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|The Drug Hang Up, America's Fifty-Year Folly|
The Drug Hang Up, America's Fifty-Year Folly
by Rufus King
And Now, D-Men
UP TO this point I have been able to identify moving forces behind most of the important developments in this narrative. But since 1965 less clear motivations have come into play--or perhaps the observer is simply too close to the action. It is hard to understand why Commissioner Larrick was eased out by HEW Secretary Gardner just at what seemed to be his moment of triumph. And it is puzzling that his successor was by no stretch what most observers expected, a nominee of the powerful drug industry. The new FDA Commissioner, Dr. James L. Goddard, was a medically oriented career physician from the U.S. Public Health Service, holding the rank of Assistant Surgeon General when he was appointed to Larrick's post.
Under Dr. Goddard it began to appear that the crime-busting aspects of the 1965 Drug Amendments might be played down after all. FDAs newly established Bureau of Drug Abuse Control continued to recruit and train agents to bring its field staff up to the 200 figure authorized by Congress, but it began putting them through courses in the cultural and social aspects of drug abuse, teaching them the pharmacology of drugs, and stressing restraint in the use of their authority. Goddard said of them:
A separate Division of Drug Studies and Statistics was created in the new FDA Bureau to coordinate with Goddard's former associates in the Center for Studies of Narcotic and Drug Abuse, which he had helped establish at the National Institute of Mental Health, in wide-ranging research on drug abuse problems.
Instead of regaling congressional committees with stories about the fast-draw exploits of his agents, Goddard was cautious:
Goddard proposed calm analysis at the outset. He stressed public education about drug abuse as probably his first-priority approach; he put persuasion directed at obtaining full cooperation from the drug industry and the affected professions in second place; and he ranked criminal law enforcement third.
When he struck out at rebels like Timothy Leary and Lisa Bieberman, who had appeared on the scene in the early sixties to extol the virtues of drug abuse as a positive form of self-expression, his attacks were notably different from the lumbering crudities which had so long characterized pronouncements by police spokesmen from the Anslinger camp:
With respect to the headline potentials of LSD, however, Congress did not leave Goddard alone very long. Dr. Leary's insistence that hallucinogenic drugs were less harmful than alcohol and tobacco had embroiled him first with Harvard University, which fired him from his teaching post, then with zealous local police officers who took to harassing his research headquarters in New York by midnight raids and rowdy searches, and finally with a federal judge in Laredo, Texas, who sentenced him to thirty years on a set-up charge of possessing marijuana. And as might have been expected, these events quickly drew the federal lawmakers back into the act.
Although LSD bad been among the first drugs brought under control by the FDA early in 1966, and although possession of it for all purposes except personal use was already a crime, Commissioner Goddard and his associates soon found themselves before a special Senate Subcommittee to give testimony on the unique dangers of the drug and what Congress ought to do about increasing penalties and imposing more effective controls.
And here we encounter once more an old friend. Although the chairman of the Subcommittee (Subcommittee on Executive Reorganization of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, and jurisdictionally a little remote from drug abuse) was Senator Ribicoff, and although its senior Republican member was Senator Javits, both these elder statesmen merely sat by (in a manner most uncharacteristic of elder senators) and deferred to Javits' junior. The presiding senator throughout the proceedings was Robert F. Kennedy.
