Justice

This Facebook Post About the Ohio Killings Nails a Major Problem with Marijuana Prohibition

April 25th 2016

By:
Alex Mierjeski

The execution style killing of eight family members tied to a marijuana growing operation in southern Ohio is sparking renewed conversation about the damages caused by the criminalization of marijuana.  

According to Slate.com, state Attorney General Mike DeWine said "law enforcement agents had found marijuana 'grow operations' in three of the four places where the murders took place."

Neither DeWine nor the Pike County Sheriff's Office would say if the cultivation sites were linked to a motive, though they did admit that the killings — all of which were carried out execution-style —left the case open to speculation.

"Well, I think we can speculate what the motive was — you talk about revenge, you can talk about drug-related. But frankly, we just don't know," DeWine told NBC News.

The grow operation's size appeared to be commercial in nature, officials said.

"This operation was not for personal use; it was for something much bigger than that. It was a very sophisticated operation," an unnamed official involved in the investigation told CNN.

The discovery of marijuana at the crime scene, paired with its scale and the methodical killings, has lead some to describe the murders as products of the ruthless competition that can characterize the business side of the illicit drug trade. One Ohio attorney, John Ryerson, noted in a Facebook post that the killings might even be used to address the prohibition of marijuana, the cultivation of which can provide lucrative business incentives in economically downtrodden portions of the state. Marijuana is currently illegal in Ohio.

News reports also highlighted a 2012 press release from the Ohio Attorney General's office describing the discovery of a large grow operation in Pike County "with suspected ties to a Mexican drug cartel."

So far, no positive links have been made between the family's marijuana production and their potential targeting by Mexican cartels or otherwise. And until a credible link is established, it's unclear how different drug policies might have changed the narrative. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about four percent of U.S. homicides were drug-related in 2007, the last year for which data is available.