The Big Lie on the War Against Drugs

If you've shopped at a gardening supply store in the last year, and if you happen to live with someone who drinks tea, guess what?

Your local sheriff could just send a SWAT team into your house.

It's not a far-fetched scenario, in fact it actually happened, here in America, just 3 short years ago.

Back in 2012, a Kansas SWAT team raided the home of Robert and Addie Harte and tore their house apart looking for evidence of a major marijuana growing operation.

The investigation began when a state trooper stationed at a gardening supply store (yes, they had the gardening store staked out!) spotted Robert Harte and his son purchasing supplies to grow hydroponic tomatoes.

According to the Washington Post, having seen the Harte's buying hydroponic growing accessories, the Johnson County Sheriff's Department started investigating the Harte family.

They searched the family's trash and found "saturated plant material" that supposedly tested positive for THC, the active chemical in marijuana.

But the reality was, Mrs. Harte is a tea drinker, and that wet plant matter was nothing more than used tea leaves, and the SWAT raid turned up nothing.

Just last week, a federal judge dismissed the family's lawsuit against the police, and said that the sheriffs had probable cause - based on the garden store purchase and old tea leaves.

But the Hartes aren't the average targets of this kind of drug sting, and one sheriff actually boasted after the raid that the operation was so unusual because they'd shut down a drug operation that was run by an "average family" in a "good neighborhood" - all coded language for "middle class white people".

Aside from the fact that the Hartes weren't actually doing ANYTHING illegal, the sheriff unwittingly showed just how exceptional it was that the family was a target at all.

Because the war on drugs has never been about drugs.

No, the war on drugs, since it's very beginning, has been about controlling political power - by breaking up black communities and the dissident left.

And we know that because the people who have been involved, the architects and the leaders in the war on drugs, have admitted it - even bragged about it!

Before he died, Nixon counsel and former Assistant to the President John Ehrlichman told author Dan Baum that:

"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."

In other words, Nixon and the GOP used the War on Drugs to help politically assassinate community leaders, and to fracture communities by removing individuals from society and throwing them in prison.

The Nixon administration signed the Controlled Substances Act into law in 1970, officially codifying the war on drugs into federal law.

By 1973, over 300,000 people were being arrested every year under the law, and a disproportionate number of those were African Americans.

The plan went hand in hand with the Republican "Southern Strategy", just listen to former Republican strategist Lee Atwater describing how that worked.

Nixon and his advisers didn't invent the racist war on drugs though. Using drug enforcement as a way to oppress minority communities already had a 40 year precedent.

In the 1930s, Harry J. Anslinger served as the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which eventually became the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Back then, he reportedly claimed:

"There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others."

He also more bluntly complained that "Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men."

Just like Lee Atwater described, the language had changed by 1970, but the ideas were the same.

Nixon wasn't the first to use drug enforcement as a way to oppress minorities in America, but he did step up the racist War on Drugs and sign it into law - and every president since then has continued and even expanded it.

According to the Justice Policy Institute, approximately 500,000 people were serving time for drug offenses in state and federal prisons and jails in 2008.

Unsurprisingly, the NAACP reports that 38% of people arrested for drug offenses are black, and that 59% of drug offenders in state prisons are black.

The War on Drugs is costing us tens of billions in federal and state tax dollars every year, and the only results have been millions of undue criminal convictions that ruin lives, destroy communities, and undermine our democracy.

That's why it's time to end the racist war on drugs.

It would save us billions every year in enforcement costs, and even more in incarceration costs.

And, most importantly, it would roll back one of Nixon's most damaging and racist legacies, and it would allow millions of Americans, mostly from minority communities, to fully take part in our democracy once again.

And if we really, truly, want to address drug abuse in America, we need to follow the advice of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and New Jersey Governor Chris Chistie, and start treating drug abuse as a public health issue, instead of a criminal justice issue.


Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 25 weeks ago

The Federal judge, it seems, missed the purpose of the constitutional rights of the accused or rights of those accused of the commission of a crime. They are to protect the INNOCENT from wrongful conviction. The rights and conveniences of the police do not supercede, in their priority, those rights.
There was a good story in the Village Voice in the late '80s, when anti marijuana hysteria was reaching an apex, about the scuttling of of the Supreme Court nomination of Reagan's nominee, David Ginsburg, because it was found out he smoked marijuana as a student in the late '60s and early '70s. It asserted that marijuana hysteria was the means for the new, Republican witch hunt. Just as in the McCarthy era previous Communist Party membership or expressed communist sympathies were the litmus test to get someone banned from government service or almost any public activity in society in order to purge the radicals of the '30s, so in the '80s, previous and current marijuana use as a litmus test to be banned from government service and essentially black listed from getting almost any job through drug tests and such in order to purge society of the radicals of the '60s. And if, in the '80s, you would have excluded from public life, and alnost ANY kind of life, everybody who ever smoked pot you would have effectively excluded, with few exceptions, all the radicals of the '60s.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 25 weeks ago

What all that proves is that fascism in America didn't start with Reagan. He just piggy-backed on it.

Even with pot getting legalized in state after state, for recreational use as well as medicine, this form of tyranny isn't going away. The business class will maintain their stranglehold on people's lives, imposing those invasive little urine tests on employees, making it impossible to hold a job if you smoke the weed, thus controlling what employees do in their private lives as well as on the job. I don't know how anyone can tolerate living under such a suffocating arrangement as this, as if there was no part of your life that's yours alone. Even for those who don't smoke the weed, it's a degrading and humiliating ritual of power imbalance.

Everytime I hear about a family invaded by a SWAT team of thugs, with no compensation availed them for loss of property (let alone the trauma) and no legal defense afforded them by our system of injustice, it fills me with rage.

Instant-RunOff-... 8 years 25 weeks ago

There is a lot more to the totally corrupt War on Drugs than just American politics. Even the UN bans member states from rational drug policy and is full-fledged particpant in the idiotic Drug War. And don't forget the massive profits of the giant criminal international Banks made on the International Drug Trade - #2 item in world trade next to Oil. Oil-Drugs-Weapons, #1-2&3, All Related and All Loved by the criminal Globalist Bankster Parasites.

Funny how opiate production in Afghanistan went from 10% to 90% of World total after the US led war - ostensibly to "git them terrorists". Anyone who actually believes that is to stupid to pass a urine test.

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