Before the War on Drugs was declared, police solved 90 percent of homicides. Now that number is closer to 30% in cities like Columbus, Ohio.
Police in Ohio are blaming a lack of resources for the fact that unsolved homicide cases greatly outnumber the cases that are solved, yet they seem to have the resources to arrest thousands of suspected cannabis users.a
The failed War on Drugs is alive and well in the state of Ohio where an average of over 20,000 people are arrested on charges of cannabis possession each year. While the Drug Policy Alliance reported that around 30,494 people are arrested for drug-related offenses annually, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws noted that the majority, or around an average of 20,453 arrests, are for cannabis possession and sales.
While Ohio legalized cannabis for medicinal use in 2016, it has taken over one year for regulators to finally start “to formalize how and where pot will be grown and available to medical patients,” which means that patients will just now start to see a difference.
However, despite the fact that they seem to have plenty of resources when it comes to arresting and detaining nonviolent offenders, police in Ohio are blaming a lack of resources for the fact that the number of homicide cases they solve continues to decline.
According to a report from The Columbus Dispatch, while over 80 people have been murdered in Columbus, Ohio, in 2017, police have made arrests in just 22 cases, with five cases being solved through “exceptional clearance” which occurs when the killing was self-defense, or the suspect dies. This puts the city at a 34 percent clearance rate for the year.
The homicide clearance rate is calculated by dividing the number of homicides that are cleared—or have suspects that are charged—by the number of homicides that are recorded. While the national average for homicide clearance rate was over 90 percent in the 1960s, it declined to around 64 percent in 2015.
Detectives cited in the report from the Dispatch listed “a lack of cooperation from witnesses in communities, a double-digit spike in homicides, which has only taxed limited resources, and the turnaround time at the lab” as reasons from the declining clearance rate.
Hargrove insisted that “more homicides will be solved when there are more resources, mainly detectives,” and said that cities such as Columbus has struggled financially, and the detectives they do have, are spread too thin as it is.
While there has been a recent increase in the murder rate in Ohio, the overall question remains: How did police in the United States go from solving over 90 percent of homicides in the 1960s to around 60 percent today, with cities like Columbus solving as little as 30 percent of homicides? It was not a change in resources—it was the introduction of the Drug War.
Former President Richard Nixon declared the official start of the “War on Drugs” in June 1971:
“America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive. I have asked the Congress to provide the legislative authority and the funds to fuel this kind of an offensive. This will be a worldwide offensive dealing with the problems of sources of supply, as well as Americans who may be stationed abroad, wherever they are in the world. It will be government wide, pulling together the nine different fragmented areas within the government in which this problem is now being handled, and it will be nationwide in terms of a new educational program that we trust will result from the discussions that we have had.”
However, the trend in Ohio has been a trend reflected in many states across the country—the war on drugs has turned into a war on cannabis. The majority of the individuals arrested on drug charges have been arrested for possessing a plant that at least 86 percent of Americans support legalizing in some form.
In fact, police make more arrests for marijuana possession alone than for all violent crimes combined.
Aside from caring more about arresting people for a plant than catching a murderer, cops also make arrests disproportionately among race. According to the report, in spite of whites and blacks using drugs at the same rates, black adults are arrested 250% more than their white counterpart for drug posession.
As people literally take to the streets to oppose systemic racism, unfortunately, most of them aren’t pushing for the one solution that would have the biggest effect on stifling it—end the drug war.
The Free Thought Project has provided in-depth coverage of stories that show the true power of cannabis, such as a groundbreaking study published last month, which found that cannabis can stop HIV from becoming AIDS; a study that confirmed that the majority of cannabis users give up prescription opiate medications; and a study that confirmed that cannabis has a “significant” effect on killing cancer cells.
As states like Ohio find that the number of unsolved homicide cases greatly outnumber the cases that are solved, it makes you wonder—what more could they accomplish if they were able to use their resources to track down violent murder suspects, instead of wasting them on nonviolent individuals who are found in possession of a plant?
Top photo: A small bag of marijuana is shown in the foreground as a man talks to Idaho State Police Trooper Justin Klitch in Fruitland, Idaho in the background. (AP/Nigel Duara)