This is Your War on Drugs


Andrew has already posted this, and I'm late to the game because I couldn't bring myself to watch it, but nonetheless, I feel compelled to remark.  Yes, folks, this is your war on drugs:

After he watched it, my more temperate better half was literally shaking with anger.  My anger is mixed with a sort of bleak despair that this sort of thing could happen in America, and worse, that so few people care.  You shoot two dogs in front of a seven year old--who could have been killed by a stray round, and at the very least will carry this hideous recollection to the grave.  And why?  For misdemeanor pot possession?

No, say the police; they executed the warrant too late.  Had they come earlier, undoubtedly they would have found . . . dealer sized amounts of pot.

This response is nonsensical.  It's like hearing that they came too late to catch the family bootlegging cable.  Sure it's illegal, and maybe it's even wrong.  But "dealer-sized" pot possession isn't necessarily related to actual drug dealings--I have several friends right now who probably qualify, and I'm pretty sure they aren't going to do anything that merits a SWAT intervention, because those sorts of things can get you drummed right out of your Tuesday-night book club, not to mention how they'd take it at the Rotary. 

But frankly I don't care if the owner of the pot was a drug dealer.  For that matter, I do not care if he had a mountain of marijuana in his back yard in which he liked to roll around naked.  It still wouldn't constitute a good reason for armed men to burst through his door without knocking, much less light up the family pets in front of the kid.

Have you ever had one of those arguments in a bar that start around eleven and wind up when the bartender kicks you out?  It starts off on some perfectly reasonable topic, but as the hours and the drinks mount up, the participants are forced to stake out some clear logical positions, and in doing so, crawl farther and farther out along the limb they are defending . . . until suddenly you reach a point at which one of the debaters can either abandon their initial commitment, or endorse the slaughter of 30,000 Guatemalan orphans.  And there's this long pause, and then he says, "Look, it's not like I want to kill those orphans . . . "

This is our nation's drug enforcement in a nutshell.  We started out by banning the things.  And people kept taking them.  So we made the punishments more draconian.  But people kept selling them.  So we pushed the markets deep into black market territory, and got the predictable violence . . . and then we upped our game, turning drug squads into quasi-paramilitary raiders.  Somewhere along the way, we got so focused on enforcing the law that we lost sight of the purpose of the law, which is to make life in America better.

I don't know how anyone can watch that video, and think to themselves, "Yes, this is definitely worth it to rid the world of the scourge of excess pizza consumption and dopey, giggly conversations about cartoons."  Short of multiple homicide, I'm having trouble coming up with anything that justifies that kind of police action.  And you know, I doubt the police could either.  But they weren't busy trying to figure out if they were maximizing the welfare of their larger society. They were, in that most terrifying of phrases, just doing their jobs.

And in the end, that is our shame, not theirs.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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