In all of history, there have been zero recorded deaths from marijuana. Yet at least 20 people have been killed in marijuana-related SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) raids since 2010, according to New York Times data.
Among the fatalities were petty dealers who sold a joint or a baggie of weed here and there, suspects of organized crime involving hard drugs who were in possession of marijuana, and even police officers.
Marijuana itself is physiologically safe. There is no lethal dose, and even the most uncomfortable highs are temporary. The most risky part of marijuana is that you could get arrested, get jailed, lose your eligibility for student aid, lose employment opportunities, lose your children if Child Protective Services get involved, or lose your life in a fatal SWAT raid.
Of the 85 SWAT raids that took more than 90 lives since 2010, 70 percent had to do with drugs. A report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed that almost 80 percent of SWAT raids were initiated by search warrants, but only seven percent of them involved “hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios.”
Those in favor of the SWAT method say it protects the safety of police officers. According to one SWAT commander from Arkansas, there’s nothing police could do that’s “overreacting” when dealing with the “dope house next door.”
To help you visualize the scenario, SWAT raids turns people’s homes into Drug War battlefields. Out of seemingly nowhere, armed police officers ambush the suspect’s house, kick the door down, and intrude by means of a heavily offensive, guerilla attack. The suspect’s partner or children could get implicated, as well.
Forcible entry tactics have become common and validated in the courts. Meanwhile, many SWAT raids yield zero findings, or only small drug stashes worthy of a misdemeanor. In some cases where police officers get killed, suspects who have no history of being violent end up facing murder charges or death sentences.
The ACLU also found that more than 40 percent of SWAT raids serving search warrants targeted African Americans, while 12 percent targeted Latinos. According to the New York Times, minorities comprised half of the 81 civilian deaths in SWAT raids.
These statistics speak to the dissonance between the severity of the SWAT techniques and the innocuous nature of weed, itself. In the midst of a case in which a Texas grand jury was deciding whether to incarcerate a suspect on capital murder charges of a SWAT police officer who was caught in the crossfire, one juror asked, “Why in the world would you do a full-out assault on a guy growing pot?”