Roger Stone, the infamous conservative strategist and provocateur, seems to want to emerge as an angel on Trump’s shoulder to balance out Attorney General Jeff Sessions when it comes to federal cannabis prohibition. As readers may be aware, Mr. Stone recently announced the launch of his United States Cannabis Coalition, which bills itself as a bipartisan non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the states’ right to choose sensible cannabis policies. Though the goal is noble, Mr. Stone’s involvement will likely attract attention like a lightning rod.
It is understandable that a man with a back tattoo of President Nixon’s face is no stranger to controversy (warning: NSFL). Stone helped re-elect Nixon in 1972 and then served the Nixon administration in the Office of Economic Opportunity. After Nixon’s downfall, Mr. Stone remained with Nixon as an advisor, respecting Nixon’s willingness to go to any lengths to win. So it is unsurprising that Mr. Stone kindled a life-long friendship with President Trump, urging Trump to run for President decades ago and arguably masterminding Trump’s recent rise to power. After a lifetime of toxicity, Stone now wants to leverage his relationship with Trump for good. It can all seem a bit too much like an attempt at Darth Vader’s redemption over Endor, and at least some cannabis activists think Stone should sit this one out.
At the start of a video on the United States Cannabis Coalition’s website, Stone says “Richard Nixon is my mentor. Among the biggest mistakes that President Nixon made was the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs has proved to be an expensive, ignominious and racist failure.” Though this is a nice sentiment a half century later, the problem is that Nixon’s administration knew exactly what it was doing. Harper’s Magazine published the highly disturbing details of a decades old interview with Nixon’s domestic policy chief, John Ehrlichman, who made an appalling admission that deserves to be repeated in its entirety:
You want to know what [the drug war] was really all about? 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? 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.
So though it is certainly tempting to dismiss Stone’s current efforts as more grandstanding, at the same time, any insider ally against Trump’s parade of drug zealots might be critical while we ride this administration out. Despite Stone’s past, I’m tempted to rest a little bit easier knowing at least someone in Trump’s inner orbit is pushing for an end to the cannabis war madness.