A Brief History on the “War on Drugs” with a Touch of Sarcasm
Although various counties in America tried to enact some form of alcohol prohibition in the 1800’s, drugs were first prohibited in the United States on a Federal Level in 1909, when The Smoking Opium Exclusion Act banned the possession, importation and use of opium for smoking.
In 1919, the 18th Amendment was ratified, banning alcohol and ushering in the Prohibition Era, which lasted lasted until December, 1933, when it was repealed by the 21st Amendment.
Although the ultimate outcome of prohibition was expanded government reach, the loss of life, and the introduction of gangsters and organized crime into our country, while doing nothing to stem consumption, prohibition has also left a positive legacy for society by leaving us with exciting topics for movies that otherwise would be non-existent. (GoodFellas, Casino, Untouchables) So it was well worth it.
To quote a prominent American journalist of 1925, Henry Louis Mencken Mencken: “Prohibition has not only failed in its promises but actually created additional serious and disturbing social problems throughout society. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic but more. There is not less crime, but more… . The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for the law has not increased, but diminished.”
After some fairly minor, especially by today’s standards, laws against marijuana and cannibis in the 30’s, we waited until the 70’s before seriously ratcheting up the game, as President Richard Milhous (photo of Simpson’s Milhous) Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act into law. which outlined five “schedules” used to classify drugs based on their medical application and potential for abuse.
Brilliantly, somehow marijuana was scheduled as a Schedule 1 drug, considered the most dangerous and posing a very high risk for addiction. Snack food companies were the most outspoken critics of the new legislation.
LSD, heroin, MDMA (ecstasy) and other drugs were included on Schedule 1, while cough syrup and codeine were listed as lowest risk, schedule 5.
In June 1971, Nixon officially declared a “War on Drugs,” stating that drug abuse was “public enemy number one.” It was largely in response to the spike in recreational drug use in the hippy 60’s. (hippy photo) It’s actually rather surprising Tricky Dick would want to get drugs out of the hands of people who would never vote for him, at least this way they might be too stoned to hit the polling booth.
Nixon increased federal funding for drug-control agencies and proposed strict measures, such as mandatory prison sentencing, for drug crimes.
In 1973 Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 1973, a special police force committed to targeting illegal drug use and smuggling in the United States. At the start, the DEA was given 1,470 special agents and a budget of less than $75 million. Today, the agency has nearly 5,000 agents and a budget of $2.03 billion. Triple the agents, and 27 times the cost, far outpacing inflation.
Obviously, considering that drugs are cheaper and more widely used today than when the DEA began, this was once again money well spent by the American government, and a shining example of why I support higher taxes, and giving the government more money to spend.
In the mid-1970s, the War on Drugs took a slight hiatus. Between 1973 and 1977, eleven states decriminalized marijuana possession. Jimmy Carter became president in 1977 after running on a political campaign to decriminalize marijuana. During his first year in office, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to decriminalize up to one ounce of marijuana, which was good news for peanut farmers everywhere.
But in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan, reinforced The War on Drugs policies and expanded many of Nixon’s. In 1984, his wife Nancy Reagan launched the “Just Say No” campaign, which was intended to highlight the dangers of drug use. President Reagan’s refocus on drugs and the passing of severe penalties for drug-related crimes in Congress and state legislatures led to a massive increase in incarcerations for nonviolent drug crimes.
Of course, Miami grew from a nothing beach town, to a world class city with all the drug money flowing through there, plus we got Miami Vice and their cool 80’s fashion sense out of it, so, once again, there when considering all the money wasted, let’s not ignore the upside.
Slowly, the United States has begun to change its tune, at least on Reefer Madness. In 2012 Colorado and Washington (state) passed laws to legalize the consumption, possession, and sale of marijuana, followed by Alaska, Minnesota and Oregon passed laws to legalize the consumption, possession, and sale of marijuana.
Then recreational marijuana use was legalized in California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine, and finally, Michigan.
Today the debate rages on as to the best course of action, and as I’ll discuss in the next video (the upper left one on the end screen) the decision is clear.
Once again, if you’re in favor of such changes, thank Fritos Lay for leading the charge, who are also sponsors of this video.