Drug war hysteria – The SWAT team

How ridiculous has the drug war become? Check out some of these stories about SWAT teams gone wild in Maryland.

In November 2007 Prince George’s police raided the wrong home of a couple in Accokeek. Though the couple presented the police with evidence that they were at the wrong address, the police still detained them at gunpoint, refusing even to let them go to the bathroom. The couple asked the police if they could bring their pet boxer in from the backyard. The police refused. Moments later, the police shot and killed the dog.

In June 2007 police in Annapolis deployed a flash grenade, broke open an apartment door, and kicked a man in the groin during a mistaken drug raid. When they later served the warrant on the correct address, they found no drugs.

Most victims of these mistaken raids experienced the same callousness and indifference from public officials that Calvo did. When police in Montgomery County conducted a mistaken 4 a.m. raid on a Kenyan immigrant and her teenage daughters in 2005, the county offered free movie passes as compensation. When police in Baltimore mistakenly raided the home of 33-year-old Andrew Leonard last May, the city refused to pay for Leonard’s door, which was destroyed during the break-in. When Leonard called the city’s bulk trash pick-up to come get the door, no one came. Days later, city code inspectors fined Leonard $50 for storing the broken door in his backyard.

This stuff didn’t get exposed until a SWAT team mistakenly raided the home of a mayor. What a joke. Decriminalize the stuff already.

  

Reforming the marijuana laws

Things are starting to change. In Massachusetts, the voters overwellmingly approved a ballot initiative decriminalizing marijuana.

Defying the scare tactics of state and local officials, voters in Massachusetts and Michigan gave current marijuana policies a resounding vote of no confidence Tuesday. Massachusetts voters approved the first marijuana decriminalization initiative ever passed by voters, Michigan voters enacted the nation’s 13th medical marijuana law, and local reform measures appeared to be passing in several communities.

“Tonight’s results represent a sea change,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which sponsored the Massachusetts and Michigan campaigns. “Voters have spectacularly rejected eight years of the most intense government war on marijuana since the days of ‘Reefer Madness.’”

In Michigan, White House drug czar John Walters personally campaigned against Proposal 1, calling it an “abomination.” In Massachusetts, all 11 district attorneys warned of huge increases in teen marijuana use and other dire consequences should Question 2 pass, even though studies in the 11 states with similar laws, as well as Australia and Europe, have found no such increases due to decriminalization. Under Question 2, criminal penalties for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana will be replaced by a civil fine of $100, much like a traffic ticket.

This makes sense and I expect it to gain traction around the country. Marijuana cases are clogging the courts, so more jurisdictions will begin to consider these reforms.

Medical marijuana has made even more progress, and Barack Obama has pledge to stop the disgraceful practices of the Bush adminitration to use federal laws to prosecute users of medical marijuana.

We should expect significant changes in the Drug War as well. Obama will not apoint a drug czar who views medical marijuana as an “abomination” and he has been very critical of locking up non-violent drug offenders.

It’s encouraging, however, to see these changes coming from the bottom up.

  

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