"We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily…[w]e could…vilify them night after night on the evening news.
Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did." --Nixon advisor John Ehrlichman
It was on June 17, 1971 that Richard Nixon officially declared war, a War on Drugs, ostensibly something we could and should all be able to get behind. History has shown, however, that reality doesn’t jive with the huckster’s pitch we were spoon fed. The war, in fact, was never on drugs. The war was, and is, a racist, politically motivated strategy to silence and disenfranchise dissenters by circumventing laws that protect their civil rights. Add in a dash of class warfare and a boatload of funding during the Reagan regime and what you have is a cynical assault on the very foundations of the American Experiment that has raged for half a century.
Fifty years on, it is glaringly obvious that the Nixon’s trademark policy is exactly as Ehrlichman described. The War on Drugs has been and continues to be disproportionately waged on the poor and people of color. Nationally, black people are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, despite rates of usage being equal. In Kentucky, that ratio is a ridiculous 9.4 to 1. According to the ACLU, Kentucky ranks “second in the nation for racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests.” There is no other way to describe these inequities other than downright shameful. Two days from now we celebrate Juneteenth, the anniversary of the end of chattel slavery in the United States. Today we lament the fact that there are still systemic forces in place working to undermine and circumvent the social progress we as a nation have fought, bled, and died for. It is a stark reminder that the quest for justice is one that never ends.
The War on Drugs has been an abject failure in terms of combating drug abuse and addiction. However, as a means of control and repression, it’s hard to deny that it has served its insidious purpose. Millions upon millions of people, a disproportionate number of which are poor and/or people of color have had their civil rights violated. They have lost their voting rights, their 2nd amendment rights, and had their freedom completely stripped from them. They’ve faced barriers to employment and housing. They’ve been denied government benefits they’d otherwise be eligible for. It is a vicious and deadly cycle that needs to be broken. In 1974, Richard Nixon’s administration, that hive of scum and villainy, came to an unceremonious end. Unfortunately, his dastardly legacy lives on. After 50 years, it’s time that legacy suffered the same fate as his villainous administration.
Now more than ever it is imperative that we stand together for the end of cannabis prohibition! Sign on to the letter telling your Congressional representative to support the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act here today!