Drug War violence leads to UMD student's death

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 14, 2011 CONTACT: Stacia Cosner, SSDP National Associate Director – (410) 299-3433 Lauren Mendelsohn, UMD SSDP (202) 596-7737 Marijuana Prohibition to Blame in Shooting Death of University of Maryland Student UMD student group says legalization will end drug war violence   College Park, MD. – Officials at Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) charged today that the murder of UMD student Justin DeSha-Overcash on Tuesday is a result of marijuana prohibition policies that actually put young people in more danger than a system of legalization and regulation. DeSha-Overcash, 22 years-old, had a bright future ahead and was slated to graduate in June with a degree in physics and astronomy. “This isn’t simply a drug related crime as the media is calling it,” explained Stacia Cosner, Associate Director at SSDP. “This is drug-prohibition related violence. We don’t see students shooting one another over alcohol, because it’s legal and there are no black market profits worth protecting.” SSDP is joining DeSha-Overcash’s friends and family in criticizing Prince George’s County Police for placing the blame on the victim, labeling him as a drug dealer simply because marijuana was found at the home. “As Justin’s friends and family mourn their loss, SSDP members extend their support by emphasizing a positive and fair characterization of his life,” said Cosner. “On top of his ambitious schoolwork, he also worked as a teaching assistant and at the campus observatory. He was not simply a drug dealer whose death could somehow be justified by the presence of marijuana in his home as police have suggested.” Lauren Mendelsohn, a member of the UMD chapter of SSDP, expressed her concern about law enforcement’s stated priorities in response to the murder. “A young man lost his life, tragically and with the killer still on the loose. The College Park community is seeking support and assurance that the killer will be brought to justice, but the Prince George’s County Police blaming the victim is incredibly concerning. It raises serious questions about their priorities.” “Police need to start looking at the policies surrounding drugs and evaluating the unintended consequences of prohibition. If marijuana were regulated in a similar way to alcohol, perhaps Justin would still be alive today,” says Cosner.