FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

No-Knock, You’re Dead

by PAUL ARMENTANO

A growing number of political pundits are questioning America’s military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some are beginning to draw parallels to lawmakers’ much longer domestic war effort: the so-called war on drugs. The comparison is apropos.

For nearly 100 years, starting with the passage of America’s first federal anti-drug law in 1914, lawmakers have relied on the mantra “Do drugs, do time.” As in the Middle East, the human and fiscal consequences of this inflexible policy have been steadily mounting.

America now spends nearly $50 billion dollars per year targeting, prosecuting, and incarcerating illicit-drug users. As a result, the population of illicit-drug offenders now behind bars is greater than the entire U.S. prison population in 1980. Since the mid 1990s, drug offenders have accounted for nearly 50 percent of the total federal prison population growth and some 40 percent of all state prison population growth. For marijuana alone, law enforcement currently spends between $7 billion and $10 billion dollars annually targeting users — primarily low-level offenders — and taxpayers spend more than $1 billion annually to incarcerate them.

Despite these unprecedented punitive efforts, illicit drugs remain cheaper and more plentiful than ever. (Who ever heard of crack, ice, Ecstasy, GHB, or Special K 30 years ago?) Among children, the percentage using illicit drugs is little different than it was in 1975, when the government first began monitoring teen drug use (though, comparatively, adolescents’ use of cigarettes has fallen dramatically during this time). Illicit-drug use among adults has also remained virtually unchanged; however, far more users are overdosing and dying from substance abuse than ever before.

Americans are also dying in greater numbers a result of drug-war enforcement. For example, members of Georgia’s narcotics task force shot and killed 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston in November 2006 during a no-knock drug raid of her home. Two officers in the raid eventually pled guilty to manslaughter and admitted that they planted drugs in Ms. Johnston’s house as a cover story for their actions.

A similar fate befell 44-year-old housewife Cheryl Noel of Baltimore, who was shot and killed by police in 2005 during a 5 o’clock a.m. “flash-bang” raid of her home. Noel’s husband and 19-year-old son were later charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Nevertheless, despite the drug war’s growing expense and civilian casualties, lawmakers continue to offer few, if any, strategies other than to stay the course. Such a mindset is epitomized by the outgoing House Drug Policy Subcommittee chairman, Mark Souder (R­Ind.), who authored federal legislation to withhold financial aid from convicted drug offenders, recently pushed for the use of mycoherbicides as biological agents to kill drug crops overseas, and continues to publicly lambaste drug czar John Walters for employing an oversoft (in Souder’s opinion) drug-war battle-plan. The families of Kathryn Johnston and Cheryl Noel would most likely beg to differ.

However, in contrast to politicians who call for a review of the U.S. military’s Middle East policies, few lawmakers are demanding a timetable to bring about a cease-fire to the war on drugs — or are even calling for a reduction in the number of “troops” ( i.e., narcotics detectives, DEA agents, et cetera) serving on the front lines. They ought to. If American lawmakers want to take a serious look at the United States’s war strategies, let them begin by reassessing — and ending — their failed war here at home.

PAUL ARMENTANO is the senior policy analyst for NORML and the NORML Foundation in Washington, D.C. He may be contacted at paul@norml.org

 

 

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 01, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Hillary: Ordinarily Awful or Uncommonly Awful?
Rob Urie
Liberal Pragmatism and the End of Political Possibility
Pam Martens
Clinton Says Wall Street Banks Aren’t the Threat, But Her Platform Writers Think They are
Michael Hudson
The Silence of the Left: Brexit, Euro-Austerity and the T-TIP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Marx on Financial Bubbles: Much Keener Insights Than Contemporary Economists
Evan Jones
Ancillary Lessons from Brexit
Jason Hirthler
Washington’s Not-So-Invisible Hand: It’s Not Economics, It’s Empire
Mike Whitney
Another Fed Fiasco: U.S. Bond Yields Fall to Record Lows
Aidan O'Brien
Brexit: the English and Welsh Enlightenment
Jeremy R. Hammond
How Turkey’s Reconciliation Deal with Israel Harms the Palestinians
Margaret Kimberley
Beneficial Chaos: the Good News About Brexit
Phyllis Bennis
From Paris to Istanbul, More ‘War on Terror’ Means More Terrorist Attacks
Dan Bacher
Ventura Oil Spill Highlights Big Oil Regulatory Capture
Ishmael Reed
OJ and Jeffrey Toobin: Black Bogeyman Auctioneer
Ron Jacobs
Let There Be Rock
Ajamu Baraka
Paris, Orlando and Turkey: Displacing the Narrative of Western Innocence
Pete Dolack
Brexit Will Only Count If Everybody Leaves the EU
Robert Fantina
The First Amendment, BDS and Third-Party Candidates
Julian Vigo
Xenophobia in the UK
David Rosen
Whatever Happened to Utopia?
Andre Vltchek
Brexit – Let the UK Screw Itself!
Jonathan Latham
107 Nobel Laureate Attack on Greenpeace Traced Back to Biotech PR Operators
Steve Horn
Fracked Gas LNG Exports Were Centerpiece In Promotion of Panama Canal Expansion, Documents Reveal
Robert Koehler
The Right to Bear Courage
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Spin Masquerading as Science Courtesy of “Shameful White Men of Privilege”
Eoin Higgins
Running on Empty: Sanders’s Influence on the Democratic Party Platform
Binoy Kampmark
Who is Special Now? The Mythology Behind the US-British Relationship
Mark B. Baldwin
Russia to the Grexit?
Andrew Wimmer
Killer Grief
Manuel E. Yepe
Sanders, Socialism and the New Times
Franklin Lamb
ISIS is Gone, But Its Barbarity Still Haunts Palmyra
Mark Weisbrot
A Policy of Non-Intervention in Venezuela Would be a Welcome Change
Matthew Stevenson
Larry Cameron Explains Brexit
Cesar Chelala
How Tobacco Became the Opium War of the 21st Century
Joseph Natoli
How We Reached the Point Where We Can’t Hear Each Other
Andrew Stewart
Skip “Hamilton” and Read Gore Vidal’s “Burr”
George Wuerthner
Ranching and the Future of the Sage Grouse
Thomas Knapp
Yes, a GOP Delegate Revolt is Possible
Gilbert Mercier
Democracy Is Dead
Missy Comley Beattie
A Big F#*K You to Voters
Charles R. Larson
Mychal Denzel Smith’s “Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: a Young Black Man’s Education”
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Four Morning Ducks
David Yearsley
Where the Sidewalk Ends: Walking the Bad Streets of Houston’s Super-Elites
Christopher Brauchli
Educating Kansas
Andy Piascik
The Hills of Connecticut: Where Theatre and Life Became One
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail