Jonathan Green | Drug Justice

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Jonathan Green | Drug Justice

When Richard Nixon declared his War on Drugs in 1971, his aim was to criminalize a distinct enemy: those hand-in-hand, flower-toting, big-grin smiling, cannabis consuming, consciousness-exploring anti-Vietnam War hippies of ananti-Nixonian persuasion. In order for the President to feel confident about his reelection chances in ’72, those political enemies of his had to be stymied.

If Nixon’s administration could criminalize the consumption of certain plants and chemicals, and enforce thatcriminalization with furious zeal, they thought that they just might be able to quell the increasingly influential voices of the New Left.

Enter Jack Cole. Cole was a young police officer in New Jersey at the time of Nixon’s proclamation. He was appointed to be an undercover narcotics agent in 1970, one of many patrol officers who became narcs when Nixon’s administration began to threaten pulling federal dollars to states that failed to meet quotas for drug arrests. But there were very few drugs or drug users in the officers’ suburban terrain.

So it was that Jersey’s narcs traversed tunnels and bridges to buy drugs in New York. They then worked to infiltrate groups of students, befriending them with charm and convincing hippie garb. Once they gained the trust of their supposed friends, they would suggest some after-class pot smoking. So it came to be that normally law-abiding students joined in cyphers with cops.

One tactic that Cole and countless other officers used to ensure that they could meet their high drug conviction quotas was to pass the Dutchie around in a circle, expecting that it would continue to be passed from person to person. From the law’s perspective, any physical exchange of any quantity of any variety of illicit drugs from one person’s hand to another’s was considered distribution. Forget money, the hallmark of any real-life drug deal. The simplest social sharing of drugs landed countless of otherwise innocent young people years in prison and a felony conviction.

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