President Joe Biden has taken the first steps to move beyond more than 50 years of failed drug policy. Earlier this month, the president directed his administration to begin the process that would remove marijuana from the list of the most dangerous illicit drugs, which includes heroin and LSD, and effectively eliminate a federal ban on using cannabis.
It is about time.
Ever since President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 and launched the war on drugs, Americans have suffered the consequences — especially people of color. Black people are six times more likely to be incarcerated on drug charges than their white counterparts, even though both groups use drugs at roughly the same rate.
The American Civil Liberties Union has called the drug war “the New Jim Crow,” a view validated by former Nixon aide John Ehrlichman’s admission that the Nixon White House “had two enemies” — activists opposed to the Vietnam War and African Americans.
“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black,” Ehrlichman said in a 1994 interview with the journalist Dan Baum. “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…