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The comments came at a townhall meeting when LePage was asked to address substance abuse in the state.
“LePage’s comments sound like those of an unreconstructed racist,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Whether one focuses on his outrageous words or on his outrageous drug policies, what’s apparent is the governor’s indifference to the lives and wellbeing of people struggling with addiction to heroin and other drugs.”
LePage’s comments are part of a long history of racism and the drug war. The first anti-drug law in the U.S. was passed in 1875 in San Francisco. It was directed at Chinese railroad workers and was prompted by the belief that Chinese men were luring white women to have sex in opium dens. The first cocaine regulations were a reaction to racist fears about use among African Americans in the early 1900s. The first anti-marijuana laws were directed at Mexican Americans.
Subsequent drug law enforcement, which fueled the current mass incarceration crisis in the U.S., has had a disproportionate negative impact on communities of color. Black and brown people make up the overwhelming majority of people arrested and incarcerated for drugs, even though drug use is equally prevalent across all races.