A recent news analysis reports that while marijuana raids increase the likelihood of fatalities, the substance itself has never caused a death due to overdose.
Since 2010, at least 20 SWAT raids for suspected marijuana dealers in the U.S. have turned deadly, according to a new analysis by the New York Times. Data collected by the newspaper shows that marijuana raids over the past six plus years have taken the lives of both serious and small-time dealers, as well as a total of four police officers.
Marijuana itself, on the other hand, has been found to be not life threatening. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), “No death from overdose of marijuana has been reported.” As noted by the National Cancer Institute, cannabinoid receptors are not located in the brainstem areas that are responsible for controlling respiration, so cannabis cannot stop a person from breathing, regardless of how much is ingested. While marijuana use can temporarily impair motor coordination and reaction time, studies indicate that making marijuana legally accessible doesn’t increase the number of marijuana-related traffic fatalities.
According to the Washington Post, SWAT teams originated in Los Angeles in the 1960s, originally for managing gunmen that posed a threat to civilians or police officers. Today, SWAT teams typically handle warrant work. In 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that serving search warrants made up nearly 80 percent of SWAT deployments, while managing shooter scenarios accounted for just 7 percent of their activities. Of the total 85 deadly SWAT raids since 2010, 70 percent were based on the suspicion of drug activity, and many times those suspicions were based solely on a tip from a confidential informant.
An ACLU report published in 2013 estimated nationwide law enforcement costs for enforcing prohibition to be $3.6 million per year. A recent survey found that 65 percent of American adults feel that the law enforcement costs to enforce marijuana laws are higher than the benefit they provide. Cannabis advocates argue that legalizing marijuana would lower the cost of law enforcement and reduce prison overcrowding.
Today, marijuana remains classified federally as a Schedule I substance. However, 28 states and Washington D.C. have passed medical marijuana legislation, and eight states plus Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Still, despite state laws, enforcing federal law against those selling marijuana unlicensed can cost the lives of black market dealers and police officers. The Washington Post makes note of three marijuana dealers shot and killed by SWAT officers since 2010, despite being unarmed or in possession of only small amounts of marijuana.
In 2013, an early-morning raid for marijuana ended up in the death of a Texas SWAT team member, who was shot by a homeowner that believed he was being robbed. The homeowner was eventually acquitted of the capital murder charge.
“All of us felt that if I were in bed and heard anything that made me get up and get a gun, and all of a sudden my door explodes in, I’m shooting,” one of the jurors told the New York Times. “Why in the world would you do a full-out assault on a guy growing [marijuana]?”
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