Long regarded as a cash-hemorrhaging failure, it now appears the War on Drugs has been a spectacular success.
In a new piece from Harper’s, writer Dan Baum speaks with former Nixon Domestic-Policy Adviser John Ehrlichman, whose candid revelations about the origins of the campaign are as sinister as cynics might imagine:
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? 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, we could disrupt those communities.”
It’s a damning quote from the Watergate co-conspirator, and one which makes perfect sense. Because from a medical perspective, there’s no rational justification for the fact that the United States classifies marijuana—along with heroin, cocaine and LSD—as a Schedule 1 drug.
But from the perspective of a shady administration which wants to put people who don’t vote Republican in jail? It’s perfect politics.
Today, the freedom-loving United States currently incarcerates more people than any other country, including China and Russia, and a disproportionate number of prisoners are Black or Latino. Drug offenders currently make up roughly half the federal penal population.
In a horrifying twist, prisons are now a for-profit industry, and one which collectively lobbies state and local governments to ensure recreational drug users continue to be treated as criminals. Because people doing time means a better bottom line.
It’s a disgusting development, and a perversion of America’s values.
So it’s time to end the War on Drugs, not because it’s been a failure, but because it’s worked only too well. Head to Harper’s to read an excellent argument about why it’s time to “Legalize it All.”