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May. 11 2010 - 5:46 pm | 772 views | 0 recommendations | 4 comments

This is your war on drugs

Radley Balko follows up on the SWAT team post he published last week (my reaction here). In that post he included a video of a SWAT team entering a family’s home and shooting the family dogs, all in front of a small child. In the end they confiscated a small bag of marijuana and arrested the father.

Balko’s latest essay goes into more depth on the problem of SWAT violence. This part jumped out at me:

Shooting the family’s dogs isn’t unusual, either. To be fair, that’s in part because some drug dealers do in fact obtain vicious dogs to guard their supply. But there are other, safer ways to deal with these dogs than shooting them. In the Columbia case, a bullet fired at one dog ricocheted and struck another dog. The bullet could just as easily have struck a person. In the case of Tarika Wilson, a Lima, Ohio, SWAT officer mistook the sounds of a colleague shooting a drug dealer’s dogs for hostile gunfire. He then opened fire into a bedroom, killing a 23-year-old mother and shooting the hand off of the one-year-old child in her arms.

Now, you might say this is a symptom of the drugs themselves. People choose to be around these illicit substances and this is the price they pay. But really, this is a symptom of our terrible policy toward drugs, and especially toward treating drug users as enemy combatants in a war on drugs, and allowing cops to act like soldiers, guns-blazing, shooting down family dogs and traumatizing children.

Either way, how can we go on lying to ourselves and pretending that this is in any way a morally correct, or politically sustainable approach to drug policy? Let’s call an armistice. Let’s put an end to these SWAT raids and the drug cartels and gang violence all at once. The only way to do that is to put an end to the black market and cut out these violent middle men.

Let’s start by ending the war on marijuana. It’s okay to take this one step at a time. We don’t have to legalize every drug out there right off the bat, though it wouldn’t hurt to start treating addicts like people who need help and treatment rather than simply as criminals. Legalizing pot would undermine the entire edifice of the drug market, and free up billions of dollars spent trying to suppress that market.

No matter how much money we spend on this war, it will never end. There will always be a demand and there will always be someone willing to provide a supply. The only people who benefit will be the dealers, the drug runners, the South American cartels.


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