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According to these experts, the War on Drugs has contributed to making police more violent
Deadly police actions, punctuated by the ongoing protests after the murder of George Floyd, represent just one arm of an octopus-like creature that feeds off systemic racism. Another element that has been brought up a lot in recent weeks is the failed War on Drugs policy.
Despite the supposed end to the U.S. drug policy, it continues to claim victims, including those who remain in prison for non-violent weed convictions and those whose records prevent them from equal treatment in terms employment and housing.
The War on Drugs “is a policy failure that has come at great cost, to society generally and to minority communities especially,” drug policy experts Katharine Neill Harris and Alfred Glassell, III write in a blog posted last week on Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy website.
But, as Harris and Glassell point out in their post, the failure’s legacy stretches beyond the immediate victims: “The ‘war on drugs’ is an impediment to reducing unnecessary citizen-police encounters and to cultivating humane treatment of people who use drugs.” By normalizing “aggressive policing within a system already mired in institutional racism,” the pair suggests that chances are greater for more and more violent interactions between people and police.
Approaches such as no-knock searches, often led by heavily armed SWAT teams, unsurprisingly “carry a high risk for deadly violence.” And drugs are a routine component of “pretext stops,” described as allowing police officers to stop people for one violation with the intent of uncovering a separate violation. This would be the case if a driver was pulled over for a traffic violation and on the pretext of smelling weed, the vehicle is then searched.
“Proactive drug enforcement has normalized overzealous policing.” / Photo: KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock / Getty Images Plus KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Writing that “proactive drug enforcement has normalized overzealous policing,” the authors argue “for the federal and state governments to remove their legal basis by decriminalizing low-level drug possession.”
If the current approach aims to get serious drugs off the street, they write, it must be noted a recent analysis of more than 700,000 drug arrests in the U.S. “found that 60 per cent of cases were for less than one gram.”
FILE: “Angele”, a regular cannabis user, holds a bag of cannabis in Montreal Friday Oct. 11, 2019. / Photo: John Mahoney John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette
The nonprofit group The Last Prisoner Project reports that at least 40,000 Americans remain locked up for cannabis offences despite recreational cannabis being legal in 11 states and medicinal marijuana, in some form, allowed in 33 states, according to Merry Jane.
As for the police, Harris and Glassell write that enhanced training on defensive tactics and ensuring that the primary purpose of the police force is to serve as guardians of the public could also assist in de-escalating incidents that far too often turn deadly.
“It is especially critical that marginalized populations, such as people who use drugs, are included as members of this public that are deserving of police protection and respect,” the blog adds.
© 420 Intel
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