A Harper's Magazine writer recently reiterated a stomach-turning admission of racist societal control concocted by the Nixon Administration.
That scandal plagued presidency was the first to declare war on drugs, and did so squarely in the midst of social and racial upheaval, as well as a foreign war. In a recent article arguing in favor of the legalization of drugs, writer Dan Baum recounted how he'd tracked down former Nixon advisor John Erlichman in 1994 for a book Baum was working on.
Erlichman had served a year and a half in prison after being convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury for his role in the Watergate scandal, to which Baum attributed Erlichman's frankness when asked about the Nixon administration's drugs policy.
"The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people," Erlichman told Baum. "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."
There's no way to unpack the many layers to that admission of crooked politicking in this column space. Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise. There's no question that America's war on drugs has damaged lives and our society as a whole. It's created an unforgivable imprisonment rate, especially for minorities. It's enabled, if not encouraged, violent criminal enterprises within and outside U.S. borders. It's an expensive, ineffective deterrent to the real dangers that drugs pose, and it's done nothing to support the addicts that the system fosters.
But to hear the adviser to the nation's top lawmaker admit to such a pointed, nasty and shortsighted campaign; an exploitation of the safety, security and livelihoods of Americans for political gains; that shocked even this jaded writer.
And the wheels of justice clang along.
A Whitethorn woman recently pleaded guilty to charges of depredation against the property of the United States, admitting to doing more than $100,000 worth of environmental damage to federal lands as a part of her marijuana cultivation operation.
Melinda Van Horne entered the plea on May 23 and is free on bond awaiting sentencing in July, when she faces a maximum term of 10 years in federal prison.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Van Horne owned property and a home in the King Range National Conservation Area, which has special environmental protections through an act of Congress, including a prohibition against commercial activity and development.
But, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, between 2007 and 2013, Van Horne had vegetation stripped from portions of the conservation area, and excavated and graded land, in order to erect 11 greenhouses to grow marijuana in. Additionally, Van Horne diverted water from nearby Bridge Creek to irrigate her more than 1,600 marijuana plants.
The grading and excavating caused the land to become unstable and erode into two nearby rivers, both of which "provide crucial spawning and rearing habitats for threatened and federal protected salmon and steelhead," according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
As a part of her guilty plea, Van Horne has reportedly agreed to pay restitution fines to reimburse the federal government for more than $100,000 in restoration work performed on the property.