Beneath the badge and uniform, officers of the law are ordinary Americans who want to serve their communities. Their job is to come to the aid of citizens in trouble owing to accidents or the mischief of ne’er-do-wells. Yet some individuals respond to interaction with police by fighting with them, running from them, or both. Such run-ins with cops that result in shootings are rocking the nation. Persons of good will searching for ways to end the human cost should not overlook chemical substances, and cannabis in particular, as contributing factors in lawless behavior.
Legalized for medical or recreational use, marijuana is virtually everywhere these days. It is what the U.S. Center for Drug Abuse Statistics calls “by far, the most popular drug in America and arguably the most popular drug in the world.” In addition to euphoria, though, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cannabis has a creepy side effect: “Marijuana users are significantly more likely than nonusers to develop temporary psychosis (not knowing what is real, hallucinations and paranoia) and long-lasting mental disorders, including schizophrenia (a type of mental illness where people might see or hear things that aren’t really there).”
In a 2020 Gallup poll, 12 percent of American adults were self-admitted marijuana users. The U.S. Center for Drug Abuse Statistics puts the figure at closer to 17 percent, or 55 million adults. More unsettling, 24 percent of 12th-graders in 2017 said they had smoked pot at least once during the previous year. It means there is a lot of paranoia out there that police on the beat risk encountering.
When deadly incidents happen, the roadside is a common locale. Few drivers can honestly say they have never been made aware of their obligation to cooperate with a patrol officer at their window during a traffic stop. Who in their right mind would be tempted to speed away, step out and grapple, or worst of all, pull a gun on the cop? Only a toxicology report can make a clear connect between behavior and chemicals, but individuals reacting to police with a fight-or-flight response are likely experiencing an altered state of mind.
Media pundits point to racial discrimination as the trigger for Black America’s violent conflicts with cops. Law enforcement is an equal opportunity career, though, and Black Americans are no less interested in serving their communities as members of other racial groups. U.S. Census Bureau statistics show that Black Americans comprise 11.4 percent of the nation’s workforce, and Black cops make up 12.4 percent of the nation’s police force.
Ominously, states are now focused on placing pot shops in minority neighborhoods, where Black businesses can more easily get a cut of the lucrative cannabis trade. With pot paranoia on the rise, cases of Black citizens tangling with cops — the sort of incidents wracking race relations — are not likely to disappear.