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June 19, 2011

How Schedule One became the Drug War’s Catch 22

A major stumbling block for opponents of the drug war has been the wording of the Controlled Substances Act passed by Congress in 1970 shortly after the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 had been struck down by the Supreme Court in the Leary case.

Entirely consistent with the medical ignorance displayed in its earlier deliberations on Harrison, the Court ruled that because the MTA required those wishing to use cannabis to purchase non-existent tax stamps, the law was tantamount to self incrimination! Because the Harrison Act had relied on a similar deceptive transfer tax in limiting prescriptions for coca products and opiates, the striking down of the MTA placed all US federal drug policy in jeopardy- but not for long.

Through a truly unfortunate coincidence of judicial, legislative, and electoral timing, the High Court’s finding in Leary presented the fledgling Nixon Administration with both a clean slate and a mandate to completely rewrite domestic American drug policy. The result was the highly creative CSA, which not only rolled Harrison and the MTA into one Draconian package, it armed the US Attorney General with sole authority to decide which new substances should be listed on “Schedule 1” (as absolutely prohibited). Indeed, LSD and Marijuana were among the first to be named.

In other words, an official who would always be a medically untutored lawyer was armed with questionable and never-validated criteria by which to decide what "substances" could be manufactured, prescribed or sold legally as "medicine." The converse is that any effective medicine erroneously ruled illegal, could become a lucrative product sold by criminals. Add a touch of misplaced morality and you have the modern story Dan Baum subtitled "The Politics of Failure in 1996 and Mike Gray described in Drug Crazy" 2 years later.

The world has now been struggling, without success, to implement the CSA through UN treaty because, by another malign coincidence, Harry Jacob Anslnger was appointed as the first UN High Commissioner of Narcotics in 1962. In that capacity, he successfully championed the Single Convention Treaty of New York which, by virtue of some arcane diplomatic prestidigitation somehow retroactively became responsible for enforcing the failing prohibitions of the CSA as current UN Policy.

Anslinger may have inspired the CSA, but he didn't write it; its impenetrable wording, which has protected it from revision despite four decades of expensive domestic and international failure, was almost certainly a product of the fertile imagination of the one true heavyweight in the Nixon Administration, the only US Attorney General ever to do time: John Newton Mitchell.

Details to follow...

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at June 19, 2011 05:34 PM