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Don't Mention the Drug War! America's Elite Would Rather Follow Mobs Than Lead the People

By Richard Cowan

Newsweek AMPLIFY - Drug War

Ah, here we go again. America is being rocked—sometimes literally—by riots, looting, as well as peaceful demonstrations, protesting yet another unarmed African American being killed by the police for Breathing while Black. Given all of the stress on African American communities, hard hit by both the Pandemic and its economic consequences, no one should be surprised.

Wall Street may think that America isn't broke, but "the street" knows that America is badly broken. Unfortunately, the African American leadership has its own problem. They only have one thing—race—in common with "the street", but otherwise they are part of America's entirely dysfunctional political system.

They remind me of the story about a left-wing leader, Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin, during the failed French Revolution of 1848, who saw a mob rush by and said, "There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them."

Typically, the African American leadership has been preoccupied with the terrible trauma of Joe Biden's bad joke on a black radio talk show about "You ain't black..." (if you're voting for Trump). They didn't even respond to his nonsensical comments about marijuana prohibition, and blacks are almost four times as likely as whites to be arrested on marijuana charges.

In fact, they were so preoccupied that they failed to note a much more frightening example of police violence on March 13, 2020, when Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American nurse, was fatally shot eight times by Louisville Kentucky Metro Police Department officers who entered her apartment, while serving a "no-knock warrant". She was Sleeping while Black. (By the way, no "drugs" were found.)

It wasn't until the Minneapolis death that Taylor's death began to get national publicity. However, unlike the death in Minneapolis, which resulted from an illegal use of force by individual police, the death of Taylor, in her own home in the middle of the night, was all perfectly legal. In fact, there are thousands of no-knock warrants served every year, so it was — and is—a standard operating procedure in the Drug War, which is still supported by much of the African American leadership, especially including the clergy. Of course, the Minneapolis police action was not "drug war related", but it was on camera, so it is safe to be indignant about it.

In fact, the Drug War is a major factor in all of the problems in the African American community. It is also important to note that the COVID-19 mortality rate among African Americans is 2.4 times higher than it is for whites. America has approximately 5% of the world's population but we have almost 25% of the prisoners. These numbers explain much of the hostility between the police and the African American street. Blacks are 12% of the US population but make up 37% of the prisoners in the American gulag. Our overcrowded jails and prisons are major vectors for infectious diseases, so inevitably this becomes a problem for the community as a whole, but especially for African Americans. Consequently, our public hospitals in the inner cities are even more overwhelmed by the pandemic.

Do All Black Lives Matter? The Drug War is also a major problem in the African American community in another way that the African American leaders don't want to discuss, "Black on black violence."

In 2017, homicide-victimization rates for black men were 3.9 times the national average and that 52 percent of all known homicide victims were black. From 1976 to 2005, 94 percent of black victims were killed by other African Americans. In a racially segregated society that is hardly surprising. Most whites are killed by whites, etc.

And while we ignore the Drug War violence, a 2013 meta-study found that on average, nearly half of homicide offenders were under the influence of alcohol when they committed the crime. On the other hand, it is very unlikely that many of these deaths were related to the alcohol business, because alcohol is legal. Ask Al Capone.

And while the contraband marijuana market may have been a source of some violence, there is no data suggesting that marijuana use was a factor in gun violence, but we still arrest more people for possession of marijuana than for all violent crimes combined.

I like to quote a bumper sticker that I saw years ago (appropriately) in Washington, D.C.: "If the people will lead, the leaders will follow."

Fortunately, that has begun to happen. One of the most eloquent statements came from Atlanta rapper, Killer Mike, speaking at the Atlanta mayor's press conference. It is definitely worth hearing.

Notice that he is the son of an Atlanta police officer, and that he specifically mentions marijuana decriminalization as a way to lessen friction between African Americans and the police.

Of course, middle class and even wealthy African Americans are all too aware that they can get killed for jogging while black, or sleeping or breathing or birdwatching or whatever, and ending racism in America is morally necessary but obviously very difficult. Ending the Drug War, starting with marijuana legalization, would greatly reduce the occasions for contact between the police and African Americans. We all need real actions by real leaders.

Richard Cowan is a former NORML National Director and founder of Real Tested CBD.

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