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The so-called “War On Drugs” has largely been seen by critics as a draconian tactic that has negatively impacted communities of color, contributing to urban blight and wiping out a whole generation of young Black men who were locked behind bars for nonviolent crimes.

Now, a new article from Harper’s magazine features a 1994 interview with President Richard Nixon advisor John D. Ehrlichman in which he stated that the policy was aimed at disrupting Black people and war protesters.

Veteran writer and author Dan Baum conducted the original interview with Harper’s, which resurfaced for the magazine’s “Legalize It All” cover story. Ehrlichman, who died in 1999, and his candid conversation with Baum did not avoid the elephant in the room with him explicitly saying the Nixon anti-drug policy hid a far more insidious plot.

Harper’s editor-in-chief Ellen Rosenbush writes in an introductory editor’s letter:

It was not until speaking to Richard Nixon’s domestic policy adviser, John Ehrlichman, that Baum began to hazard the answer he long feared: the catastrophic collateral wrought by the drug war on the lives of millions of black families was intentional. “Did we know we were lying about the drugs?” Ehrlichman told Baum in 1994. “Of course we did.” The Nixon White House thought of the antiwar left and black people as enemies. “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.” 

Baum looks at how decriminalization and the legalization of medical marijuana has all but revealed the farce of the War on Drugs. It was public knowledge that Nixon’s policy was divisive, but recent conversations of legalization remain contentious between opposing parties.

Baum presumes in his piece that if the political red tape could be cut, there exists a potential for states to legally and safely distribute drugs.

SOURCE: Harper’s | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty


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