Maine's Republican Gov. Paul LePage is known for his tough life story and his willingness to say whatever is on his mind. Click above to see him blame Maine's problems with heroin and prescription-drug abuse on "guys by the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty" who drive up to Vacationland from New York and Connecticut, sell their drugs, hook up with Maine girls, and then "go back home."
"The traffickers, these aren't people who take drugs. These are guys by the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty," LePage, a Republican, said during a discussion of the state's heroin epidemic at a town hall event. "These type of guys that come from Connecticut and New York. They come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home."
"Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave," he added. "Which is the real sad thing, because then we have another issue that we have to deal with down the road."
LePage doesn't mention the race of heroin dealers but does invoke stereotypically ghetto names, thus continuing one of the most despicable aspects of the drug war in America: Its racism.
In the early 20th century, for instance, "cocaine negroes"—black men who ingested huge amounts of the stuff and thus become superpowered predators and/or enticed white women with same drug into sexual frenzies—were a thing, with The New York Times and other respectable authorities of the day freaking out over a terrifying combination of race-mixing, sex, and narcotics. Opium was associated with Chinese living in America and marijuana with Mexicans in a blend of racial anxiety and fear of intoxication that terrified lawmakers and voter alike.
LePage's comments, which link the drug trade not just with blacks but hypersexualized blacks, show that even as the country is growing up in terms of treating pot more like beer, wine, and alcohol, we haven't really gotten that far.
According to the Maine government's statistics, between 2010 and 2014 (the latest year for which data is readily available online), the state has seen a sharp increase in the "number of treatment admissions where heroin or morphine" was the primary substance involved. In 2010, that number was 955 and in 2014 it had risen to 2,538. Yet over the same time frame, overdose EMS responses for heroin and related drugs have declined from a peak in 2012. While the number of deaths attributed to heroin/morphine has increased dramatically over the same period, the absolute number remains in the mid-double digits, at 57.
To the extent that heroin is a growing problem in Maine, it's not fully clear what LePage hopes to achieve by laying the blame for that on the D-Moneys and Smoothies of the world. According to the director of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, fully 83 percent of drug traffickers arrested by his agents are Maine residents.
But perhaps only charity, not responsibility, begins at home.