According to the DEA, no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to matter too much, since marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug alongside heroin and LSD as one of the most dangerous, high risk drugs, having no medicinal uses. Clearly the description doesn’t fit what the rest of the country thinks about the plant since 28 states have a legal medical marijuana industry and 8 states have legalized recreational marijuana. Yet the plant remains illegal on a federal level which has allowed the only truly dangerous marijuana events to happen: police raids. This point was highlighted by a report put together by the New York Times.
Damaging “Dynamic Entry” Tactics
Since 2010, police have been involved in 20 raids that have each ended with at least one fatality. Military style surprise raids involve “dynamic entry” tactics which allow police to forcibly enter the suspects’ homes, catching them off guard and often leading to death. Forced entry with special weapons and military policing has been on the rise as the opioid epidemic continues to grow. Yet, using and selling pot is a nonviolent crime that doesn’t require this level of policing; especially for the minuscule amounts for which people are being raided.
Examples of Fatalities in Marijuana Raids
Jason Westcott was killed during a raid when police saw that he had a firearm. Even though Westcott didn’t use the gun, he was shot and killed. Police found 0.2 grams of weed in his home, not even enough to roll a joint. Trevor Cole was raided after he sold 1.8 ounces of weed to undercover cops. He owned no firearm but was killed anyway during the raid for trying to flush his stash down the toilet. Levonia Riggins sold weed to undercover agents as well. He was shot in bed during the raid because he was sleeping and didn’t respond to officers’ demands. He had no forearms and just a small amount of pot in his home.
Tragic Responses in Moments of Confusion
Henry Magee was sleeping with his girlfriend who was 4 months pregnant when they heard officers trying to get into their home and thought they were about to be robbed. When the door came crashing down, Magee fired his weapon, killing officer Frederich Sowders. Magee was acquitted of the murder charge within 12 hours by the jury. One jury member told the New York Times, “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. Why in the world would you do a full-out assault on a guy growing pot?” Magee was found to be growing 10 plants and had 4 ounces of flower in his home.
For a plant that has never killed anyone, a plant considered safer and healthier than alcohol and cigarettes, a plant that is used as medicine by millions, it is concerning that keeping marijuana illegal seems to be the only thing making it dangerous. When policing the plant becomes more lethal than the plant itself, perhaps it is time for law enforcement and the DEA to reconsider doing what is best for the nation as a whole.