Prescription Pain Killers, Prohibition and Political Prisoners/Victims of Nixon’s War on Drugs

By C. Arthur Reavis

Today’s heroin “epidemic” did not start in a vacuum. The Binghamton area has been particularly hard hit, as have many other rust-belt and working-class communities across the country. But in an effort to understand: ‘How we got here,’ it is necessary to take a look at the history of drug prohibition in this country.

Many, if not just about all of our current laws regarding the prohibition of drugs began with a racial motivation. For marijuana, especially around the Texas and New Mexican border towns, it was the “Mexicans.” Originally, Latino, Hispanic, Cuban and Caribbean foreign sailors, this quickly became pretty much anyone with brown or black skin. In the case of opium, it was primarily Chinese and Asian immigrants who, as they were giving their lives to build this Nation’s first rail system. For African Americans it was a more refined version of opium. Heroin! This was originally thought of as an “inner-city” problem.

Then along came Pres. Nixon, a lying, cheating, paranoid megalomaniac who hated black people, and those damned white hippies and their anti-war stance. In the case of “Hippies” Nixon hated their music, their long hair, their non-traditional sexual arrangements and their “Equal Rights” campaign. Eric Schlosser pointed these facts out in his 2003 book; Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market.  In an attempt to marginalize (politically, socially and financially) these groups, especially African Americans and “Hippies” Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” specifically targeting heroin and marijuana. Why? It was simple; those were the drugs of choice for the groups of people he hated the most. In this primarily racist war, the U.S.A. arrests and jails more of  its citizens than any other nation for political offenses: namely having or using certain drugs.

In the past 40 years there have been  hundreds of thousands of lives ruined, and  billions of dollars in seized assets (property and cash) from individuals who have never been convicted of a single drug related crime- merely suspected, at the moment of arrest, of possibly being involved with “illegal” drug activity. Or, the billions of dollars cut from methadone clinics, drug treatment facilities, mental health services and government services to those in need of health/mental healthcare from; State, Local and Federal budgets. Meanwhile, our current Oligarchy is perpetually allowing large pharmaceutical companies to FALSELY market Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin…etc., to doctors as “less addictive,” completely safe, and consequence free painkillers. We are in a world of hurt. Hurt for those who are addicted and those of us, like this author, who cannot take ibuprofen, naproxen or even aspirin and now have to practically beg (many times unsuccessfully) to get a narcotic pain killer. Why?

Some of our current situation is based on a legitimate fear from our healthcare professionals. Much of that fear is based on the DEA looking at every script written and coming down hard, on doctors they think (by simply looking at the number of scripts written) for “over-prescribing” these medications. I do not want a law enforcement agency monitoring what drugs I take, especially those prescribed by one of my doctors. But moreover, why is drug addiction a criminal matter? Addiction IS, and always has been, strictly a medical condition? Why can I not grow a weed in my backyard for my own personal use and medical use? Some States, New York being one, are now allowing corporations to grow marijuana/hemp, but as the legalization movement progresses, individuals are slowly being left out of that movement. Why? Simply to give way to a corporate monopoly on the production, distribution and sale of what in some places grows wild?

 It’s time for a complete amnesty, pardoning and release of ALL non-violent drug offenders. This should be coupled with the immediate decriminalization of currently illicit drugs and the legalization and taxation (sale only) of marijuana and psilocybin containing mushrooms.  And getting the DEA out of doctors’ offices!

We are seeing some minor steps in a progressive direction, especially locally.  Ithaca mayor, Svante Myrick, wants to set up a “safe-shooting” clinic (the first in the United States) that would allow heroin addicts to inject heroin under medical supervision without the fear of being arrested. This would allow for immediate treatment of an overdose and literally save lives. Moreover, the drugs could be checked for purity and potency. This is especially important since many illegal drugs can and are being cut with toxic substances, solely because they are not regulated in any way.

In March 2016, District Attorney, Stephen Cornell, announced a program, Operation SAFE (Save Addicts From Epidemic). This program would allow addicts to turn themselves in if they are willing to seek long term treatment out of State. County Executive Debbie Preston came out rebuking the plan because the Sheriff’s Department was working on something similar. So, while in definite need of improvement, this program would be one, VERY small step in the movement away from the criminalization of addiction and movement towards helping those with a medical condition.





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