Signed by over 1000 international leaders including 27 members of the House of Representatives and 6 U.S. Senators, the letter stated that the international status quo of criminalizing drug use “has proven disastrous for global health, security and human rights.” The letter was published just days before the UN General Assembly held a major international drug summit. Signatories included current and former law enforcement officials, clergy, members of the health and medical community, as well as business leaders, entertainers and athletes such as DJ Khaled, Michael Douglas, Tom Brady, Warren Buffet and Sankofa.org artists John Legend and Macklemore. Two presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, also signed.
The DPA has been working to highlight how the War on Drugs has devastated the black and brown communities even though rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial lines. Recently they posted on their web site a decades-old quote from John Ehrlichman, the top advisor to Richard Nixon, where he admitted the ‘War on Drugs’ started back in 1968 was meant to target and bring down anti-war protesters and ‘black people.’ This quote had been revived and was circulating on the web because of a recent cover story in Harper’s Magazine by author Dan Baum. Ehrlichman, who died in 1999, said that Nixon’s declaration of a war on drugs was a means to criminalize two groups that he saw as enemies “by getting the public to associate hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin” and create excuses to “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.”
The DPA then posted a statement. “This explosive admission, while provocative, is sadly nothing new. The Drug Policy Alliance and our allies in the movement to end the drug war have long known that the U.S. drug policies are and have been inherently racist and discriminatory… DPA’s work is centered on speaking truth to power and demanding accountability for the gross harm caused by the drug war.”