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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 protestors 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 American
adolescents on a national scale between 1966 and 1975.

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

If only Nixon hadn't been a hostile boozer with his own self-esteem problems,
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 scenario. 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,"
still available in paperback. 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 Epstein wasn't as focused
on pot as Baum, he goes into more detail about Nixon's henchmen and how they
were responding to their Boss's frantic search for the federal police agency
he wanted to punish enemies and project power.

It wasn't so much that Nixon had any particular interest in drugs; it was
just that history and fate had conspired to provide him with an opportunity
to declare an endlessly losing "war" on them  and several like-minded
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 establish control. 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


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