For years respected black scholars and liberal "conspiracy theorists" alike have suggested that America's federal "war on drugs," is actually an attack on the black community. For example, Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association has called the drug war, “a war on people.” The legal fallout of that war has disproportionately criminalized people of color by, Benjamin explains, making laws against say “crack possession 100 times stricter than for powder cocaine, the latter of which was favored by whites.”
It turns out African-Americans weren't just being paranoid. John D. Ehrlichman, a former President Nixon advisor, has apparently confirmed that those racist justifications really did exist when Nixon launched the "war on drugs" in 1971. At the time, the administration cited the high death toll and negative social impact of drugs to justify the expansion of federal agencies and the ability to direct law enforcement to target Nixon's political enemies.
In the Harper's April cover story, "Legalize it All," Dan Baum reveals that he interviewed Ehrlichman while researching a book about drug prohibition in the mid-1990s. At that ime, Ehrlichman apparently revealed some provocative insight into the motivation behind the policy. According to Baum, Ehrichman said:
“You want to know what this was really all about? 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.”