Recently released reports of the dealings of John Ehrlichman, a former Nixon employee, suggests that America’s war on drugs was concocted by President Nixon to gain control against “the anti-war left and black people.” Journalist Dan Baum spoke first-hand with Ehrlichman some 22 years ago in 1994 regarding the beginnings of drug prohibition in the United States. The information given to Baum offers a clear view right into the thinking of then, President Richard Nixon.
The reports, released to a journalist at Harper’s magazine, call the invention of the war on drugs as a cynical political tool. This set the precedent for all Presidents, to date, to follow suit. What this war on drugs has created is a major waste of government and local law enforcement funds.
One of the responses, directly from John Ehrlichman stated that, ““The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the anti-war 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.”
Dan Baum also had a conversation with The Huffington Post where he spoke in regards to Ehrlichman’s confession regarding the War on Drugs. In that conversation, he was quoted as saying, “It taught me that people are often eager to unburden themselves, once they no longer have a dog in the fight. The interviewer needs to be patient sometimes, and needs to ask the right way. But people will often be incredibly honest if given the chance.”
Racism was a major driving point for Nixon’s creation of the War on Drugs and it targeted multiple demographic groups. He associated heroin use with African Americans and marijuana use with hippies, not only to stereotype these demographic groups but to create a general stigma that has evolved and become society’s misperception.
The War on Drugs has been called a “war on people” by Harper’s magazine. The upcoming UN General Assembly Special Session in April could be the beginning of the end for the war on drugs.