“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.”<URL destination=”2016%20https://bit.ly/1RvuYxw”><PARAGRAPH style=”DGO Pullquote name”>John Erhlichman,
Harper’s, April</URL>We are living in a revelatory era. The rise of the Internet has made information that would have been “completely obscured” or “seen by a select few” widely available. This information now has an outlet (or a million little outlets) to show itself, in full naked glory, to anyone in the world with a modem or wi-fi access. It is in this wild environment that John Ehrlichman’s admission of the modern day “war on drugs” was divulged to American society at large, not only in the glossy pages of the nation’s second-oldest continuously published magazine, but also to nearly every web page with an interest in cannabis or cannabis reform (14,300 results in a 0.73 second Google search).
This is the type of information that changes public opinion. Believers in the harmless efficacy of cannabis have always taken a position that highlights the injustice of the laws that govern weed. There is ample evidence of how problematic these laws are, but most of that business went down in the 1930s, and the events that have passed in the meantime make it seem like another era entirely, one set too far away to matter to contemporary culture. But the fact is, “marihuana” laws have and continue to be, right up to this very day, a cudgel that is used by The Man to beat down those who would disagree with the will of politicians and the law enforcement community. Can you dig it?
The casting of cannabis users as outlaws who lack morals began with Harry J. Aslinger casting jazz musicians as “neither fish nor fowl,” and segued into the Nixonian era of corrupt government manipulating public opinion. It continues with the modern tactics that often begin with traffic stops, and culminates with citizens skewered on the three-pronged devil’s fork of racial profiling, private prisons, and asset forfeiture.
But, there is cause for optimism, and it is no longer out there on the distant horizon. The USS Hope is entering the harbor, guided by a couple of Corys – Senator Cory Gardner, from the Centennial state’s 4th District, and Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey. It was Gardner who showed moxie in January by standing up to Attorney General Sessions’ decision to rescind the Cole memo by holding up every Department of Justice nomination that crossed his committee’s path. It created a backlog deep enough to force President Trump to take notice and assure him that the federal government would not interfere with Colorado’s right to determine its own cannabis laws. Booker has introduced legislation, the Marijuana Justice Act, that would not only end federal cannabis prohibition, but also expunge certain marijuana convictions, establish programs to counterbalance the social costs from decades of unfair cannabis policies, create opportunities for employment and education in communities unfairly affected by current laws, and financially penalize states that refuse to change with the times.
This bill, and its companion in the House of Representatives, has attracted serious support in the halls of Congress. Lawmakers coast to coast, guided by the will of their constituents, have finally begun to come around to the fundamental corruption foisted upon us by dishonest men, and may work toward remedying these unjust laws.
Now is the time for those of us who care to force the issue. Take a few minutes to show your elected officials that we will no longer stand for a system that has been exposed as fundamentally discriminatory, DGO – the time is now.
Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected].