Latest Drug War Tragedy Reemphasizes Need For Marijuana Legalization
On Friday the government’s war on marijuana consumers claimed yet another victim.
In Las Vegas, Nevada, metro police shot and killed a 21-year-old father-to-be while serving a search warrant for marijuana.
A 21-year-old father-to-be was killed last Friday night by a Las Vegas Police Department narcotics officer serving a search warrant for marijuana. Trevon Cole was shot once in the bathroom of his apartment after he made what police described as “a furtive movement.”
Police have said Cole was not armed. Police said Monday they recovered an unspecified amount of marijuana and a set of digital scales. A person identifying herself as Cole’s fiancée, Sequoia Pearce, in the comments section in the article linked to above said no drugs were found.
Pearce, who is nine months pregnant, shared the apartment with Cole and was present during the raid. “I was coming out, and they told me to get on the floor. I heard a gunshot and was trying to see what was happening and where they had shot him,” Pearce told KTNV-TV.
According to police, they arrived at about 9 p.m. Friday evening at the Mirabella Apartments on East Bonanza Road, and detectives knocked and announced their presence. Receiving no response, detectives knocked the door down and entered the apartment. They found Pearce hiding in a bedroom closet and took her into custody. They then tried to enter a bathroom where Cole was hiding. He made “a furtive movement” toward a detective, who fired a single shot, killing Cole.
… According to Pearce and family members, Cole had no criminal record, had achieved an Associate of Arts degree, and was working as an insurance adjustor while working on a political science degree at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. He was not a drug dealer, Pearce said.
“Trevon was a recreational smoker. He smoked weed, marijuana. That’s what he did,” she told KTNV-TV. “They didn’t have to kill him. We were supposed to get married next year, plan a black and white affair,” she said. “He was all I ever knew, we were gonna make it.”
In May, NORML blogged about another sickening case — that one from Columbia, Missouri (you can watch the disturbing and graphic video here) — of ‘cops gone wild’ in the war on weed. But the similarities between the two cases go beyond narcotics officers breaking down the doors of private residences and discharging their weapons.
In both instances, these tragic raids took place in regions of the country that have ‘decriminalized’ marijuana possession. That’s right. In Nevada, lawmakers in 2001 enacted statewide legislation defelonizing minor marijuana possession — making the offense a fine-only misdemeanor. (Separately, Nevada voters in 2000 decided to amend the state’s constitution to exempt medical users from arrest.) And in 2004, some 60 percent of Columbia, Missouri voters approved a local ordinance that sought to prohibit local cops from from arresting anyone for simple marijuana possession.
Yet, as the above tragedies illustrate, neither of these ‘half-a-loaf’ changes in law (decriminalization and medicalization) ultimately corrects the core problem and that is this: Police and politicians still accept the premise that this level of deadly force is appropriate to keep people from using marijuana.
That is why, while on the one hand NORML (obviously) supports cannabis medicalization and decriminalization efforts, we also recognize that these efforts fall woefully short for many Americans. After all, police in Las Vegas, Columbia, and elsewhere are not forcefully entering private homes and terrorizing families while executing search warrants for alcohol. But they are engaging in such behavior in communities that have medicalized and/or decriminalized marijuana. And unfortunately, they will continue to do so.
In short, the only way to fully protect all our citizens from these kinds of abhorrent events is through the legalization and regulation of marijuana for all adults.
Decriminalization and medicalization are first steps — not the end game. Ultimately only legalization and regulation can bring a long overdue end to the brutal war on marijuana consumers.
June 17, 2010