Rawesome Foods & Gibson Guitars: Victims of the Police State

What does the maker of Les Paul guitars have in common with a food club that sold raw milk & organic coconuts? Not much, except that both have recently been raided by overzealous agents of the state.

It seems that concept of “innocent until proven guilty” has been abandoned and a side-effect of this can be seen in the way agents have handled both Gibson Guitars and Rawesome.

The Wall Street Journal reports, “Federal agents swooped in on Gibson Guitar Wednesday, raiding factories and offices in Memphis and Nashville, seizing several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars… It isn’t the first time that agents of the Fish and Wildlife Service have come knocking at the storied maker of such iconic instruments as the Les Paul electric guitar… In 2009 the Feds seized several guitars and pallets of wood from a Gibson factory, and both sides have been wrangling over the goods in a case with the delightful name United States of America v. Ebony Wood in Various Forms.”

The issues faced by Gibson, many traveling musicians and others in the music industry, is not whether the wood or ivory on their instruments is legal, but whether they have proper documentation proving it to be legal. John Thomas, a law professor at Quinnipiac University says, “Even if you have no knowledge—despite Herculean efforts to obtain it—that some piece of your guitar, no matter how small, was obtained illegally, you lose your guitar forever. Oh, and you’ll be fined $250 for that false (or missing) information in your Lacey Act Import Declaration.”

It seems Rawesome was in a similar predicament. The Washington Times reports, “The issue stems from members of the club entering into a ‘herdshare arrangement‘ in which they paid a local farmer to board and milk their dairy goats. California authorities deny the legal legitimacy of herdshare arrangements, stating that such herdshares are unlicensed dairies.”

Regarding the guns drawn raid of Rawesome, Shiva Rose of the Huffington Post reports, “Rawesome Foods, a legal food club in Venice, California, was illegally shut down by a Multi-agency armed unit and over thousands of dollars worth of fresh food and produce destroyed. The SWAT style, helmet wearing, gun carrying enforcement agents came rushing in as if they were seizing heroin or dealing with gangsters… The owner of Rawesome, James Stewart, was then arrested and charged with a bail of $123,000. Along with Stewart, Sharon Palmer of Healthy Family Farms was also arrested with a ridiculous bail amount. Palmer’s farm is a sustainable; pasture-based farming operation where they raise all the animals from birth. They do not feed their animal’s corn or soy or dose them with antibiotics. This is the criminal our tax dollars is putting behind bars.”

Neither Gibson Guitars nor Rawesome have caused harm to another person, and as such should not be treated as criminals. As Lysander Spooner once wrote, “ Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another… It is a maxim of the law that there can be no crime without criminal intent; that is, without the intent to invade the person or property of another.”