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Oregon’s New Measure May Topple One Of America’s Longest Initiatives

  • May 26,2021 

The War on Drugs, also referred to as the Drug War, was a federal initiative enacted in June of 1971. Though it was not the first piece of legislation concerning the legal status of drugs in America, the War on Drugs shines due to its significant impact. Although marijuana and cocaine were never made illegal until the 1920s and 1900s, respectively Nixon, in response to the drug counterculture of the 1960s, would empower federal drug control agencies and helped measures that ensured the government’sability to conduct no-knock warrants.  


Photo Obtained from OPB (Oregon becomes 1st state in the US to decriminalize drug possession)

Alongside this, Nixon would put marijuana on schedule one, which would essentially classify it with heroin, ecstasy, and lysergic acid diethylamide while also considering it a drug with high possibilities of abuse and barring doctors from prescribing it. Even worse, schedule 1 is the most restrictive form of drugs.

The most controversial element of this drug war is not how common “hippie” drugs like marijuana, LSD, and magic mushrooms were banned and heavily regulated but the impact it had and continues to have on American’s

First, arguably the most terrible effect of the War on Drugs is the lives it has incarcerated. Even more malevolent was the war’s racial bias. John Ehrlichman, a top advisor to the Nixon campaign, would reveal this by stating, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. 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. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news.”

Furthermore, this war would dismantle black and revolutionary communities through Nixon’s actions, and legislation inspired by him and direct CIA initiatives. As investigated by the San Jose Mercury News in 1996, it was found that for nearly ten years, San Francisco drug rings sold cocaine to the Crips and Blood gangs of Los Angeles and directed those millions of dollars in drug profits to a Latin American guerilla army run by the CIA. Overall, this would lead to multiple Columbian cocaine cartels being heavily involved in many African-American communities in Los Angeles. The partnership between the two would allow these gangs to own and buy military weapons and lead to the popularization of black markets, “street justice, and millions of cases of untreated addictions due to the stigmatization of drugs started in the Nixon administration.

As aforementioned, the Drug War did not just increase addiction and the prevalence of drugs and incarceration rates. Approximately ⅕ of the prison population is convicted for a drug charge. Also, it has been shown that out of those people incarcerated, Black Americans are four times more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges.

For the many clamoring for the panacea to America’s modern criminal justice bill, the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana can be considered a step in the right direction but ultimately not enough. However, Oregon has satisfied almost all of the anti-Drug War crowd.

In November 2020, Oregonians voted yes on Measure 110. Now that the measure is in effect, it has made non-commercial possession of a controlled substance only punishable by a 100 dollar fine, essentially decriminalizing all drugs. Secondly, the measure also establishes a drug addiction recovery and treatment program funded by the state’s marijuana tax.

To end, this may seem like a win for those who have been clamoring for justice but is more on the horizon for other states. Will Oregon lead by example or will the War on Drugs reappear in the form of the criminalization of menthol cigarettes.? 

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