Marijuana and the Deaths of Officers

Two situations involving the death of officers, in two different countries, are causing some lively discussion on the net right now.
1. Alberta, Canada.
I reported earlier about the four RMCP officers killed by a suicidal maniac who may have been growing marijuana among his other problems. Naturally, the immediate knee-jerk response by many politicians was to call for harsher penalties for marijuana grow-ops. Fortunately, others have shown some smarts.
Check out this article from the Toronto Star (archived at Cannabis News, along with discussion).

“The whole reason grow ops exist is because of prohibition,” [Lawyer Eugene] Oscapella said yesterday.

“This is very simple economics and it’s really appalling that the governments, not just this but the past governments, profess to have such a sophisticated understanding of economics but can’t seem to grasp the fact that they’ve created this incredibly powerful, lucrative and violent black market in Canada.” …

Jack Cole, a former undercover narcotics agent from New Jersey, who now heads the pro-legalization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), agrees the Alberta tragedy is likely a direct result of laws that make marijuana’s growth and use illegal.

“And creating rigid laws with stiffer penalties because of this situation is a knee-jerk thing that policy makers (will likely) do because they don’t seem to know anything else,” says Cole, “But when they do that it will only make things worse… the harsher the penalties, the more likely it is that (more) officers will be killed.”

Cole, who worked 14 years undercover with the New Jersey State Police, says his country’s 35-year-old war on drugs and its 1920s alcohol prohibition experience show restrictive policies make the use of banned substances more pervasive and their distribution more lethal.

There’s a very extensive discussion below that article that shows this kind of issue can cause some real heat.
2. Columbia, Missouri, USA.
Voters in November passed an ordinance that reduces the penalty for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana to a fine. This has been unpopular with some idiotic legislators as well as some law enforcement groups.
Officer Sterling Infield, President of Columbia Police Officers Association (CPOA) wrote a letter asking city officials to “squash this tainted ordinance.” In this letter, he referred to two officers who had been shot in the line of duty — Officer Curtis Brown and the late Officer Molly Bowden — saying “To stop this ordinance would bring a small degree of justice back to” Bowden and Brown, “who risked all to protect their community.”
Now the officers were shot by someone who had marijuana charges (among others), but the change in the ordinance would not have had any affect, which Infield later admitted. Now most of Columbia’s police force has been properly following the new ordinance, but Infield’s letter has generated some controversy, especially since he posted it at an open forum on the CPOA site (see “Letter to Assist City Administrator” for text of the original letter and check out some of the other folders for some spirited debate).
In both of these cases, while charges of using the deaths of officers for political gain has been bandied about in both directions, it was prohibitionists who first sought to exploit. And what makes that particularly hard to stomach is the fact that their case hold no merit whatsoever. It can be clearly shown time and time again that tougher prohibition makes it more likely that cops will be killed in the line of duty, not less likely.
Drug WarRant supports law enforcement officers, particularly the vast majority who believe in their oath to serve and protect all citizens. When I rant against law enforcement officers, it is those who are vicious and corrupt or who have declared war on the citizens (as in many task forces).
Additionally, I believe that law enforcement officers have often been horribly used in the failed drug war (and I list several among the group of Drug War Victims on my site).
And I despise those who would use the deaths of officers to advocate further war.
Now one of the more interesting debates that often surfaces in this kind of discussion over drug war deaths is the concept of two sides with their own version of how to stop the violence.

  1. Prohibitionists say that if nobody used drugs there would be no drug war violence.
  2. Drug Policy Reformers say if it weren’t for prohibition causing the black market, there would be no drug war violence.

The thing is, both are correct.
But are both arguments equally possible?
Option 2 is certainly possible. It is, after all, the status that existed years ago, and it could happen again with the passage of certain laws.
Option 1, however, is impossible. Decades of drug war enforcement have had little impact on the use of drugs and it’s clear that no amount of ratcheting up of the drug war will result in the absence of drug use. Even in countries where drug smuggling earns the death penalty there appears to be no shortage of offenders.
So one option is possible, while the other is not. That should at least cause the prohibitionists to consider the options. If the reverse were somehow true (in an alternate university with different laws of economics), I, as a reformer, would feel it necessary to at least seriously consider and discuss option 1 (despite my views on liberty).
It is intellectually dishonest for prohibitionists to refuse to discuss option 2. Yet they do refuse. And instead they exploit the deaths of good cops to further their descent into madness.

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