are sharing few details of their investigation into the appalling murder of eight family members in Pike County, Ohio. Autopsy reports confirm that the victims all died of gunshot wounds, and several pieces of evidence have been sent to the Bureau of Investigation for analysis.

There was one piece of information, however, that government was quick to release to the public—the existence of cannabis growing facilities at three of the properties. The plant is still illegal in Ohio, although a ballot measure for the legalization of medical cannabis use has cleared its first hurdle.

The victims are 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr.; his ex-wife, 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; their three children, 16-year-old Christopher Rhoden Jr., 19-year-old Hanna Rhoden and 20-year-old Clarence “Frankie” Rhoden; Christopher Rhoden Sr.’s brother, 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; their cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden, and 20-year-old Hannah Gilley, whose 6-month old son with Frankie was unharmed.

Two other children, Hanna Rhoden’s 4-day-old daughter and Frankie Rhoden’s 3-year-old son, also were unharmed.

The fact that the victims grew cannabis and probably sold it to others will undoubtedly play into the hands of drug war crusaders. Some in the media have already picked up on the narrative, dutifully echoing government spokesmen.

The opening paragraph of an article titled “Mexican cartels have used Pike County for pot grows” appearing at Cincinatti.com reads:

“The remoteness of Pike County’s wooded countryside makes it a perfect place for Mexican cartels trying to grow marijuana stateside.”

Although there is no link whatsoever to the brutal Mexican cartels and the Rhoden family, and no actual evidence is offered of Mexican drug cartels operating in Ohio, this media outlet feels fine wielding such a red herring.

The article goes on to talk about three past cases of large cannabis grow operations in Pike County that were “related to some kind of organized crime,” although no details were offered. Cincinatti.com even asserted that extracting oil from cannabis is as prone to explosions as methamphetamine labs, and these “shatter” labs are on the rise.

About 200 cannabis plants were found inside some of the homes of the Rhoden family victims.

The most important thing to remember is that there is nothing wrong with growing a therapeutic plant that is legal for medicinal use in 23 states. And, if the Rhoden family sold cannabis to others, there is nothing inherently violent or victimizing in the voluntary exchange of a dried plant.

Despite this, law enforcement and media are pushing a narrative that serves the interest of perpetuating the war on drugs. Simply mentioning the possibility of Mexican drug cartels being involved is enough to sway the minds of citizens, especially with a vote on legalizing medical cannabis possibly on the horizon.

Mexican cartels are notorious for having tortured and killed thousands of people in recent years as they operate the black market for drugs. The fact that government prohibition of drugs is the creator of this vicious black market is becoming increasingly known to all, and the momentum to change course is growing. This is the point that the narrative pushers refuse to acknowledge.

Mexico’s own president, Enrique Peña Nieto, recognizes the folly of the drug war, which is why he helped initiate the recent UN special session on drugs. The meeting turned out to be a disappointment, but Peña Nieto set the tone for the future, saying:

“So far, the solutions [to control drugs and crime] implemented by the international community have been frankly insufficient. We must move beyond prohibition to effective prevention.”

Former Colombian president, who also hails from a country mired in the drug black market, said that the UN’s goal of a “society free of drug abuse” is “unrealistic, totally naive, almost stupid.

The growing of 200 cannabis plants by the Rhoden family could have nothing to do with “organized crime,” much less the Mexican variety, as it was suggested by law enforcement and parroted by Cincinatti.com and CBS.

Violence originates from the black market and cops who facilitate the drug war, not from the growth, use and sale of a therapeutic plant.

In fact, cannabis growers like the Rhodens are defying the drug war in prohibitionist states like Ohio for the sole purpose of helping others. Medical cannabis provides a miraculous treatment to children suffering from epileptic seizures, along with the ability to treat a vast array of other ailments.

Desperate parents looking to cure their children, or veterans of war who cannot treat their PTSD with other means, or any number of other patients will assuredly seek out the right medicine. Such was the case with Cyndimae Meehan’s mother, who had to become a criminal in Connecticut for her epileptic daughter before moving to a state with medical cannabis.

Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine admitted he has “no idea” whether a Mexican drug cartel is behind the Piketon murders. He has mixed feelings on cannabis, saying that legalizing recreational use would be “setting up kids for failure” (even though teen cannabis use in Colorado has declined) but does not oppose medical use.

Dewine certified a petition for a medical cannabis ballot measure that could appear in November. If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would mean:

“Adults could grow, buy, and use marijuana if a physician recommends marijuana for a qualifying medical condition such as cancer, seizure disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Minors could use marijuana with written permission of a parent or guardian.

Approved patients could buy and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants or designate another adult to grow for them.

The first 15 commercial growing licenses would be for large-scale growers who pay a $500,000 application fee, but then there would be an unlimited number of licenses available for small- and medium-scale growers.”

Although it would represent some progress against the immoral war on drugs, in many Ohioan minds the amendment would not go far enough. By giving a little bit of “freedom,” authorities can pre-empt or at least stall any further dismantling of government prohibition. Real reform would mean putting an end to criminalizing people for voluntarily using substances in their own body.

There is not much hope that media and government drug war crusaders will abandon their hints that the Rhodens were caught up with notoriously violent foreign drug cartels. There is even less chance that they will inform the public that their own primitive, failed prohibition of drugs is to blame for these cartels.


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Justin Gardner is a peaceful free-thinker with a background in the biological sciences. He is interested in bringing rationality back into the national discourse, and independent journalism as a challenge to the status quo.