Brentin Mock is a staff writer at CityLab. He was previously the justice editor at Grist.
What looks like a “split personality” in drug policy is really just the Trump administration’s racialized approach to enforcement.
On Wednesday, the White House issued an executive order to establish a commission on combating drug addiction, and we now know that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will head it. The Christie appointment seems to signal a soft approach to handling drug problems, given his own experience addressing it in New Jersey. The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that this new commission has created a “split personality” within the administration’s drugs policy, given that it seems to clash with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s more punitive approach.
The tug of war in the new administration reflects its two different constituencies: traditional conservatives, who favor a crackdown on crime that the president frequently links to illegal immigration and urban areas, and the white, working-class and rural communities who welcome a compassionate focus on the opioid epidemic that has ravaged their neighborhoods.
Translation: White people will get rehabilitation. Black and Latino people will get incarceration.
Or, as the Drug Policy Alliance deputy director Michael Collins said in the WSJ article: “We’re seeing the beginning of a new war on drugs.”