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story.lead_photo.caption Richard Mason

Yes, I must admit there is evidence that I am an unlicensed marijuana grower, but I believe I was framed, and there is no collusion between me and local, state, or national marijuana growers. Yes, I know growing marijuana without a blessing from the Pot Commission is a big no, no, but I’m no spring chicken, so I can’t wait years for the okay. What am I writing about? Okay let me explain.

A few weeks back I noticed a new addition to one of the landscape planter boxes in front of my downtown El Dorado office, and its leaves looked vaguely familiar, so familiar that I asked a passing mailwoman; “Is that a marijuana plant? “Sure is,” she replied. So does that make me a grower? Maybe, it does, since the planter, with seasonal plants such as mums, pansies, and geraniums is under my care. So does the marijuana plant belongs to me? Actually, the planter sits on the City of El Dorado’s Sidewalk, so maybe the city is the unlicensed marijuana grower. But the planter was purchased by a defunct Downtown Businesses Association made up of all of the downtown property owners, so maybe everyone who owns downtown property is now an unlicensed marijuana grower. Or since I was the Managing Director of the DBA and was the one who purchased the planters, does that make me more liable? Inquiring minds want to know, and so do I, but there is no collusion.

It seems to me that this should be an agenda item for the El Dorado City Council, and I would encourage them to put marijuana cultivation, removal, and processing of errant marijuana plants on the agenda of the next city council meeting. Who knows, with dozens of downtown planters, marijuana plants might start popping up like weeds, and we, the downtown property owners, need directions as to the proper care, harvesting, and processing errant marijuana plants.

Of course, it does seem that out of all the 60 or 70 downtown planters, the one in front of my office would be the one that a marijuana plant would turn up in—-But there is no collusion! I am innocent.

Then, just a week or so ago, a second marijuana plant all of a sudden popped up, and if they keep coming at that rate I’ll have a marijuana forest in front of my office. No, I haven’t pulled them up because if it’s against the law to be an unlicensed marijuana grower, it would probably be against the law to harvest the crop. And what would I do with them? I guess Vertis could make marijuana cookies for our Sunday School Class that I teach. We have snacks every Sunday. It helps attendance, and I guess it might perk up one of my lessons in Deuteronomy. So I have just let them grow, and I guess as they produce seed pods the planters in front of my office will become a little field of pot.

Actually, it seems that there must be a reason that the marijuana plants just happen to pop in front of my office, a Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist, just as the Arkansas legislature went into session, and if you consider that, and knowing that Sen. Trent Garner represents El Dorado, who is the author of such distinguished legislation such as making the Shotgun the Official State Gun, then I would say somebody up there must have put the marijuana plants in my planter to have me write an encouraging column to make the marijuana plant the State Plant of Arkansas. Naturally, to be bestowed such an honor, the plant or gun or pickup truck must have the credentials necessary and be highly visible, discussed, and debated by the citizens of our fair state, and the marijuana plant sure fits those categories. “Trent, go to your computer and pull up the State Gun of Arkansas Bill and everywhere it says “make the Shotgun the State Gun, cut and paste make Marijuana the State Plant,” Of course, while you’re at it, go ahead and make the Bullfrog the State Frog and the Possum the State Marsupial.”

So, Gentle Reader, as you consider whether to sic a team of FBI Agents on me, you might consider the above facts, and of course, you will conclude, there is no collusion, and I am innocent!

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A Bring Back the Wolf: a rewilding Arkansas update: I have just placed a reorder for more Bring Back the Wolf bumper stickers. I was very surprised at the positive reception that I received from my column that focused on rewilding Arkansas to bring our ecology into balance. I did get a couple of negative emails, but 90% of the comments I received were very positive, and I actually got a couple of bumper sticker requests from out-of-state groups that are trying to do the same rewilding I am proposing.

I think the basic premise we should pursue, not only in Arkansas, but in other states around the country, is to protect the parts of our ecology that we still have, and to not allow any additional degrading of our forest, waters, and wildlife, and along with that, a commitment to try and restore as much as we reasonably can of our wetlands, wildlife, and forest. Of course, we will never be able to return to what the early settlers in Arkansas found when they arrived, but we can add incrementally to what we have remaining, and see a gradual improvement in our overall natural environment.

In my opinion, we should steadily move toward allowing functionally extinct animals to expand their numbers until they are once again part of the balance of nature that will contribute to a healthy mix of wildlife, forest, and water. There is not a reason why we can’t see some of the key predators once again roam the forests, and as they become a viable part of the environment, see them help in restoring the balance of nature. I firmly believe the feral hog problem, that is getting worse by the day, would have never have happened if there were predators in our wildlife mix. The dangers of having mountain lions, wolves, and bears back in our state have been greatly exaggerated. More hunters are killed by falling out of deer stands each year than die in decades from animal attacks.

We can only have success in rewilding Arkansas by keeping the discussion in the forefront when we talk about wildlife management, and the Bring Back the Wolf bumper stickers are just one of the ways we can turn public opinion in the direction to where restocking wolves, protecting mountain lions, and allowing bears to repopulate the state becomes a talking point. You can help by slapping on a bumper sticker. Just email me a mailing address, and I’ll send you a couple. There’s great picture of a howling wolf, complements of my artist daughter, which really makes these bumper stickers special.

Richard Mason is a registered professional geologist, downtown developer, former chairman of the Department of Environmental Quality Board of Commissioners, past president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, and syndicated columnist. Email richard@

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