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Atrocities plague the drug war, too

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War breeds atrocities. We saw it with Abu Ghraib, My Lai, mini-My Lais and the list continues pathetically and endlessly. Consequently, great care must be taken by the government in deciding when and how to wage armed war and war in the criminal justice system, and in minimizing the risks and occurrences of atrocities.

Why on earth would we allow the risk of violent atrocities and atrocities against the Constitution in the drug war, particularly when it comes to marijuana, which drug would give us a much better society if all liquor drinkers consumed marijuana, instead? Last July, this senseless war on marijuana led to Prince George’s, Maryland, police killing (murdering?) two dogs of Berwyn Heights’s mayor when executing a marijuana search warrant that found no evidence of any crimes.

Flash forward to March 11, 2009, when police shot unarmed Derek Copp in the chest — ripping through his lung and liver —  when executing a marijuana search warrant to find but apparently a few tablespoons of the weed. Thus far, it appears the police are not revealing any details other than to admit that a sheriff’s deputy shot him, and that Mr. Copp did not create any confrontation. Derek’s father says Derek — who fortunately survived — reported that he heard knocking at the door, did not know it was the police, used his arm to shield the lights in his eyes (see here, too) from what turned out to be from the police, and was shot.

As is his right under the Fifth Amendment, the sheriff’s deputy who shot Derek Copp was refusing to talk with police investigators about the incident, as of ten days ago. I do not quibble with the cop’s asserting his Constitutional rights; I advise the same to my own clients. Clearly, though, police abuse must stop now, and marijuana must be legalized. Your voice is needed to make it happen. Jon Katz

ADDENDUM: Thanks to Students for Sensible Drug Policy for alerting me to this story. Thanks to the following people for covering this story:

– The Drug War Chronicle has an in-depth article from last week.

– The Raw Story and Radley Balko covered the story.