Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
Pot-smoking hippie anti-war activists like the Chicago 7 and LSD-popping elitist Harvard medical school researchers like Timothy Leary gave poor, paranoid President Richard Nixon a hard time back in the late 1960s. As they sipped their highballs, the moral majority– Nixon’s base– decried the nation’s drug abuse.
What’s a president to do? Nixon declared drug abuse “public enemy #1” and instituted a blue ribbon commission to investigate the country’s obsession with mood-altering drugs– particularly “marihuana” (sic)– and make recommendations. Unfortunately, US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse’s recommendations were not what Nixon expected or wanted. From the Arizona Daily Star…
A year later, the commission released its recommendation: Congress should amend federal law to decriminalize the personal use and possession of cannabis and the casual distribution of small amounts for no or insignificant remuneration, and state legislatures should do the same.
They also found that marijuana didn’t meet the criteria of a Schedule I controlled substance, which would make it, like heroin, an illegal substance lacking any medicinal value.
The commission concluded: “criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in an effort to discourage use. … The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior.” [Emphasis added.]
What?! I don’t remember this. Oh, here’s why… the commission’s report was buried.
Since the report ran counter to his personal beliefs, Nixon refused to read it, shelved it, categorized marijuana as a Schedule I substance and declared an “all out war” on drugs. [Kinda sounds like what happened to the MAS evaluation report that Huppenthal didn’t like.]
Since then, some 21.5 million Americans have been arrested and prosecuted for violation of laws against marijuana. More than 80 percent of those arrested were charged only with possession, not sale. The cost of Nixon’s “war on drugs,” which intensified under Reagan and continues to this day, now exceeds $1 trillion.
The war on drugs has failed. It has had no significant effect on the use and availability of drugs. [Emphasis added.]
For more on failed War on Drugs, how it came about, and how drug policy has evolved in the last 40 years, check out this eye-opening guest commentary in today’s Arizona Daily Star.
When will we adopt the Shafer Commission’s recommendations and end the War on Drugs?
[This post was published originally on Blog for Arizona on July 5, 2012.]