The Trump Administration Continues the Racist and Disastrous War on Pot

If polling is correct, pot no longer gives Americans fits. Recent Gallup polls indicate that 64 percent of Americans approve of legalizing marijuana — the highest level of public support in almost 50 years. Nevertheless, we have an administration that is tone deaf to the will of the people and insists on reinstituting failed policies of decades past.

But there are members of Congress who are listening. Earlier this week, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) introduced the Marijuana Justice Act in the House of Representatives. Both agree that legalizing marijuana under federal law is an important step to confronting and eroding the harms that the failed war on drugs has had on people across the country, disproportionately Black and brown communities.

In addition to legalization, the bill would cut federal funding for state law enforcement and prison construction if a state disproportionately arrests and incarcerate people of color for marijuana offenses. It also would retroactively apply to those currently serving sentences and allow people in federal prison for marijuana offenses to go to court and ask a judge to reduce their sentence.

When Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced the bill in the Senate last summer, he acknowledged “our country’s drug laws are badly broken and need to be fixed. … [T]hey don’t make our communities any safer.” Booker, like Lee and Khanna, understands that laws that do not make communities safer must be questioned, and in this case, stricken.

Currently more than one in five Americans live in the eight states and the District of Columbia that have legalized small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, not to mention the 29 states that approve medicinal use. The federal government should follow the states, and the people, and legalize pot.

In a groundbreaking 2013 report, the ACLU documented that Blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite comparable usage rates. Even more disturbing, in the District of Columbia in 2013, where Black people make up 49 percent of the population and whites and people of other backgrounds make up 51 percent, nearly 91 percent of the people arrested for marijuana offenses were Black. These stunning statistics led D.C residents to support marijuana legalization in 2016. They should likewise spur people to support the Marijuana Justice Act.

As John Ehrlichman, former domestic policy chief for Richard Nixon, has confirmed, the war on drugs was never about the stated purpose of protecting the health and safety of the American people. Instead, it was really about undermining the Black and anti-war communities. In 1994, Ehrlichman told journalist Dan Baum the real motivation behind the war on drugs:

“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. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Unfortunately in 2018, we have an attorney general who is stuck in the past and has embraced these divisive Nixonian policies and tactics. Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded several Obama-era policies that recognized states’ rights to legalize marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes.

Although this administration does not recognize or seem to care about the harm that antiquated drug policies have caused to communities of color, it is refreshing to see that some members of Congress — like Cory Booker, Barbara Lee, and Ro Khanna — do. They are fighting back with the Marijuana Justice Act, which lives up to its name and would be important to criminal justice reform for our nation.

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Chris Kemp

Your headline reads “Trump Administration continues the racist and disasterous war on pot!” I failed to find any credible information that would make this a racist issue? I’m tired of the word racist being slung around like it’s credible just because you say so! There has not been one shred of evidence that would make Trump a racist, even MLK’s family has supported Trump and his efforts to better race relations. Overblown attention grabbing headline to say the least.


I agree 100%.

I love how she stated, "The Trump Administration is tone deaf to the will of the people..." Meanwhile, she represents the leaders of the "resistance."


> In a groundbreaking 2013 report, the ACLU documented that Blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, despite comparable usage rates.
How is that not racist?


did u even read the article? A disproportionate # of blacks are charged with marijuana crimes. In Washington SC, they make up 1/2 the population, but 90% of those arrested for marijuana! Didn't you read where it was Nixon's plan to target blacks and the anti-war left by criminalizing certain drugs? Jeff Session and Trump are both known racists. They choose to be harder on marijuana and ignore states rights. Thought you conservatives cared about states rights, oh that's only when it comes to your guns or religion.

Taylor Gill

Being a racist or alcoholic, both equal in this advanced world. Please don't categorize people by their color. All that glitters are not gold! Be social always.

Essays Chief


Well, that makes sense ... and is the only explanation that does make sense. All these years, I never understood why they were so passionate about marijuana.


Schedule 1 Marijuana law is a fatal violation of civil liberties, civil rights that ACLU isn't touching---


That's because it would be almost impossible to get Marijuana off the schedule 1 list by using the courts. Since marijuana is being pushed as a medicine it would have to go through all the testing and bureaucracy any other medicinal drug goes through before the FDA will change its status and approve it for sale. The courts, even the 9th circuit, are very unlikely to override all that as all that testing goes a long way to keeping people safe. Even with all the testing medications get approved that later turn out to have serious adverse effects 10-15 years later. It also doesn't break any laws or violate the Constitution to keep pot on the schedule 1 list UNLESS all the proper testing was done and it was proven safe enough. Anecdotal evidence doesn't help because the criteria for the tests is very specific.


Trump can't make things legal or illegal. Laws, which are written by Congress, make things legal or illegal. The President enforces the laws as written. If Congress passes a law legalizing marijuana and the President refuses to sign it or refuses to enforce it THEN its his fault. Right now, pot is illegal because THE LAWS CONGRESS HAS MADE SAYS POT IS ILLEGAL.

Ron McFarland

If 51% or more of Americans was in favor of legalizing murder would wet makes murder legal? No we wouldn't. It doesn't matter how's many Americans want pot to be legal it's a dangerous drug that should be kept illegal except for medical use, like percocet, vicoden and morphine and other dangerous drugs. Anyone, black, white, Hispanic or whatever found to be I possession of pot should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The aclu doesn't give a rats backside about I equality, they on my card about changing America into a communist state. They have always been a communist organization and continue to be a communist group today. Keep drugs illegal, and prosecute those who break the law, period.


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