Life in the Valley of Riches

After I wrote my column last week, I sat wondering why illegal cannabis growers think I have an issue with them.
For starters, I have no issue with legal growers or those that have been growing marijuana way before legalization of cannabis, many since the ‘60s. I also have met many good people that have moved here to grow and have been great additions to our community. However, many of the illegal growers have not. It feels like some have moved here to steal our sunshine, water and land, without a care to anyone who lives here.
Unfortunately, the Illinois Valley has had situations such as an attempted kidnapping of a female child and human trafficking, plus a large portion of the shootings have been in the illegal spectrum of the industry. That said, most of the reasons I have against illegal grows are not so dramatic and I will list some of them here.
Growers moved here and bought up land, pushing many longtime renters out of their homes. Those folks had few choices of places to rent and it drove up the rates in the rental market. This fact added to the homeless crisis.
The same group cut down the trees on the properties they purchased and just piled up the trees along the property lines. Those trees could have been used for firewood for many disadvantaged people in our community.
Many of the illegal cannabis growers brought in their own workers, which again hurt the workforce in the Valley. Now many Valley residents are out of work and are struggling to make ends meet.
Now, let’s look at where they spend their ill-gotten gains: The marijuana, and therefore the money, flows out of state, back to where the growers came from. How many illegal cannabis farms sponsor youth soccer, baseball and wrestling?
How many illegal farmers from out of state go to community events and donate to the local chamber, art council and countless other nonprofits?
How many donate to Lorna Byrne Middle School and I.V. High School fundraisers?
I’m going to go out on a limb and say none of them do. I’m comfortable saying this because Laura and I are at most of the fundraising events and they are not there.
Here is what they do provide to our community. Thugs who commit crimes; Single vehicle incidents with no driver present. They cut down our trees and steal our water. They leave grow sites that were once beautiful stands of trees covered in trash. In addition, the environmental impact to our ground water and rivers due to chemical runoff and improper disposal of human bodily waste.
They do spend money at the liquor, grocery, grow, convenience and hardware stores, but at times it can cause shelves to be empty when locals are trying to buy for their properties. A few years back I couldn’t even buy PVC piping or 2x4s and if they were in stock the prices were out of this world.
Some people advised against the idea of me writing this due to my recent run-ins with this issue, but I don’t care. In the words of Italian judge Giovani Falcone, “Chi tace e piega la testa muore ogni volta che lo fa, chi parla e cammina con la testa alta muore una volta sola.”
In English, “He, who is silent and bows his head, dies every time he does so. He who speaks aloud and walks with his head held high, dies only once.” Maybe a little dramatic but it resonates with me.
Thank you for picking up this week’s issue. Enjoy! ~ djm