Our drug laws are racist, and doctors must speak out—an essay by Simon WoolleyBMJ 2021; 374 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n2147 (Published 30 September 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;374:n2147
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Young people may be unaware of the origins of the 'war on drugs'.
President Richard Nixon began America's war on drugs to criminalize black people and hippies, according to a 1994 quote from Nixon domestic policy adviser John Ehrlichman.
"The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people," Ehrlichman told journalist Dan Baum in 1994. "You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, 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."
The 'war on drugs' has always been a racist, politically motivated crusade.
That Nixon was avowedly racist is generally accepted but there is some evidence suggesting his genuine antipathy to drugs.
Call me an ageing cynic but one feels compelled to equate the Republican and Tory motivations in the continued 'war on drugs'. Stimulating fear and loathing of 'them' plays perfectly into the cognitive patterns that correlate with over representation of the amygdala - a well established neurological phenomenon in those with right wing inclinations.
Following the advent of Scottish independence in the next few years it will be interesting to see if the SNP is up to the challenge of decriminalising drugs and so greatly improving the present toll that drugs is taking on the nation. Or will the baleful influence of the right wing press persist?
Yours mildly seditiously
Competing interests: No competing interests