Anyone paying attention to the horror show that is mass incarceration in the U.S. is familiar with the numerous problems with the war on drugs. And for anyone who doubts that the war on drugs, including cannabis prohibition, causes far more harm than anything else, a case coming out of Georgia serves as a perfect example of what’s wrong with this country’s approach to drugs, policing, and incarceration.
Cops Conduct Unconstitutional “Raid”
The incident now in question occurred on December 31, 2017. That night, Cartersville, Georgia police officer Joshua Coker claimed he was responding to a call about gunfire.
While driving through a neighborhood, he allegedly smelled marijuana. He then pulled over and called for backup. From there, the officers carried out what those involved are claiming was an illegal, humiliating, and violating mass arrest.
According to reports published by The Appeal, the cops entered a home where a party was taking place, and that the cops claimed was the source of the marijuana smell. Importantly, they did not have a warrant or consent from the homeowner.
Once inside the home, the cops allegedly rounded up everyone at the party. There were more 60 guests there that night. And records show that at least 50 were black.
The officers zip-tied the wrists of everyone in the home and announced that everyone was under arrest. It took at least another two hours before a search warrant was signed.
As reported by many of the people arrested that night, cops did not allow them to use the bathroom while they were being detained in the home. Other guests say they were allowed to use the bathroom, but only with the door open.
Eventually, cops searched all 60-plus people but did not find any drugs. Despite this, the cops claimed that they found a small amount of weed in the house. They also said they found a couple of small plastic bags containing marijuana and cocaine outside. All charges were eventually dropped.
After being detained in the home, guests were eventually loaded into vans belonging to the Bartow County sheriff’s department. They were then taken to the county jail, where they allegedly sat in the garage for as long as an hour.
From there, everyone at the party was booked into jail. At the time, they were all charged with possession of less an ounce of marijuana. And things only got worse from there.
Guests report being held in tightly packed, freezing cold cells. Some said they were threatened with Tasers. And others said they were forced into “isolation cells” for multiple hours at a time. And other guests said they were denied medication for serious health conditions.
Eventually, everyone arrested that night were released. But for many of them, that didn’t happen until they’d spent multiple days behind bars.
In the meantime, their mugshots and names were plastered across local media, often showing up under headlines describing a “drug bust.”
Ultimately, all charges were dropped. Many of them were dismissed because what the cops did that night was deemed unconstitutional.
Despite charges being dropped, many of the people in the home that night are now dealing with long-term effects stemming from the incident.
Most notably, many ended up losing their jobs after spending up to three days in jail. Others were fired because of the negative publicity generated by local media. Similarly, many said they faced significant obstacles in getting jobs or getting into school as a result of the mishap.
Now, the victims are fighting back. As reported by The Appeal, they filed a lawsuit today against the city of Cartersville, Georgia, members of the Cartersville PD, the Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force, and the Bartow County sheriff’s office.