The Ribicoff Subcommittee had announced in April 1966 that it was going to make a study of how the federal government was providing services for handicapped persons, but a month later Senator Kennedy announced an abrupt change:
Ribicoff's opening, following Kennedy's, was a little less wordy and a little more blunt:
When Commissioner Goddard appeared to testify, he was accompanied by Dr. Stanley F. Yolles, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, and a team of lesser stars, including Dr. Frances Kelsey. Whenever the witnesses seemed to be too conservative, or made qualified statements, the senators pressed them for newsworthy material. For example, when Dr. Yolles described impending breakthroughs in the development of new drugs to treat mental illnesses and estimated that there might be a hundredfold increase in the number and types of such drugs over the next few years, he was interrupted:
When Dr. Yolles described a 1960 study involving 25,000 administrations of LSD to 5,000 subjects, wherein adverse reactions were experienced by only .4 per cent-or twenty persons-the following transpired:
And Dr. Goddards reluctance to provide sensational anecdotes was soon overruled:
Goddard and his team went on to become the most popular performers of the 1966 congressional season. After the Kennedy hearing, they were called before the juvenile Delinquency Subcommittee of the Senate judiciary Committee to tell their story again:
Then the Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Relations of the House Government Operations Committee put them through their paces. And Goddard personally remained in demand every time there was a plausible excuse for taking another look-with accompanying press releases and television coverage-at the hallucinogens and LSD.
Whether cause or effect, the popular media kept doing their fair share to stir up excitement. It availed Goddard little to point out again and again that everyone was short on facts. Sunday supplement stories ran off the scale chronicling exotic horrors associated with LSD. Agents of Goddard's new Bureau of Drug Abuse Control (who made ninety-four arrests in connection with hallucinogens in the first year of their operation) were dubbed "Be-daks" and glamorized Shamelessly in popular accounts:
As was to be expected, state legislators also came crowding into the limelight. Led by New York and California, more than thirty states enacted dangerous-drug laws, frequently with penalties more severe than the federal model, including prison terms for all unauthorized possession.
The White House at first kept pace merely by press statements and Executive Orders calling on federal agencies to coordinate their efforts in the face of this new menace. But when the 90th Congress reconvened in 1968, a presidential election year, President Johnson jumped in all the way:
The bill introduced by the administration, with a scramble of co-sponsors, identified LSD by name in the same category as regulated stimulant and depressant drugs; made possession of any drug in this category a misdemeanor (one year and $5,000 fine); increased the penalty for all sales transactions to five years and $10,000; and provided that any sale by a person over eighteen to a minor should be punished as a special offense (ten years and $15,000 on the first conviction, and fifteen years and $20,000 thereafter).
As a sop to medical and scientific spokesmen who had urged more emphasis on educational programs, the administration bill contained a ringing exhortation (devoid of any new statutory authority or all-important appropriated funds):
But now for a second time events unfolding in this era are affected by a personal and national tragedy: on June 5, 1968; Senator Robert Kennedy was shot down in Los Angeles, and he died the next day. Initiative with respect to the new penalty bill thereupon shifted to the House, where it was favorably reported on June 12, 1968, and passed in July. The Senate acted in October, and President Johnson signed on October 24, 1968.
But while this scramble to toughen the laws was taking place, another major development was impending, and with reference to it also I confess puzzlement about moving forces. It is simply not clear why anyone would have wanted to shake up the entire federal drug-enforcement structure so soon after the creation of the new Bureau of Drug Abuse Control in the Food and Drug Administration, and when, thanks to men like Dr. Goddard, there appeared to be developing, for the first time, an extensive and fruitful interplay among medical and scientific officials, enforcement agents, and the Lawmakers. But nonetheless the federal structure was radically altered early in 1968, simultaneously with the LSD hearing and the move for stiffer penalties. And what happened-transferring virtually all authority over drug repression and drug-law enforcement to the Department of Justice-already seems not only to have been precipitous and unwarranted, but a large step in precisely the wrong direction.
The Department of justice, headed by the Attorney General, is the federal arm most narrowly charged with firing-line police work and the prosecution and conviction of persons who commit crimes against the federal sovereign. The FBI is a bureau within this department. So is the federal Bureau of Prisons. The U.S. attorneys who prosecute federal cases throughout the country are answerable to it, as are enforcers of the antitrust laws, policers of the Internal Revenue Code, and other hard-fisted guardians of public order. Scientific resources at justice have been limited to the remarkable FBI crime laboratories and a few experts qualified to identify substances like alcohol when a bootlegger or moonshiner is brought to book.
