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Editorial: Two Drug War Tragedies, and No Excuse

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David Borden, Executive Director
David Borden
Later this month, November 21st, will mark one year since the shooting death of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston at the hands of Atlanta police officers. Johnston was not involved with illegal drugs. But a combination of an informant's error and lying by some members of the narcotics unit got them a no-knock warrant. When the squad of plainclothes officers pushed her door open and burst in, Johnston believed she was under attack, and without time to think about it pulled out a gun her niece had given her for protection, and started to shoot. The narcs shot back. Three of the officers were wounded, but the officers had better aim and so Johnston was killed.

A different kind of tragedy is that of 50-year-old Robin Prosser, a registered medical marijuana patient in Montana, where she led the effort to pass the state's law three years as one of the initiative campaign's lead patient spokespersons. Despite all of this, the DEA intercepted and seized a package of her medicine last spring. This in turn scared other suppliers and made it difficult for her to get what she needed to manage her condition, systemic lupus. She talks about it in a video recorded last spring, and her last blog postings chronicle how all these problems drove her more deeply into depression, until she finally took her own life last month.

The common thread in these needless losses is the drug war. The police in Atlanta, despite their misconduct leading up to the shooting, did not expect to end up killing a 92-year-old woman when they first burst down her door. The DEA agents who took Prosser's medicine away probably did not expect the result of their action to be her suicide. But when you forcefully interfere in a person's life -- by seizing medicine or storming their homes -- the results can be unpredictable.

But unpredictable in only one sense -- predictable in other senses. Though any one intervention is unlikely to end up this way, it is inevitable that such tragedies will continue to happen for so long as the drug war continues to rage. The Johnston killing was unique only in Mrs. Johnston's age. Hundreds of SWAT team killings of innocents, or of low-level offenders, have been documented, and there have been many more near-misses. In fact, just two months earlier in Atlanta, police almost killed 80-year-old Frances Thompson in a very similar situation. If they didn't know they were risking the lives of people in Johnston's home, they should have.

If there were no better way, it would be one thing. But the drug war doesn't work, and prohibition causes enormous harm to individuals and society. So it isn't very hard to think of better ways. There's no excuse for further drug war tragedies.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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I travel the internet quite frequently ,for resarch on subjects ,like my work, the news ,how we're doing with the decrmilization and/or legalization of mj , the cancer that took me down and even the Fed/DEA.sites where they show us how wrong we all are,I mean really,Bushco. found those wmds in IRAQ right? thats right they don't know everything, their are sites galore on both sides like this one where you can write in and voice your feelings for or against,but to date i've never found one GOV/FED/DEA/NARC site that gives ''we the people'' that option, think they're affraid?...anyone know of one? because i'd really love to go full tilt on how I feel about those assholes!.....donl

don1- dialogue with their opponents is not their style

Their position that alcohol (and tobacco) are ok but weed is not is pathetically hypocritical, I think they know it too. As you noted, they don't reply to the concerns of the public they allegedly serve. They know what would happen in honest open debate.

response to drug war violence

Anyone ever send these horror stories to their senators and congressmen???

Open and honest?

None of them could participate, for thousands of years mankind did fine without drug laws , but now we pack prisons here and abroad with none violent drug users and suppliers , tunring a whole lot of pain patient`s and Dr`s into potential prisoners, how could this have been the intention of the drug laws , could it be government run amok?


If somebody, anybody, told me that my actions, however intentioned, were harming another human being, I would AT LEAST take the time to listen to their concerns.

But then, I have a conscience, an affliction which drug warriors don't suffer from.

They don't listen because they don't care.
They know full well the damage they do, but they DON'T CARE.

I become so outraged when I

I become so outraged when I hear such things. Why are the Officers never prosecuted for their actions? This is murder!!! Yet, almost always they get away with it, and for what reason? Individuals have the right to bear arms, and protect their home. These raids, especially "no-knock" raids, are just asking for fatal results. These Officers should be prosecuted the same as any other person in America, without this apparent immunity they seem to have. Even in our Declaration of Independence, within the list of facts regarding the tyranny of the King of Britain it states....

"For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States"

Is this not the same as the immunity granted to the DEA murders?

Declaration of Independence
*** We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. ***

The problem with the

The problem with the legalization of drugs like this is the same problem that society has increasingly found with cigarettes and other tobacco products: not everyone in the world wants to be affected by the results of the use of these products. The smells generated both by these drugs and tobacco products, for a lot of people, is something that causes pain and other adverse effects. Do I really want to live in a world where I'm walking down the street and the stench of pot pervades the air? Not really. And I'm sure there's a lot of other people feel the same way. Do I really want to live in a world where the apartment building that I live in stinks of the smell of pot? Not really. And I'm sure a lot of other people feel the same way.

For diseases like systemic lupus, the beneficial effects of illegal substances are only temporary. The more logical solution for these diseases would be to donate money to an organization which funds companies like Merck or Phizer; the companies which are continually finding cures for diseases and handicaps. In fact, there are several prescription drugs available for systemic lupus that have far more promising results than illegal substances. While I won't deny the tragic nature of the story outlined in this article, it is completely outrageous to say that pot was her only choice in treating her disease. She had plenty of options.

The problem with prohibition

The problem with prohibition is the same problem that society had increasingly found with alcohol prohibition. Not everyone in the world wants to be affected by the results of prohibition, which are exponentially worse than anything as trivial as "smells" in comparison. Merely the smell of something like tobacco or marijuana does not cause pain or other adverse effects... that is nonsensical, and a false assertion. Do we really want to live in a world where other people use coercion to enforce upon others their assessment of what they should and should not do with their own bodies? Not really. And I'm sure a lot of other people feel the same way.

For diseases like systemic lupus, the beneficial effects of ANY medicinal substance are only temporary. There IS money being donated to such organizations, and your assessment of this subject makes evident that you don't know what the hell your talking about. There is no cure for systemic lupus, and the goal of treatment is relieve its symptoms, and the doctor is to find the medication that does this most efficiently. All the prescription medicine used for this purpose have have very serious side effects, that rival in contrast to the disease itself, over prolonged use. Other than that there is only aspirin and ibuprofen. The doctors found what relieved the symptoms for her the best and it has NO side effects.

I think it is completely outrageous that your so ignorant as to not understand that it was the only thing that helped, and that she would not have taken her own life had there been other option for medicine. I find it outrageous that this woman was denied a substance that relieved her pain and suffering, with no side effects, all because pricks like you bitch and moan about things as trivial as "smell", when you don't have to smell it anyway.

Your comments are among the most diluted prohibition mentality I've ever witnessed.

Merck or Pfizer

Cause they don't make enough on their own?

Are you suggesting that we make tobacco illegal...? Because of it's smell?

I prefer no-knock raids on people that SCARE me.

Not people I mearly am MAD at.

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