This fall Michiganders have the opportunity to put another nail in the coffin of marijuana prohibition. Despite all the hubbub and hollering, the fact remains that marijuana is a very safe drug and was declared so in 1988 by the Administrative Law Judge for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Honorable Francis Young when he ruled that marijuana was, “the safest therapeutic substance known to man.” Of course the DEA immediately got that ruling overturned and prohibition continued unfettered.
What we are actually voting for is to end is the use of marijuana prohibition, at least at the state level, as a tool of repression and suppression particularly for racist and political reasons. It should be no surprise that citizens of color are arrested for marijuana offenses 6 times more often than white citizens.
Marijuana prohibition was from the very beginning used this way. California made marijuana illegal in the early thirties as a way to push Mexicans back across the border because they were taking ‘American jobs’. Sound familiar? By 1937 it went national with the 1937 Tax Stamp Act which was declared unconstitutional in 1969, thank you Dr. Timothy Leary.
The law that replaced it was the 1970 Controlled Substances Act which was hijacked by the Nixon Administration as a tool to harass Nixon’s political enemies. This law scheduled drugs by their danger and use and the worst were called schedule one, dangerous and having no medical value. The only drugs made schedule one at this time were heroin, marijuana and LSD. This is curious because heroin derived from opium is the same as morphine derived from opium and yet morphine is schedule 2 and able to be prescribed by a doctor. Marijuana had 30 or so medicines approved as effective and safe by the Food and Drug Administration before it was made illegal in 1937. LSD was beginning to be studied as a tool in mental health cases. So why these three?
These three because Nixon needed them to be illegal for his own purposes. Now you may say, “This is sounding like a crazy conspiracy theory”, except that, it is true!
The cover story in the April 2016 edition of Harper’s Magazine, titled, ‘Legalize it All’ with the subtitle, ‘How to Win the War on Drugs’ written by Mr. Dan Baum recalls an interview with President Nixon aide John Ehrlichman. Mr. Baum was asking questions about the politics of drug prohibition and as he tells it, Ehrlichman asked, “You want to know what this was really all about?” He went on to say, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White house after that, had two enemies, the anti-war 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.”
Around this time Nixon had appointed the Shafer Commission to report on the drug situation and to make recommendations. Its overall recommendation was that drugs were a medical problem and not a criminal one. Nixon felt betrayed by the commission and proceeded to prosecute the prohibitionist policy we have today, besides he had other uses for the ‘War on Drugs’ not the least of which was harassing his political enemies.
The resulting death, destruction and misery caused by this decision cannot be calculated. Over almost 50 years of a war created solely for the benefit of one man and one party with arrest and incarceration of hundreds of thousands of our citizens every year. The last 15 years have seen more than 600,000 arrests every year. Our jails are overflowing with the enemies of the President even decades after Nixon, who gave us this disaster is dead!
Let us be clear. What we will be ending this fall is the use of marijuana prohibition as a tool of political and cultural suppression and repression. Its end cannot come soon enough, here, and hopefully in the near future, across the nation.