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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The serious side of 4/20

    There is a national holiday this Sunday, but the post offices will not close.

    The president will not deliver a speech in the Rose Garden and the candidates for his office will not veer from their sartorial norms. It is, of course, 4/20, the feast day for marijuana users. This holiday is often written off as little more than a day of stoner high jinks, but it is far more important than these celebrators realize. The decades long, wildly unsuccessful War on Drugs has not just failed to provide any reduction in drug use or production, but has subjected the innocent citizens it claims to protect to violence at gunpoint. This Sunday, we should take some time to remember some of these victims.

    One of the more recent victims is Tarika Wilson, of Lima, Ohio. Her boyfriend was under suspicion of dealing drugs, although not from Wilson’s house. Yet, this did not deter a SWAT team to break through the door of her rented home with its guns ready. Wilson emerged to see what the noise was about, and was promptly shot by the officers. Wilson died; her 14-month-old son, Sincere, who was in her arms, was wounded.

    Wilson’s death follows that of Kathryn Johnson, a 97-year-old woman living in the Atlanta area. Ms. Johnson heard what she perceived to be thieves at the door, and drew an old revolver she kept for protection. You already know how this story ends: The SWAT team broke down the door, and Johnson was shot. After a search revealed that it had broken into the wrong house, the officers planted marijuana in her basement and tried to pressure an informant into lying to justify the raid. Further investigation revealed that this was one in a series of unjustified raids by Atlanta police. Officer J.R. Smith, who resigned in the wake of the raid, said, “”I’m sorry.””

    “”Sorry”” doesn’t begin to describe it: “”repugnant”” or “”abhorrent”” better hint at the current state of affairs. There is a twisted formula to this War on Drugs that has repeated itself time and time again: SWAT teams act on bad information, rage through target homes without a second thought and kill or injure an innocent bystander. Yet these “”no-knock”” raids were given tacit approval by the Supreme Court and exempted from the exclusionary rule in last year’s Hudson v. Michigan. In their violent zeal, these paramilitary police have attacked a 90-year-old woman, a 16-year-old boy, a paraplegic and a woman in an oxygen mask. Yet the results are the same – the victims are at best traumatized, and the officers to blame are at worst charged with misdemeanors. This behavior might be expected of East German Stasi or Iranian morality police. The differences between them, and us, however, are increasingly slim.

    Yet it is not just overzealous SWAT teams that wage war against the American people, as the case of Robin Prosser demonstrates. Prosser, of Missoula, Mont., was afflicted with an immunosuppressive disorder that gave her allergic reactions to pharmaceutical painkillers. She used marijuana as an alternative way to ease her chronic pain, and was a chief advocate for the Montana Medical Marijuana Act that passed in 2004. The federal government, however, no longer believes in the principle of federalism upon which it was founded, and the Supreme Court ruled that Drug Enforcement Agency agents could still arrest sick individuals in states that had legalized medical use. In March, these agents took full advantage, and confiscated the half-ounce of marijuana she had received from a caregiver. Fifty years old and racked with pain, she chose to follow Patrick Henry’s famous dictum and committed suicide in October 2007.

    These cases represent only a fraction of reported cases, which in turn only account for a small portion of such offenses across the country. This ignores the constant harassment of harmless users across the country, as reported daily by the Daily Wildcat’s Police Beat.

    In light of such travesties, why is there no public outcry? No doubt part of it is rooted in general ignorance, but mostly it is a result of the spineless nature of politicians. Marijuana users are publicly stigmatized, decried by government propaganda pieces as “”tools”” and “”losers.”” Never mind that being a “”loser”” does not deprive one of she’s basic rights spelled out by Thomas Jefferson; politicians gain minimal votes in supporting drug law reform, and risk losing everything. Thus, they try to one-up each other in their “”tough on drugs”” image, ostensibly justifying their actions by saying they are fighting for the kids – kids such as Sincere Wilson or 16-year-old Daniel Castillo.

    Perhaps you find the use of marijuana to be immoral, or simply disgusting. Yet it is a perverse morality that can justify the outrageous excesses of a militarized police in fighting a victimless crime. Until non-users will stand up for the basic liberties of the 25 million Americans who are, the government will continue such Orwellian policies that advocate the murder of others in order to save them.

    Evan Lisull is a sophomore majoring in economics and political science. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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