In today’s Wall Street Journal, Radley Balko continues his important and heroic work exposing the militarization of police forces in the United States. The opening paragraphs of Radley’s WSJ account reveal why those who believe that a ‘war on drugs’ makes society more civil, sane, and safe are utterly mistaken:
On Jan. 4 of last year, a local narcotics strike force conducted a raid on the Ogden, Utah, home of Matthew David Stewart at 8:40 p.m. The 12 officers were acting on a tip from Mr. Stewart’s former girlfriend, who said that he was growing marijuana in his basement. Mr. Stewart awoke, naked, to the sound of a battering ram taking down his door. Thinking that he was being invaded by criminals, as he later claimed, he grabbed his 9-millimeter Beretta pistol.
The police say that they knocked and identified themselves, though Mr. Stewart and his neighbors said they heard no such announcement. Mr. Stewart fired 31 rounds, the police more than 250. Six of the officers were wounded, and Officer Jared Francom was killed. Mr. Stewart himself was shot twice before he was arrested. He was charged with several crimes, including the murder of Officer Francom.
The police found 16 small marijuana plants in Mr. Stewart’s basement. There was no evidence that Mr. Stewart, a U.S. military veteran with no prior criminal record, was selling marijuana. Mr. Stewart’s father said that his son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and may have smoked the marijuana to self-medicate.
Early this year, the Ogden city council heard complaints from dozens of citizens about the way drug warrants are served in the city. As for Mr. Stewart, his trial was scheduled for next April, and prosecutors were seeking the death penalty. But after losing a hearing last May on the legality of the search warrant, Mr. Stewart hanged himself in his jail cell.
Just as “Progressives” pretend that reality is optional when they demand the likes of higher minimum-wage rates, higher taxes on Americans who buy goods assembled outside of America, and diktats such as mandatory paid vacation time for all workers – that is, just as “Progressives” simply assume that the results of their preferred government interventions will yield their desired outcomes without much, if anything, in the way of unintended ill consequences – conservatives (and, it must be said, many falsely named “liberals”) who demand the continuation of the “war on drugs” also are guilty of pretending that reality is optional.
These drug-war advocates seldom bother to ponder how law-enforcement officials will actually go about gathering evidence for “crimes” that have no victims; these drug-war advocates ignore the courts’ permission to have constitutional rights trampled upon in the name of waging the drug-war; these drug-war advocates overlook the incentives that illegality gives to suppliers to make drugs more potent and to reduce suppliers’ incentives to warrant drugs’ safety; these drug-war advocates are too oblivious to understand that drug prohibition increases the incentives of drug suppliers to push drugs on children; these drug-war advocates seldom bother to ponder the fact that they really and truly are calling for the imprisonment – and, often, the killing – of men and women whose only offense is that these men and women choose to ingest intoxicants that the government disapproves of.
Drug-war advocates’ zeal to govern other-people’s lives infects their minds with hallucinations about the realities of prohibitions – hallucinations far more surreal and absurd and dangerous than any hallucinations that some college kid experimenting with LSD might suffer.