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.

John Ehrlichman, one of the advisors to President Nixon

By looking at who controls the distribution of drugs, an individual can discover who owns the power in their country. This article is not to deter or encourage anyone to partake in drug consumption or the industry. Instead, this article takes a more critical view of who decides which drugs are illegal and why.

White upper-class individuals in the U.S. government, such as Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, created and perpetuated the so-called “war on drugs.” This war led to the imprisonment of countless African-Americans and contributes to the United States being the country with the highest incarnation rates.

In this piece, I will talk about how the current drug control system is racist and harmful to society.

The political campaign against drugs

More often than not, drugs associated with the African-American community get portrayed as more harmful than those consumed by the rich. For instance, the 37th president of the United States, President Nixon, started what he termed the “war on drugs” in 1971 by criminalizing crystal meth. It was a tactic to disrupt Black political movements by forcing people of color into prison.

In a 1971 press conference, Nixon declared
drug abuse as “Public Enemy Number One.”

While this was going on, the rich consumed high-quality cocaine without any police force interference. By claiming crystal meth was the most dangerous drug, people could ignore white drug abuse.

Further, there is no chemical difference between crack and cocaine. Both drugs come from the coca plant and have disastrous side effects. However, the rich can afford powdered crack, while those in poverty can only purchase the solid form. Similarly, solid crack and cocaine contrast greatly in regulatory policies. Since Caucasians are the number one crack users, the regulation process of this drug is nothing but hypocritical.

Although Nixon is someone most Americans want to forget, his political actions continued with President Reagan, who signed the Crime Control Act of 1984. This act criminalized the possession of marijuana and created mandatory minimum sentences for those caught in possession.

Which drugs are acceptable?

In present times, those in power still determine what is an acceptable drug or not by portraying drugs as a normal part of the American lifestyle. This depiction applies especially to caffeine and sugar products.

Coffee is addictive, mood-altering, and causes multiple side effects for those who wean off of it. If you have ever heard someone say that they cannot function in the morning without a cup of coffee, they are consuming a drug. The same people often experience hand tremors similar to those experiencing withdrawal. However, most people do not like calling coffee a “drug” because that word has negative undertones.

A woman holding up a coffee mug with shaking hands.

The same attitude is given towards marijuana, even though researchers discovered that legal sugar products are more harmful than smoking cannabis. The excessive use of marijuana can affect the respiratory system. However, sugar products have caused America’s problems with obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

What is even more frightening is that food corporations pay uncertified doctors to claim that their products are healthy. Therefore, there should be transparency. People must ask what corporations are trying to sell us since those fields are often left unregulated.

The imprisonment of a whole race of people

Despite the legal distribution of already unhealthy products, Americans get warned they should not take drugs associated with African-American neighborhoods. As confessed later by members of Nixon and Reagan’s administrations, this was an action against ethnic groups to keep away their liberal and radical movements for justice.

A picture of a man of color behind jail bars.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the United States has such a high incarnation rate made up of mostly African-Americans. People of color are being pulled over, stopped, and frisked for drug possession, at disproportionately high rates compared to their white counterparts. The frisking indicates the prejudice of the police force as well as government officials.


In the end, it is all about power and who has it. My country is still in need of eliminating inequality even though it is the twenty-first century.

Many consider forced low-pay labor in the American prison system to be another form of slavery. The way drugs are distributed, determined, and campaigned against is systemically racist and a way to keep those with little power in prisons.

If countries like Portugal and Norway have changed their systems, what is stopping the U.S. from participating? Instead of blaming victims who have no choice over how the system operates, people need to lend a helping hand and fight against laws that do not serve minority communities.

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