Three people were killed in the last few weeks in Cincinnati in what were described as “drug-related” incidents.  The murders are tragic examples of the violence inherent in drug prohibition.

In the first incident, twenty-four year-old Jessica Revelee was shot in the street at 2:30 in the morning in the Mohawk area, a neighborhood known for drugs and prostitution.  According to her father, Jessica was a heroin addict who owed dealers money. Police had open warrants on Revelee and she had told her father she intended to turn herself in as she was afraid the dealers would hurt her. (See story)

In a second incident, Adam Bostic, 28 and Betty Thomas, 31, were found tied to chairs, heads covered, and executed. The killings took place in Avondale, also a neighborhood afflicted with drug problems.  The shootings occurred with the woman’s two children in the apartment’s bedroom.  The woman’s brother was named as a suspect in the case and police indicated the shootings were a result of a drug deal gone bad. Both victims and the suspect had extensive criminal histories largely related to drugs. (Full story)

Ms. Revelee had a history of prostitution which likely supported her drug habit. In my experience as a police officer, I can safely say that 99% of the women involved in street prostitution are drug-addicted.  The two are hand-in-glove. Addiction and life on the street makes these women easy targets for ruthless criminals who exploit them for sexual and monetary gain. Getting treatment for their addiction is the first crucial step to saving their lives. Fortunately, in Cincinnati, we have the Off the Streets Program, a life raft for these women.

In the second case, the only description that comes close is cold-blooded murder. This scenario of brutal and deliberate murder permeates  drug trafficking networks from beheadings by Mexican cartel killers to the daily homicides that plague American cities.

The drug business at all levels is characterized by a level of violence incomprehensible to the average American. Our immediate impulse is to jump on the prohibition bandwagon, because that might end the violence. The sad fact is that prohibition, whether alcohol prohibition or our current drug prohibition, is at the root of most of the violence.  Make no mistake. The killers involved in the incidents above are beyond redemption and surely will find a special place in hell, and with any luck, they will make that journey soon.

Would ending prohibition totally end this violence? The honest answer is no. These are individuals for whom violence is as natural as breathing and in the face of the loss of their drug business, they would move to other criminal activities.  What drug reform would accomplish is to move  millions of Americans involved in the illegal drug market out of the sphere of these vicious individuals and into a legal and regulated market where guns and violence are no longer an over-riding factor.  For a glimpse of the future, consider the citizen now able to purchase legal marijuana in Denver in a shopping mall as contrasted with the person attempting to buy that same product from an armed dealer in a city open-air drug market.

If our goal is to effectively address drug-related violence, drug reform will go further than the failed prohibition of the past 50 years.