Woken by the SWAT alarm


Typically, this time of year, I wake to the sound of mourning doves cooing outside my bedroom window. They are sweet and always remind me of Hunter Mendenhall, a Pearl Harbor survivor, who was the father of one of my dearest friends.

Hunter grew up in the backwoods of Alabama. So far back, he said, they had to pipe in sunshine. He grew up at a time and a place where nothing went wasted. Even when he moved to the big city of Columbus, Georgia, Hunter would still lay traps for squirrels. And he swore that the best thing he ever ate in his lifetime was dove over a slice of white bread, covered in gravy.

This morning, however, it wasn’t the mourning doves who woke me. The birds aren’t cooing. The dogs aren’t barking. Not a single dog in the entire neighborhood. It has been, in fact, eerily silent except ever since the BOOM-BOOM of warning shots the SWAT team fired off right outside my bedroom window shortly after 5 a.m.

I woke stunned by the red-and-blue whoop-whoop of a SWAT vehicle parked directly in front of our house. There was another at the other end, effectively blocking off the street.

Did I mention I don’t live in the inner city? I live in rural Oregon.

Moments after the BOOM-BOOM came the voice of authority over a loudspeaker warning residents to “Stay Inside”. They kept repeating this over and over. As if somehow being woken by what sounded like gunfire makes one rush to their front yards in search of more gunfire. Wearing pjs, no less.

Our two dogs, Poe and Portia, usually go bat-crap crazy if the cat across the way so much as moves her tail. But the dang police department comes to the neighborhood in the early morning, blasting and blaring, and our dogs never even left their beds to check it out. Yep. Great watchdogs those two.

The thing is we live in one of the quietest neighborhoods in town. Nobody even comes out of their home until the first mow of spring. I refer to this neighborhood at teacher-row because so many teachers live on our block. We are a quiet bunch,  other than our batty dogs. We are kind to one another. Always watching out for each other.

That’s why a few years ago it shocked the entire neighborhood when a new resident in the hood started selling marijuana out of their home. He had one of those pit bulls. It got lose and killed one of the neighbors cats. Chewed it up right front of God and all the children.

Neighbors kept saying to one another, “What if the dog had gone after a child?”

It unnerved us.

It also irked us that he could run a medical marijuana business out of his home, right here in our otherwise sedate neighborhood.

Vehicles from Idaho and Washington and all parts of Oregon would do a drive-by parking in front of the house.  He’d run out or they’d run in and get whatever they were purchasing and head out. I complained once to a cop who came by the house for some totally unrelated issue.

He told me the cops didn’t like it either but that the state had issued the fellow a license to grow and sell, so what could you do about it?

I remember he shrugged his shoulders.

I had a discussion with a girlfriend recently about the problem of pot.It’s no different than a glass of wine, pot advocates insist.


The problem with pot, of course, is the exact same problem with alcohol. Too many folks don’t smoke one joint. They don’t drink one glass of wine. People are prone to abusing such substances. They smoke a lot of pot everyday. They drink the whole bottle of wine themselves. They tell themselves it’s just a little. No harm. No foul. But that little turns into a wicked lot for far too many people.

And I don’t care what pot advocates say, when you rely on pot to relax, or chill or whatever, you are suppressing your system. And a suppressed system makes for a very poor parent. A lot of parenting requires a person to be intuitive.  If your system is under the influence of anything in an abusive nature, you are suppressing your ability to parent. Find a child who is neglected and/or abused and you will almost always find marijuana somewhere nearby. 

Doubt it?

I invite you to spend a day at your local courthouse listening to child abuse cases.

The pot of today is not the pot your granddaddy smoked. The addictive substance THC in marijuana has dramatically increased from 3 percent in the 1990s to almost 15 percent.

Addictions, people, are never good for any of us. The person selling pot does not have your best interest at heart. They want you to be addicted. Return customers make for the best business.

This isn’t about freedom of choice. The more addicted a nation we become, the more checked out we are, the more disengaged, the more other people are able to take advantage of us.

Marijuana abuse is not a harmless problem. That states are now – in the name of greed – shrugging their shoulders and giving it the golden stamp of approval does not make it any less harmful. The state doesn’t have our best interest at heart. They are simply looking for a quick fix to long-term budget problems.

So the neighbor went right along selling his pot out of the grey house down the road, with a certificate of approval by the state.

Until this morning, when the SWAT team swooped in and carried out a search warrant.

The neighbor will most likely end up in the pokey doing time for dealing more than just the state-approved pot. The local business he was conducting will move to some other neighborhood.

Maybe yours.

Tomorrow the mourning doves will wake me again. The dogs will once again raise a ruckus over the cat. And police will go about the business of keeping our neighborhoods safe.







About Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Speaker. Journalism Instructor. Four kids. Three dogs. One grandson.

  • Rebecca Trotter

    Pot use may not be as harmless as advocates laim. But at the same time, no one’s ever died from a pot overdose. Even with the current,high levels of THC, addiction rates are still much lower than with alcohol and many prescription drugs. Making it illegal certainly hasn’t kept it out of the hands of the sorts of people who would smoke it while caring for children. If that were the case, I would support its continued prohibition., But as it is, people who are willing to abuse and neglect their children are also willing to ignore and work around our ban on the substance.

    OTOH, our drug laws have most certainly destroyed many lives, many families and cost us many hundreds of billions in tax payer money. Far more lives have been destroyed by the laws banning pot use than have ever been destroyed by the use of pot itseld. And laws against pot are used in service to racism and oppression. African Americans use pot at the same rate as whites, but are charged with simple possession at four times the rate of white people. When we talk about pot, we can’t just talk about the potential harm of its use. We must also weigh the actual harm being caused by it’s prohibition. On that measure, the costs of prohibition FAR outweigh the dangers of its legal use. It’s not even a contest.

    In a more perfect world, perhaps no one would smoke weed. But in this world, the costs of allowing people to smoke weed just don’t justify the outrageous costs of prohibition.

  • JenellYB

    The largest class of legal drugs prescribed today in our society are those that are psychotropic, ,mind and mood altering, and many more dangerous than pot. The ‘problem’ of so many in our society turning to drugs to cope or escape the stresses of their realities is the same things that underlie domestic violence, child abuse, breakdown of marriage and committed relationships, and most our other social ills are the same. The person stoned on pot or drunken on alcohol or strung out on zanax and a medicine cabinet of other altering drugs is as at risk of dysfunction no matter which it is. Rebecca commenting below, no one has ever died of a pot overdose, while all the other mind/mood altering substances mentioned above take a high and steady death toll on our country. From you peaceful rural neighborhood, it can be easy to see something like pot as some foreign danger that has crept into your serene little world. Not that I’d suggest you go poking through your neighbors cabinets, or your own, but you might be surprised at what is there, that is doing more harm in our society than pot.