All right, pot farmers: National forests, with their rugged and isolated terrain, might seem like perfect places to raise your crops. And since they are technically public property, you can even make the argument that an enterprising citizen ought to be able to sow a few seeds and tend the land as he pleases. But--asinine as the law may be--growing massive weed plantations is still illegal. So when the Forest Rangers come to arrest you, don't try to run them down with your pickup. It seems like common sense, but Oregon's Piers T. Baker learned this lesson the hard way, taking a bullet and earning a lengthy stay in federal prison for his trouble.
Image via Multnomah County Sheriff's Office
Baker was initially charged with manufacturing marijuana and assaulting a federal officer with a deadly weapon. In January, he pleaded guilty to the manufacturing charge and to a lesser charge of "impeding federal officers in the performance of their official duties," which is about the nicest way possible to describe trying to mow down a forest ranger with a motor vehicle. On Monday, Baker was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. He also forfeited his house, located in Brightwood, Ore., just a few miles outside the national forest, and more than $31,000 cash he had stashed away.
It wasn't Baker's first run-in with the law for weed-related offenses. He was arrested in western Washington in 1994 on felony charges of manufacturing marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. The case was transferred to federal court in Oregon, where he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison.
Nor is it the first time a person has been busted and stuck with a lengthy stay in the clink for growing pot in a national forest. Earlier this year, a 23-year-old Mexican man was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for growing more than 1,600 pot plants in the Boise National Forest. The judge in that case said the sentence "reflects the nation's concern" over weed being grown on public lands. Officials in California have called pot farming "the number-one destroyer of habitat in the United States," citing the damage done by jury-rigged irrigation systems and pesticides.
Whether Baker is just some dude growing weed in the woods or a public menace wreaking havoc on a fragile forest ecosystem is probably up for debate. Either way, though, he's lucky the Forest Rangers aren't better shots, otherwise he'd be dead instead of spending the next decade behind bars on the taxpayers' dime.