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August 26, 2005

More Drug Policy 101; the Nixon Years

Some time ago (August 19, to be exact) I promised additional commentary on certain drug policy manipulations of the first Nixon Administration which have profoundly affected American life ever since. Anslinger sponsored the Marihuana Tax Act;
but as noted earlier, the market it gave rise to didn't really get off the ground until certain other developments coalesced in the mid-Sixties to popularize pot; first with twenty-something protesters of various stripes who had, in turn, been inspired by Fifties Beats and the Civil Rights Movement to begin their own protests on behalf of Free Speech or Gay and Womens' Rights. The culmination of all those protests seems to have been the anti-Viet Nam war and youthful "hippie" movements which finally introduced pot to White adolescents on a national scale between 1966 and 1975.

Once established within the reach of those most likely to be critically influenced by its ability to allay adolescent angst at about the time they were also experimenting with its two natural rivals, alcohol and tobacco, pot became entrenched in High Schools and its illegal market has been growing steadily ever since. Whether such use is called "recreational" or "medical" wouldn't be at all  important if it weren't illegal;  that's the rub.

If only Nixon hadn't been a hostile boozer ,he might not have rejected the Shafer Commission's report
out of hand in the Spring of 1972. Pot would likely have become legal, and we'd all be a lot better off- at least that's my belief. The story of Nixon's rejection and burial of the Shafer Commission's findings has been brilliantly researched and told in Dan Baum's 1996 "Smoke and Mirrors." It's definitely required reading for every intelligent pot user.

A companion study, "Agency of Fear", authored 19 years earlier by Edward Jay Epstein,is available to read free on the web. Although not as focused on pot as Baum, Epstein goes into more detail about Nixon's henchmen and how they responded to their Boss's frantic search for a federal police agency with which to punish enemies and project power.

It wasn't so much that Nixon had a particular interest in drugs, just that history and fate conspired to provide him with an opportunity to declare an endlessly losing "war" on them  and that several opportunistic constituencies have since learned to wage it for their own selfish reasons.

Now we are embroiled in yet another potentially endless war on an idea because another insecure (ex) boozer in the Oval Office was desperately in need of a way to prove himself. The war on terror was a no-brainer for the Bushies; too bad for them (and the victims themselves) the casualties are returning in coffins and med-evac flights; they can't be buried in a gulag like (some) victims of the drug war.

Dr. Tom

Posted by tjeffo at August 26, 2005 08:12 AM