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New Development in Charlotte Police Shooting: Pot

Bill Weinberg

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The police slaying of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina,  Sept. 20 set off days of angry protests and riots, ultimately resulting in a midnight curfew and mobilization of the National Guard to the city’s streets. Police eventually released body and dashboard video footage of the fatal incident.

Now cannabis possession seems to have played a role in the incident. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerry Putney said at a Sept. 24 news conference that officers were trying to serve a warrant for someone else when they spotted Scott rolling a small quantity of pot in his car. On closer inspection, they saw Scott had a weapon and thought, “Uh oh, this is a safety issue for us and the public,” Putney said.

An official police press statement similarly said the officers saw Scott rolling “what they believed to be a marijuana ‘blunt'” before noticing the gun. “Due to the combination of illegal drugs and the gun Mr. Scott had in his possession, officers decided to take enforcement action for public safety concerns,” the statement said. Scott’s family and neighbors say he was unarmed.

In previous such cases—Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Michael Brown in Ferguson and Trayvon Martin in Sanford—pro-cop pundits have exploited the cannabis stigma to posthumously tarnish the reputation of the victim.

Protests stayed peaceful the night of Sept. 24, although a group of clergy and demonstrators defied the curfew to hold a prayer vigil outside the Charrlotte-Mecklenburg police headquarters, ABC reported. The curfew was finally lifted the next night, but the city remains tense.

As the video in the Soctt case is reviewed and the media assemble their narrative, the voices of cannabis advocates should be heard repudiating this irrational prejudice. Armed or not, Scott was minding his own business. Nobody deserves to die for rolling a blunt.

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