The war on drugs in general, and legal marijuana in particular, are on the ballot in 2016. First, background courtesy of PBS Frontline “30 years of America’s Drug War: A Chronology.”
1970: The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is founded to decriminalize marijuana. Congress’ Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act consolidates previous drug laws, reduces penalties for marijuana possession, and strengthens law enforcement. And it includes the Controlled Substances Act, which establishes five categories (“schedules”) for regulating drugs based on their medicinal value and potential for addiction.
1971: President Nixon declares war on drugs and creates the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention (SAODAP). The Nixon era is the only time in the history of the war on drugs when the majority of funding goes towards treatment, rather than law enforcement.
1973: The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is created.
1975: The Ford Administration releases a White Paper on Drug Abuse, naming marijuana a “low priority drug” in contrast to heroin, amphetamines and mixed barbiturates.
1976: President Carter campaigns on the decriminalization of marijuana since several states had already decriminalized marijuana. Carter favors relinquishing federal criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. Carter’s drug czar, Dr. Peter Bourne, does not view marijuana, or even cocaine, as a serious public health threat.
Antidrug parents’ movement begins with Families in Action due to marijuana at a 13year old girl’s birthday party.
Let’s stop here. In addition to these key players, we must also list new variables contributing to this election cycle. We have business interests looking to cash in on this new industry, civil rights activists decrying the overincarceration of people of color as a result of the war on drugs, the widening gap between voters who support decriminalization and/or legalization and those who don’t, paradigm shift from law enforcement to prevention and treatment, and legitimate leaders leading the charge.
Fortunately, parents and other key people lead the opposition. We stand for children, their health and right to be children as long as possible … especially as their brains develop.