Race and the Drug War: Hundreds to Gather on Sunday, April 17 at Columbia University in New York City for Historic Strategy Session on the Eve of the UN Special Assembly on Drugs

Featuring Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick,  Columbia University Professor Dr. Carl Hart, Activist Erica Garner and More

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–April 13, 2016.  On Sunday, April 17th, just prior to the UN General Assembly’s Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS), scholars and activists will participate in what is likely the largest strategy-session that has been held in New York City on racial justice and drug policy.

Brought together by the Drug Policy Alliance and Columbia University’s Center for Justice and Center on African American Politics and Society, hundreds of the nation’s leading advocates will gather for this unprecedented collaboration around race, economic justice, drug sellers, drug users, stigma and what policies we need to embrace if we are serious about ending both America’s racial caste system and the drug war.

Last month, an article in Harper’s confirmed what many have suspected all along: that the drug war was designed with the intent of destroying black communities.  It quotes John Ehrlichman, Watergate co-conspirator, as saying: “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.”

This war on drugs has since led to unprecedented rates of racial discrimination in drug-related arrests, prosecutions, and incarceration rates.  “The drug war has never been about ensuring public safety and health. It was invented—as we now all know—to criminalize Black people at a moment in our history when the world was demanding civil and human rights for African Americans,” said event organizer asha bandele from Drug Policy Alliance.  “Now, with literally hundreds of thousands of lives lost or irreparably harmed, we have an opportunity, with the world watching, to push forward policies that honor life and human dignity, and the voices of racial justice advocates must be at the center of that conversation.”

Event Details:

“Drug Policy Reform is Racial Justice Reform” — A One Day Strategy Session in Advance of UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs

When:  Sunday, April 17, 10am – 6pm (detailed agenda available here)

Highlighted Sessions:

  • 10:30 – 11:30 am — We Won’t Have Racial Justice in America Until We End the Drug War: A Conversation with Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick and Columbia University Professor, Dr. Carl Hart
  • 2:00 – 3:00 pm — The Cost of War and Solutions for Peace: Women Taking the Lead with Erica Garner and Deborah Small and more (see bios below)

Where: Columbia University, Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs, 420 W. 118th Street, Room 417, New York, NY 10027


Erica Garner, the daughter of slain Staten Island resident Eric Garner, an unarmed man who was accused of selling cigarettes illegally and was choked to death by police officers despite his repeated cry, “I can’t breathe.”

Mayor Svante Myrick of Ithaca, NY, who recently introduced groundbreaking drug policy reform in his city.

Dr. Carl Hart, Professor of Psychology in the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University, and Director of the Residential Studies and Methamphetamine Research Laboratories at the New York State Psychiatric Institute

Deborah Small, founder of Break the Chains: Communities of Color and the War on Drugs

Kassandra Frederique, Director, New York Policy Office, Drug Policy Alliance

Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance

Plus, many more experts and people personally affected by the war on drugs

This event is free and open to the public.  Seating is limited. Members of the public who wish to attend must register here.  Press can attend if they RSVP via email at [email protected]

Related Material:

New York Daily News

Top adviser to Richard Nixon admitted that ‘War on Drugs’ was policy tool to go after anti-war protesters and ‘black people,’ By: Adam Edelman, March 23, 2016 — http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/nixon-aide-war-drugs-tool-target-black-people-article-1.2573832

The “War on Drugs” was actually a political tool to crush leftist protesters and black people, a former Nixon White House adviser admitted in a decades-old interview published Tuesday.

John Ehrlichman, who served as President Richard Nixon’s domestic policy chief, laid bare the sinister use of his boss’ controversial policy in a 1994 interview with journalist Dan Baum that the writer revisited in a new article for Harper’s magazine.

“You want to know what this was really all about,” Ehrlichman, who died in 1999, said in the interview after Baum asked him about Nixon’s harsh anti-drug policies.

“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,” Ehrlichman continued.

“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.”

Ehrlichman served 18 months in prison after being convicted of conspiracy and perjury for his role in the Watergate scandal that toppled his boss.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said Ehrlichman’s comments proved what black people had believed for decades.

“This is a frightening confirmation of what many of us have been saying for years. That this was a real attempt by government to demonize and criminalize a race of people,” Sharpton told the Daily News. “And when we would raise the questions over that targeting, we were accused of all kind of things, from harboring criminality to being un-American and trying to politicize a legitimate concern.”

In 1971, Nixon labeled drug abuse “Public Enemy No. 1” and signed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, putting into place several new laws that cracked down on drug users. He also created the Drug Enforcement Administration.

By 1973, about 300,000 people were being arrested every year under the law — the majority of whom were African-American.

The drug war was continued in various forms by every President since, including President Ronald Reagan, whose wife Nancy called for people to “Just say no.”

Ehrlichman’s 22-year-old comments resurfaced Tuesday after Baum wrote about them in a cover story for the April issue of Harper’s, titled “Legalize It All,” in which he argues in favor of legalizing hard drugs.

The original 1994 interview with Ehrlichman was part of Baum’s research for his 1997 book, “Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure,” in which Baum laid bare decades of unsuccessful drug policy.

But the quotes never appeared in the book.

Baum said Tuesday he excluded the jaw-dropping quotes because they “didn’t fit.”

“There are no authorial interviews in (‘Smoke and Mirrors’) at all; it’s written to put the reader in the room as events transpire,” Baum told The Huffington Post via email. “Therefore, the quote didn’t fit. It did change all the reporting I did for the book, though, and changed the way I worked thereafter.”

The shocking interview with Ehrlichman later surfaced in a 2012 compendium of “wild, poignant, life-changing stories” from various writers titled “The Moment,” but the quotes received little media attention.

Many politicos have surmised that Ehrlichman, who would die five years later, made the stark revelations because he was angry Nixon never pardoned him of his Watergate-related offenses.

Sharpton said the damage done by the war on drugs’ cruel policies doomed generations of black people.

“Think of all the lives and families that were ruined and absolutely devastated only because they were caught in a racial net from the highest end reaches of government.”

Source: http://www.drugpolicy.org