This month, Harper’s Magazine published a phenomenal read on the drug legalization movement in America and across the world.
It hits all the high notes, how countries that have legalized drugs saw no rise in addictions rates, how the money spent fighting the drug “scourge” could be used a million different, better ways, and how it infringes on liberties many people believe to be intrinsic to themselves.
But the best part comes at the beginning, when the author recalls an anecdote from a conversation with one of Richard Nixon’s top aides, John Erlichmann.
In 1994, John Ehrlichman, the Watergate co-conspirator, unlocked for me one of the great mysteries of modern American history: How did the United States entangle itself in a policy of drug prohibition that has yielded so much misery and so few good results? Americans have been criminalizing psychoactive substances since San Francisco’s anti-opium law of 1875, but it was Ehrlichman’s boss, Richard Nixon, who declared the first “war on drugs” and set the country on the wildly punitive and counterproductive path it still pursues.
Was it A. Because drugs are a true menace to society, or B. A Nixonian ploy to get re-elected?
“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “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. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Well … shit.
The article goes on to outline what a theoretically legal drug system in America would look like, and I’ve gotta say, it looks grand.
Especially because enforcing these current drug laws now kinda seems unconstitutional, given they were made in bad faith.
Not sure if that argument will work in front of a judge, but I’m happy to give it a go.
Anyway, read the whole article here. It’s good.