A Brief History
It is called The Drug War, and it has
been America's longest war.
The federal government had no role in the
health and drug trades until early this century, when
labeling requirements were placed on patent medicines.
Prohibition was repeatedly ruled unconstitutional until:
- 1919 The 18th Amendment banned commerce in
alcohol on a national level. The violent and corrupt
"Roaring Twenties" ensued.
- 1933 The people had had enough. The 21st
Amendment repealed the Volstead Act, ending
Constitutional authority for Prohibition.
- 1937 Prohibitionists disguised the Marihuana
Tax Act as a revenue bill and banned an entire plant
species through regulation enforcement. The narcotics
bureaucracy had found a gateway drug law.
- 1961 The UN adopted the Single Convention
Treaty on Narcotic Drugs, opening the way for more
stringent enforcement. The CIA went into Vietnam and
heroin began to flow into America from Asia.
- 1968 The U.S. signed the Treaty. In the grips
of the Vietnam War and the "generation gap," federal
policy continued to harden.
- 1969 The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the
Marijuana Tax Act was unconstitutional. Drug control
authority was eventually written into a "scheduling" hoax
that extended prohibition enforcement. Under this system,
drugs are not officially 'prohibited'; they're 'illicit'.
But people still go to prison for using them.
- 1970 Congressman George Bush joined the
growing majority of office holders who opposed mandatory
minimum sentences "because they remove a great deal of
the court's discretion."
- 1972 President Richard Nixon appointed a
National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse. The
panel, known as the Shafer Commission, called for
decriminalizing marijuana and a policy of control based
on medical risk, so Nixon denounced its report and
declared a"War on Drugs". Nixon's war faltered amid a
cloud of curruption when he resigned office during his
second term, while facing impeachment charges.
- 1978 President Jimmy Carter publicly advocated
decriminalizing up to an ounce of marihuana in his
statement to Congress on drug policy, but behind the
scenes moved to steer the Drug War back on course.
- 1980 Drug warrior Ronald Reagan assumed office
and brought the military industrial comples into the
battlefield. The CIA went to Central America and cocaine
began to flow back to our cities.
- 1984 Reagan announced: "You ain't seen nothin'
yet!" and promptly militarized the Drug War. Zero
tolerance became the stepping stone to widespread
implementation of urine testing. His 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse
Act went farther, adding property forfeiture law under
Nancy's rallying cry: "Just say no."
- Late 1980s Democrats and Republicans vied to
out do each other in criminalizing and punishing drug
users. As Vice President and later as President George
Bush supported the return of Mandatory Minimum prison
sentences. Physical evidence was replaced by sentencing
guidelines. No knock search warrants, hearsay evidence,
and high-tech surveillance systems extended the realm of
thought-crime into conspiracy laws.
- Early 1990s Baby Boom President Bill "I didn't
inhale" Clinton campaigned on MTV, stating "The
punishment should fit the crime." Once in office, he
reversed gear and pursued yet another round of
escalations in the Drug War, including, for the first
time ever, the death penalty for growing marihuana in the
1994 Federal Crime Bill.
- 1995 The 10 millionth marijuana arrest since
1965 occurred in Ohio when Tod McCormick, a medical
marijuana patient with a Dutch prescription, was pulled
over in an illegal roadside search. A national survey
found that 95% of police officers believed the US to be
losing the Drug War.
- 1996 More than 60% of federal prisoners are
locked up for drug offenses. While mandatory
minimum sentences require that drug offenders serve
full term sentences, mandatory release programs put
violent felons back out on the streets to reduce prison
crowding. Marijuana arrests are at an all time high, and
citizens of California and Arizona vote overwhelmingly to
legalize medical marijuana. Federal policy continues to
lose support when appointed officials threaten to arrest
doctors and patients.
- 1997 Business as usual. The Clinton
administration begins the year with an all-out assault on
doctors and patients for medical marijuana until a court
orders them to desist. Malicious prosecution continues.
The rate of incarceration for African American males hits
a new record high, as does federal spending on the failed
drug war. A new war is beginning to be waged on tobacco
users. The National Istitute on Health reports that
needle exchanges clearly save lives, and congress
instantly forbids it from relaxing the ban on clean
needles. Oregon legislators vote to recriminalize
cannabis use, and a voters' referendum is launched to
block it from taking effect.
