You can smoke it, but don’t eat it.

I was three years old when my father was elected district attorney. Some of my earliest memories are of courthouses and law enforcement officers. One of the adults I remember fondly from back then is Pete Weaver, who was the sheriff of Mayes County at that time.

Sheriff Weaver was a smart and streetwise man who had served in Burma during World War II. From what I can gather, he knew pretty much everything there was to know about Mayes County and its rural underworld.

Pete and Sid were inseparable. While other men might go bowling or fishing, Pete and Sid’s favorite pastime was chasing drug dealers and pot farmers.

When I was about five, we had a big cannabis plant in our house for a while.  It was evidence for a trial, and of course it would die if they put it in the evidence locker, so somebody had to take care of it.  I didn’t understand what it was, but I knew my parents thought the plant was funny, because for some reason people weren’t supposed to have this kind of plant.

On one occasion, Pete got a tip that somebody was growing pot in the woods, where it wasn’t visible from the air.

“We had snitches who would go out and check. And sure enough, in a week or two, the people that had it had cut the marijuana and kinda bundled it and put it up to dry and were gonna come back and get it. So then we staked out that treed area and caught the guys that were doin’ it, and then of course we had to have a photo op. And we brought all this in and piled it up… And so, boy, we made the front page.

“And so we sent it off to the Crime Bureau [the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, or OSBI], and the Crime Bureau came back and said, ‘That’s not marijuana.’ We said, ‘It looks like marijuana, it has all the leaves like marijuana — we know what marijuana looks like.’”

In fact, the would-be pot farmers had inadvertently grown hemlock, the stuff that Socrates drank. Smoking hemlock isn’t especially harmful, unless you’re a grower with disappointed customers. But if you eat it — in brownies, for example — it will kill you.

For the growers who got caught, it was lucky they were botanically challenged. It turned out they hadn’t committed the crime they thought they had committed.

On the other hand, Pete and Sid were afraid some hemlock might have hit the street. Embarrassed, they had to go back to the newspaper and explain that they didn’t really have a big pot bust after all, and that people shouldn’t eat what they smoke.