The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) questions the excessive use of force used by Pennsylvania law enforcement, whose pursuit of a man suspected of growing a small amount of marijuana outdoors ultimately led to his death.
The body of a suspect in the case, Pennsylvania resident Gregory A. Longenecker, was found earlier this week under a bulldozer operated by a Pennsylvania Game Commission worker. The bulldozer was carrying a Pennsylvania state trooper in pursuit of Mr. Longenecker, who was suspected to have been cultivating ten marijuana plants in Penn Township, PA. A police helicopter was also used in the search.
NORML questions law enforcements’ decision to pursue the suspect in such an extreme manner, especially over such a minor offense.. “As a former prosecutor and practicing criminal defense attorney, it is inconceivable to me that a man lost his life during an investigation of a very small grow,” said Patrick Nightengale, Executive Director of Pittsburgh NORML. “Had he been arrested, prosecuted and convicted Pennsylvania’s sentencing guidelines would have provided for a sentence of probation. The heavy-handed tactics employed cannot be justified by the seizure of ten plants. I do not understand why law enforcement couldn’t simply wait. A vehicle was on scene and another individual was taken into custody. Rip the plants, run the plate and ask the arrestee what his friend’s name is. How difficult is that?”
“This awful event could have and should have been prevented,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. ”This tragedy is a direct result of our nation’s draconic and failed criminalization of marijuana. Not only was the use of resources in this matter excessive and the tactics highly questionable, but more importantly a man lost his life over the act of growing a plant that is now legally regulated in a majority of US states. No matter your opinion on marijuana legalization, the penalty for growing cannabis should never be an extrajudicial death sentence.”
The commercial cultivation and dispensing of marijuana for medical purposes is legal in 31 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam; The regulation of marijuana for adults is permitted in nine states and Washington, DC. Recent national polls have revealed that over 60% of all Americans support the legalization of marijuana for adults.
“As an activist and cannabis lobbyist in Pennsylvania, I always use decorum and process to my advantage. There would seem to have been a total lack of both by law enforcement this past Monday outside of Bernville. By all accounts the death of an illicit marijuana grower being chased by a state bulldozer, under the direction of Pennsylvania State Troopers, was an unnecessary and reckless use of resources,” says Jeff Riedy, Executive Director of Lehigh Valley NORML. “These horrible events only fuel the need for marijuana reform, including the right for personal use and home cultivation in our state, and across this country. Endless pursuit at all costs, leading to the death of a suspect, over a few marijuana plants is excessive, to say the least.”