The War on Drugs, Part 3 Modern-Day War on Drugs

Professor Joshua Kane, Ph.D. head of research at A Better Today Recovery Services and Lecturer at Arizona State University continues his discussion, having left off from The War on Drugs, Part 2 – Making Drugs Illegal.

In the US Constitution the 9th Amendment states, “The enumeration in the constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Kane interprets the meaning of this amendment to be that if it’s not worded within the constitution as a power of the federal government, then the federal government should not have the power to regulate it.

“Nowhere in the constitution does it mention intoxicants” Kane further explains.

However, as the Civil Rights Movement grew, so too did the US Justice Department’s interest in criminalizing drugs.  But in this era, absent the public will for a new amendment like the amendments prohibiting, and then reinstating the right to consume buy, and sell alcohol, the Justice Department opted to continue to enforce drug prohibition under the auspices of the commerce clause.

Race Baiting

During the mid-1960s the then Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, was behind in the polls for re-election. That’s when he had a stroke of what some people would call political genius.

“He was the first modern politician to use a drug scare as a means to gain votes. He declared … that there was a scourge of Heroin affecting inner New York City,” Kane says.

This concept is now known as race baiting.

“Race baiting is when a politician uses coded terminology to suggest that black and brown people are the problem, without actually having to say that black and brown people are the problem.”

Kane continues, “The New York electorate in the mid-sixties knew exactly what Nelson Rockefeller was referring to … and it spoke to them.”

Meanwhile, recreational drug use was increasingly prevalent throughout all of American society.

“[It’s] always occurred throughout American society and within every culture. Drug use is an aspect of human culture,” Kane adds, “To imagine that it is more of a practice of certain cultures [over] other cultures is really missing the point.  It isn’t, it never has been and it never will be.”

“Drug use is, human” Kane explains.

Nevertheless, Rockefeller won by a landslide, and race baiting became a new tool for politicians.

Richard Nixon – War on Drugs

Nixon was running for president as an incumbent in 1972 and he was behind in the polls.  Nixon decided to take a page out of Rockefeller’s book.

“[Nixon] declared that there was a scourge of Heroin in every inner American city and he was the man to take care of it.  It really is the birth of what we now call the modern War on Drugs.”

Nixon won the 1972 election in a landslide as Heroin abuse continued to rise, aided by the availability of air travel and globalization.

America’s modern relationship with illicit drugs, and The War on Drugs, had begun.

…continue on to The War on Drugs, Part 4 – The Crack Cocaine Epidemic

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