Nixon Policy Advisor: War On Drugs Invented To Suppress “Anti-War Left And Black People” | Gradient
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Nixon Policy Advisor: War on Drugs Invented to Suppress “Anti-War Left and Black People”

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Today in Harper’s, writer Dan Baum has dropped a bombshell of a quote he attributes to former Nixon policy advisor John Ehrlichman, presented here in its full context.

At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “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.”

I must have looked shocked. Ehrlichman just shrugged. Then he looked at his watch, handed me a signed copy of his steamy spy novel, The Company, and led me to the door. (Emphasis mine.)

This is not exactly news. The War on Drugs is only considered a failure by those who assume it was intended to be won. Richard Nixon’s views on race were well-documented garbage, and if Ehrlichman’s quotes are indeed true, they would largely fit into the theory many prominent critics of the War on Drugs have long suspected to be true. But the bombshell here is the shockingly blunt confession from a very high-up official in the Nixon administration. Vox points out that Ehlichman nursed a deep and bitter grudge against Nixon following Watergate, so it’s possible that he was merely trying to further taint the Nixon legacy. However, the fact that the War on Drugs has disproportionately affected black Americans is beyond all doubt, so the assertion is not implausible.

Baum’s article crafts an argument for the legalization of drugs, using Portugal’s impressive success story as a precedent. Of course, there are two sides to that story. The benefits of legalizing drugs are highly debatable and not all experts believe they could be replicated in the United States. Nevertheless, the faults in the current system grow clearer every day—especially if those faults are, as Ehrlichman suggests, a feature instead of a bug.

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To get his new album Cold Answer, (which features the three songs from him you heard on this episode), visit MPJmusic.com.

Subscribe on iTunes.

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Subscribe on iTunes and Stitcher.

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We appreciate everyone sticking with us through this long hiatus but are planning our return even as we speak, with a bunch of new goodies and an updated format. In the meantime, here’s a brief primer on Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange — just so you can go into the movie knowing what you’re getting yourself into.

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