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The Drug War Threatens Every American’s Rights


drug war americans rights marijuanaBy John Payne

The following editorial was submitted to the Joplin Globe for publication this Sunday, in advance of the film screening on Monday.

In the wee hours of February 11, 2010, police in Columbia, Missouri broke down the door to Jonathan Whitworth’s home searching for substantial quantities of marijuana. When the police forced their way into the home, Whitworth’s dogs, a pit bull and a corgi, began to bark at the intruders. The SWAT team took this as a sign of aggression and fatally shot the pit bull. The corgi was also shot, likely hit by a ricocheting bullet.

After searching the residence, police found a grinder, pipe, and small amount of cannabis. For the possession of a few grams of plant matter, the police had kicked in Whitworth’s door, killed his dog, and traumatized his entire family. The police even had the gall to arrest Whitworth for child endangerment, because of the presence of his seven-year-old son. In reality, the SWAT teams’ reckless discharge of their weapons posed a far greater threat to everyone in the home than a few pinches of pot.

Whitworth’s case is not an isolated incident. For instance, in November 2006, Atlanta police, acting on manufactured evidence of drug dealing, shot and killed Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old woman. When police began to break down her door, Johnston apparently (and understandably) believed they were criminals and fired a pistol once in self-defense. The officers responded to this single shot with a hail of 39 bullets. As their mistake dawned upon them, the cops cuffed Johnston, planted drugs in her home, and let her bleed to death on the floor.

The “war on drugs” is not a metaphor. Since Richard Nixon declared drugs public enemy number one in 1971, all levels of government in America have collaborated to militarize law enforcement, slowly turning local police, whose job is to serve and protect the public, into warriors engaged in counter-insurgency tactics in our own neighborhoods.

And what do we have to show for forty years of waging war against our fellow Americans? Drugs are more available, cheaper, and more potent today than they were in 1971; the illicit drug trade dominates strategically important nations, such as Afghanistan and Mexico; and, according to a Rasmussen poll released last week, 82 percent of Americans say we are losing the war on drugs. Even by the low standards of a government program, the war on drugs is an abysmal failure – and an expensive failure at that.

Governments in the United States have spent more than $1 trillion on fighting the drug war. That’s roughly $10,000 for every family of three. A great deal of that money pays to lock up drug offenders. Since 1970, the United States’ incarceration rate has increased fivefold and is now the highest rate in the world. The incarceration rate in Russia – a country that Americans have traditionally and justifiably associated with tyranny and our nearest competitor on this measure – is almost a quarter lower than ours. The land of the free has turned into the world’s most prolific warden.

This article only scratches the surface of this issue, so if you are interested in learning more, please attend the free screening of America’s Longest War this Monday, August 26 at 6:00 P.M. The screening will be held at JB’s Piano Bar (112 S. Main Street) and will be followed by a Q&A with Reason Foundation President and film co-producer David Nott, Trish and Daryl Bertrand of Springfield – whose lives have been fundamentally altered by the war on drugs – and myself. The only way we can begin to address these problems is if we fully understand them. I hope to see you there.

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Johnny Green


  1. Jack klotzner II on

    if it is possible since i will not be able to make it to see the film and there are many more americans who wont be able to make it either can you post it online and send a link out to all who would like to see it? I can understand if that is not possible but it would be nice :)

  2. You can get more of a punishment for having pot than you get for molesting a child. Which should be the most punishment anyone can get. How backwards is our government. How can something that grows natural be illegal. How many times do you hear of someone smoking a joint and running over someone with a car or smoking and starting a fight, you don’t but alochol is legal and a drunk will run over you or start a fight quick. I’ll say it again our government is so backwards.

  3. So an organization is going around and locking up perfectly peaceful people in its privately own prisons. This organization demands that you help fuel its expensive antagonism, which consumes billions of dollars annually, against these people. Should you help fund a cause you don’t support?

    Well, fuck you because you will have to pay your taxes which imprisons millions of harmless potheads every year or this “organization” will fuck you over.

  4. Government has used the drug war as an excuse to militarize local police departments. They feed them leads and information for drug busts and show them how to use forfeiture laws to subsidize it all. This common bonding creates a structure that does not work for the betterment of anyone. It preys upon its own population instead of protecting and serving it. You are either part of it or preyed upon by it. That is your given choice.

    End the war on drugs and regain your choice and your freedom.

  5. Hi, this came over my Oregon posts- I was really looking forward to going- until i Googled JB’s Piano Bar- it is NOT in Springfield OREGON- since every state has a Springfield, please specify. :-) keep up the good work!

  6. Jail I mean..not prison..and I ended up with supervised probation for two years..I’m mad..I should be able to smoke wed in the privacy of my home and bedroom

  7. Missouri got me with child endangerment for a roach with less than a gram of weed in it.. It was in my locked bedroom where no child could even get to it.. They charged me with a c felony drug possession and I got out dropped to a misdemeanor but the endangerment charges stuck.. They arrested me on Easter and I missed all of Easter that day with my kids and instead spent Easter in prison.. Over a ROACH..!

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