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National Guard Declares Victory Over Grandmother’s Cannabis Plant

October 5, 2016
A photograph of a Cannabis plant in a garden. Cannabis has long been used for hemp fibre, for hemp oils, for medicinal purposes, and as a recreational drug. Industrial hemp products are made from Cannabis plants selected to produce an abundance of fiber. Cannabis plants produce a group of chemicals called cannabinoids, which produce mental and physical effects when consumed.
The Massachusetts National Guard and the Massachusetts State Police teamed up last month to eradicate a pernicious threat to public safety: a single cannabis plant tucked away in an 81-year-old grandmother’s raspberry patch.

“All that remains,” reported the Daily Hampshire Gazette, “is a stump and a ragged hole in the ground.”

Crack work, team. Mission accomplished.

The story, first reported by Gazette writer Scott Merzbach, ran under the headline “Raid! National Guard, State Police descend on 81-year-old’s property to seize single pot plant” — a headline that Vox said “perfectly demonstrated why so many people have turned against keeping marijuana illegal.” Massachusetts is one of five states that will vote on adult-use cannabis legalization next month.


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Here’s the rundown from the Gazette:

Margaret Holcomb said she was growing the plant as medicine, a way to ease arthritis and glaucoma and help her sleep at night. Tucked away in a raspberry patch and separated by a fence from any neighbors, the plant was nearly ready for harvest when a military-style helicopter and police descended on Sept. 21.

In a joint raid, the Massachusetts National Guard and State Police entered her yard and cut down the solitary plant in what her son, Tim Holcomb, said was a “pretty shocking” action — one that he argues constitutes unlawful surveillance and illegal search and seizure.

“It’s scary as hell,” said Tim Holcomb.

The raid was part of a broader operation that seized 44 plants from Massachusetts residents. No criminal charges were filed, but it’s not clear any charges would’ve stood up in court, anyway, as the surveillance and seizures appear to have occurred without a warrant. According to the Gazette, “Holcomb said he was told that as long as he did not demand that a warrant be provided to enter the property or otherwise escalate the situation, authorities would file no criminal charges.”

Police confiscated and destroyed the plants, they said, because they were in “plain view” and thus illegal even for registered medical patients. Margaret Holcomb does not have a medical recommendation, reportedly because she’s concerned about obstacles to obtaining a doctor’s authorization.

The raids were planned and executed as top officials, including Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, railed against Question 4, which would legalize adult cannabis in the state. They’ve repeatedly warned that legal, regulated cannabis is the real threat to public safety—and not, say, overzealous policing.


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Holcomb, who lives in Amherst, Mass., told the Gazette she’s “not a huge social activist” but feels her civil rights were violated by the warrantless raid. And if she’s not able to get medical cannabis through other means, she said, she might simply grow another plant.

“I’m prepared to take actions if I need to,” Holcomb said. “I don’t picture them out here and putting an 81-year-old woman in jail.”

Don’t be too sure, Margaret. As the New York Times Editorial Board noted earlier this year, we’ve seen a lot worse.

Ben Adlin's Bio Image

Ben Adlin

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor who specializes in cannabis politics and law. He was a news editor for Leafly from 2015-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @badlin

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  • Igor Zbitnoff

    Thanks to the Guard and Law Enforcement I feel safer. I realize that I’m several hundred miles from these eradicated plants, but you never know……

  • A Golden Shower Every Hour

    What an irresponsible use of state resources. This is where the govt is using your tax money. To hire crews and choppers to bring down a healing herb plant. What a joke. The guard, and local LE, you’re as much of a joke as trump.
    I grow cannabis, and it’s helped my wife fight her Crohn’s disease. She was near death on 15 different pills when I met her. She has since replaced them all with cannabis, and is much healthier now.
    Thanks for your outdated, uneducated views on cannabis. You can sleep better at night knowing that these ppl trying to ease pain are now forced to go to the black market because of your lazy policing.
    The only time cops go after crops, is when they’re too lazy to do real police work. You should be going after heroin, meth, and pill companies. But that requires real work. Better hit those soft targets because you cops are shit at your job.
    Pathetic? Need to feel strong? Like forcing your opinions on others? Enjoy gun play? Become a cop!

    • noah vail

      you can be pretty certain it’s not the “lefties” that promote these actions…and if it weren’t for soft targets the cops would have nothing to show for their pay…

  • Sensible advocate

    It must be going around. . . They just busted a 73 year old on a Christmas tree farm in Utah. Granted his was a for profit venture. He should have stuck with his fixed income that doesn’t go quite far enough rather than sell the produce he grew.

  • A Golden Shower Every Hour

    Guess leafly and ben adlin censor these posts. They want to sensationalize these stories while keeping our mouths shut. Ben, you are just as bad as these pathetic cops. Thanks for being a lousy journalist.

  • A Golden Shower Every Hour

    My post about cannabis healing my wife was deleted

  • James Bodie

    A story like this, well-circulated, should add many votes to the pro-legalization movement in Massachusetts. Let’s be thankful for the police and their generous budgets that can afford to spend money on these dangerous plants. Not.

  • jim heffner

    Not quite the Perfect Storm of the opposition shooting themselves in the foot. A harmless 81 year old grandmother is an image that’s hard to match especially when persecuted with overwhelming force. Too bad she didn’t have a puppy they could kick or shoot if it barked at them. The closer we get to winning out the more stupid and desperate the actions of the obstructionists to full legalization. Unfortunately some have to suffer persecution for the time being.

  • Corey M Callahan

    Ha! Take that grandma, now you can suffer with arthritis and glaucoma! What kind of sick person thinks this before destroying one marijuana plant? Or even the 44 down the road.

  • Joe

    That is embarrassing, the Spence associated with this ridiculous operation is enough to fier the commander of that unit. Q. Who is paying this bill? You do not know, funding from the US Treasury Department. Yes your tax dollars at work. One cop one machete all it was need it.

  • alacrity

    “The raid was part of a broader operation that seized 44 plants from Massachusetts residents” kinda underwhelmes… that the State would employ such resources for such a piteously small “haul” is appalling.

  • tom collins

    why are massachusetts police AND NATIONAL GUARD worse than isis ? isis isnt raiding peoples homes for pot. the pot police are a terrorist organization called “crisis” – isis type terrorists, and also cannabis robbers. is this what i pay taxes for to fund this terrorism by the police who swore an oath to protect my right to life, liberty, AND THE PERSUIT OF HAPPINESS. ? US CODE 1951

  • les

    The scariest thing here is The National Guard doing pot raids? The people should be raising hell over that! a gross missuse of the military and a threat to our freedom when state and local governments use military force illegally.

  • les

    Surprised she didn’t get a firing squad…….