Since President Richard M. Nixon declared war on drugs 37 years ago, there has been a steady slaughter of innocent citizens as a result of mistaken drug raids conducted by heavily armed gangs of police amped up on their own adrenaline. The latest is the case of a 26-year-old ex-Marine, Jose Guerena, who had served two tours of duty in Iraq. He was shot to death in his Tucson home last month during a drug raid by a police SWAT team.
Guerena had reacted to the home invasion as many would: to protect his family he reached for his gun. The police shot him multiple times as his wife and 2-year-old son hid in a closet. He was left to bleed to death, as police refused to call paramedics until an hour after the shooting. Guerena’s gun was found to be set on safety. He had not fired a round. No illegal drugs were found in his house. As of this writing, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department has yet to provide an explanation for this “legal” homicide.
And, now thanks to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, police can conduct such home invasions without the need of a search warrant. Yes, now if the drug-Gestapo smells or believes it smells marijuana emanating from your home it can bust down your door — after politely knocking — and ransack your house looking for banned drugs. Don’t resist. Not only might police pump you full of lead, but also many states have now made it a crime for citizens to resist police home invasions, even when the police have the wrong address.
In a twisted irony, the same Supreme Court that condones the erosion of civil rights to conduct the war on drugs, now rules it unconstitutionally cruel to overcrowd prisons, even though the overcrowding is due to the war on drugs.
So much real crime — such as burglary, robbery and murder — is a product of the prohibition on drugs. Limited law enforcement resources should be focused on protecting the public from real crime, rather than generating it by criminalizing victimless personal choices like drug use.
Recently, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, led by an array of eminent world leaders, condemned the global war on drugs as a costly failure, and called upon the United States and other nations to end it.
And, if all drugs were legal, what would happen? Would our nation incur more harm and expense than it does now by foolishly pursuing the failed policy of prohibition? Would millions of people rush out and become addicts? Those who want to use banned drugs can get them easily enough already. Many more who need or want analgesics get the legal variety through their doctors. As a society we might be better off having those who self-medicate with alcohol switch to THC. I’ve never seen a belligerent stoner, but I have seen plenty of belligerent drunks.
Have more of us been hurt by people who sell drugs, or by people who wrecked our economy by selling bogus mortgages? Why aren’t SWAT teams busting down the doors of Wall Street bankers and ransacking their homes to find evidence of wrongdoing? And, if the law, no matter how questionable, must be honored, why don’t we honor our immigration laws with the same enthusiastic dedication that we enforce our drug laws?
A federal district court has recently ruled that last year’s health-care reform act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama is unconstitutional because it forces citizens to purchase health insurance, and as such is undue interference by government in personal choice — a usurpation of personal freedom. That is a good argument, and one that applies equally as well to personal choice regarding drug use. Freedom of choice should be restricted only to the extent such choice does real harm to others, and not because government does not like the choice.
The war on drugs continues because of two reasons; power and money. The drug warriors on both sides have a vested interest in keeping drugs illegal. And, as with any war, it is the civilians who are caught in the crossfire.
But, what is most depressing about the war on drugs, and now the war on terror, is that we are turning our police into thugs and becoming just another police state. America has always been the fortress of freedom, and now it, too, is effectively a police state. There is nowhere left to go to escape authoritarian oppression.
Just because the drug Gestapo hasn’t invaded your castle yet doesn’t mean there is no police state. The very fact that authorities can now legally and with impunity invade your privacy, invade your home, kill anything that moves and confiscate your property, all without due process of law, or a process that is so flimsy as to be virtually useless, in effect makes this nation a police state.
— Santa Barbara political observer Randy Alcorn can be contacted at email@example.com. Click here to read previous columns.