The Difference Between Drug War Violence and "Drug-Related" Violence

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This article in the New Hampshire Union Leader gets it right:

Testimony: Drug war behind street shooting

MANCHESTER – Lennoxx Tibbs was shot to death as a result of a drug sellers' turf war, according to police testimony yesterday at probable cause hearings in Manchester District Court for the man accused of shooting Tibbs and the man accused of accompanying him…

Meanwhile, the Herald & Record in Illinois gets it wrong:

Three charged in drug-related shooting

DECATUR - Three Decatur men allegedly involved in a drug deal Thursday that ended in a shooting have been charged in Macon County Circuit Court with five Class X felonies and an assortment of drug charges...

There's been a longstanding and misleading tendency in the press to invoke the term "drug-related" to describe unfortunate events that didn’t even involve drug use, and that's why the Union Leader headline above is such a rare and refreshing example of responsible reporting on drug trade violence.

When you hear the term "alcohol-related," you can be damn sure we're talking about someone doing something reckless & dangerous after getting wasted on booze. Thus, we must also insist that the term "drug-related" be used exclusively to describe incidents arising from the effects of drug consumption, and never the ubiquitous harmful results of drug prohibition itself.

Just imagine if the media properly attributed every episode of horrific drug war violence to prohibition rather than just drugs. That critical distinction is truly the fulcrum from which an individual's view of our drug policy swings in one direction or the other. The instant one learns to identify and distinguish between the harms of drugs and the harms of the laws against them, it becomes vastly more challenging to justify and uphold our present policies.  

So please, the next time you see the term "drug-related" used to described harmful outcomes caused by prohibition, send the reporter a note suggesting that a term like "drug war violence" be used instead. It's just a fact that the drug war kills infinitely more people than all illegal drugs combined, and we should demand media reporting that places the blame squarely where it belongs.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Yes, this is a key point

By routinely saying drug related violence instead of drug war or prohibition related violence, the media has been taking the side of the drug warriors.
When addicts commit crimes to support their habits, that's definitely prohibition related but could also reasonably be considered drug related since desire for the drug is so strong as to provoke an attack on an innocent person or their property, even in spite of the risk of punishment.
But violence fighting over black market turf seems completely caused by the drug war and the desire to make money, so calling it drug related is misinforming us, it is giving the war on those drugs a free pass on the grief it is causing.
Even supporters of the war on drugs should be acknowledging the black market violence their war is causing. Their only honorable course is to acknowledge it fully (as well as all the other "collateral damage" caused by the war) but argue that the effects of legalization would be worse.

I would agree with most of your post

but addicts committing crimes due to need for money to purchase their drug of addiction should be laid at the feet of the war on drugs. If drugs were legal, and easily and cheaply available, they wouldn't need to commit crimes to get money to buy drugs.

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

How do wage war on an inanimate object?

A "war on American's, who don't agree with government policies" is more like it. And, they don't even have to participate to be effected. The first killing of this "war on drugs", should have halted the whole project. Any law that requires the possible killing of another human being, is a very bad law. Any law that locks people up for a plant is a ridiculous law. Any law that restricts my pursuit of happiness, is an illegal law. Any government policy that causes harm, is a bad policy. And, a policy of killing American's over a lifestyle choice, that continues for thirty years, and is funded by tax dollars, is a way bigger crime, than smoking a plant.
Fuck the US government.

We all need to speak up

Every time I read the phrase "drug-related" being used in reference to drug war violence, I write letters or I comment online. If everyone reading this did the same, and encouraged others to do the same, maybe we could win at least this one battle in our war against the war. People tell me, "I don't speak up because nobody will listen, anyway." Well, if you don't speak up, nobody CAN listen, can they?

borden's picture

Everyone should do what Rita

Everyone should do what Rita has suggested. Language makes a difference, and the mainstream way of talking about drugs allows people to avoid recognizing the consequences of prohibition for what they are. If enough of us do this, the message might get through.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

I always comment, perhaps more than my share . . .

but I feel I have to do so, in order to make up for those who feel as I do but remain quiet out of fear of repecussions. Just this morning I commented on a letter to the editor of my local paper. I agreed partly with the letter (which spoke of taxing pot and instituting an income tax instead of increasing the sales tax -- I am ambivalent on taxing pot, adamantly opposed to any form of income tax, and feel sales taxes are most fair) but my comment was addressed to the other commenters who made fun of the idea that drugs should be legalized. I told them that anyone who supports Prohibition 2.0 was supporting the idea that criminals (some of them violent) should be in full control of "illicit" drugs and reminded them that most dealers of drugs don't bother to "card" buyers.

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

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