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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Could decriminalizing drugs actually save lives? | The Asheville Citizen-Times | citizen-times.com

Could decriminalizing drugs actually save lives? | The Asheville Citizen-Times | Written by
Ronald Hult, Weaverville
It's easy to see that the drug war is a losing battle. By some estimates up to 10,000 Mexicans per year are being killed needlessly in this war. For perspective, since the Iraq war began in 2003 around 4,500 Americans have died in Iraq. I'd be the first to admit that drugs can ruin lives; but I'd argue that drug use should be completely decriminalized, and that we treat addiction as an illness. Our archaic drug laws have led to the U.S. having the highest incarceration rate in the world, and we are devoting around 50 percent of law enforcement resources to the drug war.

Prominent politicians are now supporting drug legalization, including GOP presidential candidates Ron Paul and Gary Johnson and Rep. Barney Frank. A few years ago Portugal decriminalized all drugs, from marijuana to heroin. The Global Commission on Drug Policy concluded that decriminalization in Portugal and other countries has not led to an increase in drug use. In fact, heroin use has declined by 50 percent in Portugal since the legalization of drugs in that country.

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Botched Paramilitary Police Raids: An Epidemic of "Isolated Incidents"

"If a widespread pattern of [knock-and-announce] violations were shown . . . there would be reason for grave concern." —Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in Hudson v. Michigan, June 15, 2006. An interactive map of botched SWAT and paramilitary police raids, released in conjunction with the Cato policy paper "Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids," by Radley Balko. What does this map mean? How to use this map View Original Map and Database


Death of an innocent. Death or injury of a police officer. Death of a nonviolent offender.
Raid on an innocent suspect. Other examples of paramilitary police excess. Unnecessary raids on doctors and sick people.
The proliferation of SWAT teams, police militarization, and the Drug War have given rise to a dramatic increase in the number of "no-knock" or "quick-knock" raids on suspected drug offenders. Because these raids are often conducted based on tips from notoriously unreliable confidential informants, police sometimes conduct SWAT-style raids on the wrong home, or on the homes of nonviolent, misdemeanor drug users. Such highly-volatile, overly confrontational tactics are bad enough when no one is hurt -- it's difficult to imagine the terror an innocent suspect or family faces when a SWAT team mistakenly breaks down their door in the middle of the night. But even more disturbing are the number of times such "wrong door" raids unnecessarily lead to the injury or death of suspects, bystanders, and police officers. Defenders of SWAT teams and paramilitary tactics say such incidents are isolated and rare. The map above aims to refute that notion.

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