In a 1982 newspaper story, The Oklahoman called it “just like any other church social.” People sang hymns. There were cookies and lemonade. But the group of volunteers recruited from local churches in tiny Newcastle, Oklahoma, just west of Norman, hadn’t assembled that spring day in 1982 for fellowship.
Oklahoma drug enforcers had asked for their help eradicating illegal cannabis growing in a 10-acre field after local authorities complained they didn’t have the resources to destroy it all themselves. The grow had been discovered in the area as lots were being sold for a housing development.
Before voters authorized medical marijuana in 2018, Oklahoma for decades was an enthusiastic participant in the nation’s war on weed. Politicians and senior state officials posed for news cameras at high-profile weed busts or participated in destroying fields of cannabis where it freely grows today.
Church leaders around the state celebrated the war on weed and eradication campaigns for protecting vulnerable young people from the corrupting influences of marijuana.
At the Newcastle church social in 1982, local congregants were joined by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and police from the Blanchard, Tuttle, and Newcastle departments. Reported the Newcastle city manager to the Oklahoman:
“We had a pretty good ol’ time out there. We were afraid it'd be kind of hard to recruit volunteers. The only advertising done was through the pulpits in the area's churches.”
One-hundred people showed up. The churchgoing volunteers filled two-and-a-half pickup trucks with “knee-high stalks of marijuana” before a heavy storm arrived. Authorities said the seized cannabis had a “street value” of $20,000 and that $150,000 more had to be left behind due to the storm. The city manager said the remaining cannabis would be “chemically treated and tilled under to destroy the marijuana plants.”
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