S.M.B. - Logic and Rhetoric
Friday, November 28, 2003
 
ON DRUG POLICY: ORIGINS OF THE DRUG WAR

The history of the “War on Drugs” is wrought with social division, cultural prejudice and supreme injustice. While narcotics abuse and addiction affect every quarter of American society, the prisoners taken in the Government’s “War on Drugs” have been predominantly non-white, young and poor. Politically and economically elite individuals and groups often benefit from the advantages of sympathy, treatment and recovery, while everybody else suffers with a criminal record or in prison.

Our beliefs and attitudes about drugs often originate in racial and ethnic stereotypes. The drug laws of the United States reflect its unfortunate history of racial prejudice very well, and behind every illegal drug there is usually a minority or ethnic group. It is necessary to challenge these commonly held beliefs and attitudes to gain a correct perspective on drugs and the people who use them.
That excerpt is by Dr. Kevin McCauley, the Director of Medical Education at Sober Living By The Sea Treatment Centers, a family of treatment centers located in Southern California.

American drug policy has relied too heavily on the criminal courts, and the current Washington policy establishment sees the drug problem as more of a moral and criminal problem than a public health problem. However, it was not always this way. There was a time in the United States when the issues surrounding narcotics use were strictly dealt with by medical professionals, but a return to such conditions would not necessarily be the best solution either.

To understand how narcotics went from being legal in the 19th Century to being illegal today, one must understand the shamelessly racist nature of the government’s campaign against drugs.

At the wake of the Twentieth Century, Americans believed that cocaine made Black men resistant to bullets (that’s no good, the police have to be able to shoot ‘em!), and that cocaine encouraged their resistance to Jim Crow laws that put them in their rightful place, under the toe of the rich white man’s loafers.

Americans thought that Chinese men used opium to seduce white women into slavery. Americans also thought that marijuana made Mexican migrant workers uppity, perhaps they would resist shitty working conditions after smoking a joint or two.

By linking these black-listed, yet legal, drugs to non-white aggression against the status quo elite, the United States Government, led by the Teddy Roosevelt/William Howard Taft era State Department, convinced the power brokers in Washington to pass the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914, which banned the “maintenance of simple addiction” by physicians and pharmacists.

Additional Sources

Office of National Drug Control Policy's history of national drug policy

Arm Yourself Against the "War on Drugs"

Stop the Drug War dot ORG

The Federal Drug Enforcement Agency

The Addiction Doctor

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

More to come...


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