Most people assume that drugs are legal or illegal because of their inherent dangers or benefits. That’s at least what Republicans and Democrats think. Both parties fully support keeping marijuana and other drugs illegal and keeping the war on drugs going because they say drugs are dangerous. That’s not the case though. There is a much longer and more controversial history behind why some drugs are legal and why other drugs are illegal.
That’s the history that Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance gets into in this video. Of course, the true history presented in the video contradicts the major propaganda war that the government is fighting. That facade is breached and Nadlemann dives deep into the racist history of why some drugs were made illegal.
As he explains, the government specifically banned certain drugs not because of their dangers but because of who was using them. Opium was one of the first drugs to be outlawed because it was the drug of choice for Chinese immigrants in the 1870’s.
After the success of those laws the same was done to Southern Blacks. This time the government criminalized their perceived drug of choice cocaine. Then it was Mexican immigrants in the Southwest that were to be targeted.
Each time the government said it was done to protect the womenfolk and the white public from the corrupting evil minorities. And the racist public went along with it.
That’s how the war on drugs was started and that racist legacy lives on. As Nadlemann explains, the war on drugs is the new Jim Crow. Drug laws are disproportionately enforced on the population which results in disparate outcomes for minorities. Of course, the drug war hurts millions of white Americans too and that is not discounted in any way.
It’s important to understand the real reasons certain drugs are illegal. Only then can we begin to dismantle those laws. Once people get that drugs are not legal or illegal because of the dangers they pose they’ll be much more inclined towards legalization.
The public also must realize that certain drugs are still prohibited because the government wants to keep the power it has. They do not want to relinquish any control. They won’t end the drug war unless we demand it.
Thankfully, the people have accepted that. Four states have already legalized recreational marijuana by ballot initiative to go around legislatures that refuse to act. Many more states will do the same in 2016 as well.
Eventually marijuana legalization will happen across the country and legalization of other drugs will follow. One day people will look back on the century of drug prohibition in disbelief. It will be hard for people in the future to understand why we let these racist policies last for so long.