Whenever Roxie and I give presentations about starting seeds for the backyard garden, I always throw in a little joke about how we’re waiting for the day when the cops bust down our doors because someone thought we were growing pot under those shop lights in the basement.
Always gets a chuckle.
But as we read in today’s edition of The Kansas City Star, that’s just what happened to a Leawood, Kan., family last April. Awakened by banging and screaming, Robert Harte opened the door just as Johnson County sheriff’s deputies were about to use a battering ram to get in.
For the next two hours, the drug squad searched the house looking for marijuana as Harte was forced to lie shirtless on the floor, while his wife, Adlynn, and their two children were made to sit quietly and listen as their house was ransacked in a fruitless search for illegal drugs.
The deputies even brought in a drug-sniffing dog. But in the end, nothing was found and the authorities left without apologizing for their mistake.
The apparent reason for this seeming injustice? The family had bought grow lights and other supplies to start tomato and squash plants in their basement. Kinda like a lot of us do this time of year, in other words.
At this very moment, tiny tomato, pepper and cauliflower seedlings are “sunning” under those shop lights of ours near a basement window. I’ve always wondered whether anyone with a badge has ever looked through that window and wondered “huh?” Now, I’m more convinced than ever that the answer is probably “yes.”
Naturally, law enforcement officials won’t reveal why they targeted this house in that affluent Kansas City suburb. She works at an investment firm, he’s a house husband and (get this) they first met when they both worked at the CIA.
So obviously, the Hartes don’t fit the profile of your average drug pushers — at least as far as I know.
However, the lawyer for the couple told The Star’s Christine Vendel that deputies routinely generate leads for drug investigations by keeping an eye on stores that sell hydroponic gardening equipment. Stores like the one where the Hartes bought their gear.
“With little or no evidence of any illegal activity, law enforcement officers make the assumption that shoppers at the store are potential marijuana growers, even though the stores are most commonly frequented by backyard gardeners who grow organically or start seedlings indoors,” the lawsuit said.
Adlynn Harte told The Star that her family respects law enforcement, but wants to prevent others families from being subjected to the kind of treatment they experienced.
make sure that tax dollars are properly used and that other families — with fewer resources than (them) — aren’t subjected to similar tactics.”
“We feel llike it’s un-American and we need to do something about it,” she said. “I told my son last night that doing the right thing takes courage.”