- 1998 When confronted with scientific proof
that needle exchange reduces infectuous disease without
increasing drug use, Janet Reno and Drug Czar Gen. Barry
McCaffrey decide to ignore the results and continue the
ban. Clinton launches a multi-billion dollar propaganda
campaign that uses federal tax money to purchase
advertising time and space for the private sector's
leading advocate of prohibition, the PDFA (Partnership
for a Drug Free America). Congress takes time from its
investigations of Clinton to pass ever more repressive
legislation. Numerous new studies vindicate the medical
marijuana reform position, and voters in five states pass
initiatives at the ballot box to legalize it. Faced with
an overwhelming favorable vote, Congress directly
intervenes to block the vote count in Washington DC. At
the same time, Oregon voters overturn the state
legislature's attempt to reinstate criminal penalties for
marijuana, and Arizona voters vote to medicalize all
controlled substances (illegal drugs). California votes
its leading drug warrior, Dan Lungren, out of office by a
huge majority. Teenage use of all drugs levels off
- 1999 Public revulsion at the hypocrisy of the federal
government is at a record high. Yet another drug warrior
is elected speaker of the house, and Congress fights in
court to suppress the count of the Washington DC popular
vote to legalize marijuana for medical use.
- None of this has had a substantial effect in
reducing drug use or making the public more safe - only
in reducing respect for human rights. The Drug War is an
abject failure, and it is time for America to cut its
losses and change political course to solve its
Your Home Is Your Castle:
The Right to Privacy
Privacy has long been considered an implied right of the
Constitution, as described in the Fourth Amendment; but what
this covers is vague and has been eroded dramatically by the
Courts have ruled that chemical analysis of body fluids,
and body cavity searches by police are not excessive.
Government agents are allowed to pose as people's friends,
rifle through their trash, monitor telephone and electrical
bills, peer over fences, fly over homes, scan them with
infrared sensors, heat detectors and even enhanced satellite
surveillance photography to see what Americans are doing in
their own backyards.
Is America Addicted to the Drug
The Drug War grinds on as a
monotonous, dehumanizing routine:
News media play up public fears to sell copy. Politicians
sell themselves as being "tough on crime." Every
year, they ban more activities, and pass longer
prison sentences, more
forfeiture laws, and
higher enforcement budgets. The next year they repeat this
same ritual. Well paid bureaucrats scrutinize the legal
system for glimmers of compassion, discretion and freedom to
close the "loopholes." Drug warriors write Anti-This Acts
and Omnibus That Laws and forbid discussion of reform. Human
rights violations and conflicts of interest within the
prison and law enforcement industries are accepted as a
regrettable aspect of doing war. Another record size
property seizure; more mothers
in prison; one marijuana arrest every 49
seconds with over 11 million busts served; the biggest
law enforcement budgets in history, the most sweeping and
intrusive police powers ever.
Our government shows advanced symptoms of being addicted
to its own Drug War. Politicians habitually increase their
drug law dosage. Constantly looking for a stronger fix, they
spend the nation into debt without getting satisfaction. Our
leaders refuse to admit the destructive consequences of
their behavior. Drug enforcement agents abuse the public
trust. The media reinforce the negative behavior while
living in morbid denial of their own role, like a
Lost in the frenzy is a simple fact. Illicit drug users
are people, too. Most casual drug users are peaceful and
productive members of society until they become casualties
of the Drug War.
The Price Tag
Over the course of his eight years in office, Reagan
spent $22.6 billion on his revived Drug War. Another major
escalation was pushed through under George Bush, who spent
$42.5 billion in a single term. Under Clinton, spending has
continued to increase, with $16 billion for one year alone
allocated in the 1998 fiscal budget. Those figures show
federal spending only, not counting all unfunded mandates
passed onto states.
Spending at other levels of government adds up to
approximately the same as the federal budget, so in 1998 you
can expect to see well over $30 billion spent on the Drug
In 1999, the federal Drug War budget alone is expected to
rise again to $17 billion. Are we better off by wasting ever
more money on the Drug War? Where will it end?
$$$ The average cost of incarcerating a federal
inmate is $23,000 per year. (FAMM, Coalition for Federal
Sentencing Reform, March, 1997.)
$$$ Almost 60% of federal inmates &emdash; 55,624
people! &emdash; are drug offenders. Half of these are first
time, non-violent offenders. (Bureau of Prisons, 1997.)
$$$ To feed, clothe, house and guard these 55,624
prisoners costs taxpayers $3.5 million per day, or $1.27
And There's Lots More!
$$$ Public assistance or welfare for children of
inmates who have lost a breadwinner,
$$$ Foster care for children who have lost their
$$$ Unnecessary and inaccurate urine testing of
employees, damaging both morale and job productivity,
$$$ Medical costs to treat people for diseases
spread by sharing dirty needles due to bans on needle
$$$ Homes, property, cars, and savings forfeited
from families of inmates,
$$$ Money, property stolen to support expensive
illegal drug habits,
$$$ Money diverted from the open market to the
$$$ Tax dollars and untaxed incomes lost to the
black market economy of drugs,
$$$ Tax dollars lost by giving tax-exempt status
to Drug War propagandists such as: PRIDE, PDFA (Partnership
for a Drug-Free America), Drug Watch International, DARE,
$$$ Other criminal justice system costs,
$$$ Hidden law enforcement budgets,
$$$ Paid informants,
$$$ Court costs,
$$$ Attorney fees,
$$$ Personal hardships