A STORY in this daily yesterday talked about a joint team of the local police and elements of the 78th Infantry Battalion raiding two villages in the mountain barangay called Bayong in my hometown, Balamban. The objects of the raid were farms of the prohibited marijuana plants.

American anti-drug laws, it seems, are not quite hard on “Mary Jane.” In fact, I recall that some US states are planning to legalize the use of MJ because the plant is considered as highly medicinal.

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The recent raid resulted in the uprooting of some 12,500 stalks with an estimated value of P2 million. I am not sure, though, how they arrived at the number of stalks. Did they count it? If they did, that would have taken hours to finish.

But the farming of “Mary Jane” in our mountains has been going on for years. I recall many years back when I was the regional head of public information during the Marcos years that someone had reported to me about the rampant farming of marijuana in our mountains.

Farmers went to great lengths in planting the seedlings in high rocky areas to make the plantation inaccessible to the Philippine Constabulary. I was told that watering the seedlings was a great sacrifice to the farmers. They had to tie a rope to the pail, send it down the cliff, and then pull the pail of water back up.

I went to Barangay Gaas on board a helicopter one time and we landed on the elementary school grounds. Hundreds of MJ stalks were brought in to be burned, but that was all that could be done. It was difficult to arrest the farmers because they could easily spot the authorities while clambering up the cliff and then flee.

At another time, a mother came to me crying because her son was arrested for having been hired to carry a sack of “corn ears” down to the poblacion. The “corn ears” turned out to be dried MJ stalks.

I went to the PC stockade to beg for the teener’s release. But many weeks later, the same teener was arrested again, this time for carrying a trunk supposedly full of clothes but which, upon inspection, were dried MJ stalks. I gave up.

My point here is that planting marijuana has become a source of livelihood, and somehow a way of life, for the people in Bayong and the adjoining village.

While it is only fitting that provincial police chief Erson Digal should reward the raiding team, law enforcers should not rest on their laurels. They should continue to be vigilant because they can no more curtail the farming of MJ than they can illegal cockfighting during barangay fiestas.