Yet presently everything pertaining to nonmedical drug use and abuse is centered in this Department in a fledgling Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs directed by a former North Carolina police chief, John E. Ingersoll, who has developed a thousand-plus force of agents patterned after the FBI. Ingersoll, like Hoover, answers only to the Attorney General. Former Commissioner Giordano and his entire Bureau of Narcotics were moved over from Treasury; the short-lived Bureau of Drug Abuse Control in the Food and Drug Administration, and its director, John Finlator, were moved in from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Giordano and Finlator became Associate Directors under Ingersoll in the new Justice Department setup, although pharmacist Giordano soon went on to greener fields and Finlator has since departed.
Since FDA retained its responsibilities with respect to many other drugs and chemicals in medicinal categories, most FDA inspectors stayed there, whereas Giordano brought his whole agency with him, so the new Bureau was loaded with men who got their training under Anslinger-though curiously, sadly, and as a final commentary on the quality of the old Bureau, nearly a hundred veteran narcotic agents resigned precipitously or were exposed in various kinds of flagrant corruption when the new Justice regime took over, and some forty have been indicted for bribery, perjury, or illegal dealings in the drugs they were supposed to be repressing.
It has already been noted that the suggestion to place responsibility for actual drug-law enforcement in the Justice Department rather than in treasury traces back at least to 1949 and the Hoover Commission. Such a transfer was urged again in 1956, when the small band of Anslinger critics who were resisting the Daniel Committee proposed it in a last-ditch attempt to head off the extreme enforcement provisions which became law that year. A similar proposal, suggesting also the transfer of other law-enforcement functions of the Food and Drug Administration, made its appearance in the Final Report of the President's Advisory Commission on Narcotic and Drug Abuse in 1963, somewhat surprisingly since it had not been so much as mentioned in the preceding White House Conference or in the work of the 1962 Ad Hoc Committee.
There has always been an element of logic in these proposals, especially when they were addressed to the police functions of the Treasury unit, for the work of Anslinger's Bureau, through all the years it dominated the scene, had very little to do with drug control (as opposed to prohibition) and less with bona fide tax collection. The case made by the Advisory Commission in 1963 was a good one:
But as already suggested, the real force behind this logical argument when it was made in 1963 was probably that it would bring a large additional area under the control of then Attorney General Kennedy, thus further enhancing his public image as a crime fighter.
Kennedy's successors, brought in when President Johnson took the reins, appeared to have no such concern about their images or those of their Department. On the contrary, both Attorney General Katzenbach and Attorney General Clark played significant roles in developing the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act which, in directional least, somewhat offset the naked enforcement role; and both encouraged the emergence of the new Food and Drug Bureau, which promised better medical and scientific orientation because of its association with the medical forces of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
In July 1965, when President Johnson created his blue-ribbon Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of justice to make a sweeping new study of the nation's crime problem "and the depth of ignorance about it," the Commission, in turn set up a Task Force on Narcotic and Drug Abuse which assembled a formidable array of consultants and advisors. In February 1967 the Commission released its final report with separate volumes containing the annotations and working papers of its Task Forces, and it is noteworthy that as of the latter date the idea of wiping out the Narcotics Bureau, or turning any aspects of drug enforcement over to the Justice Departme4, had apparently been abandoned.
Yet in January 1968 the President made a complete about face. Goddard had incurred the enmity of powerful forces in Congress by dragging his feet on LSD, marijuana, and the drug menace in general. But his Bureau had scarcely gotten organized, and had certainly not been given a fair chance to demonstrate what it could do. On the Treasury side, Giordano's program as successor to Anslinger had been notably like that of his predecessor. There appeared to be no good reason for rocking the boat.
But perhaps the obvious answer is the true one: it was an election year, and the issue might simply have been too attractive to be let alone. Perhaps (as happens more often than one might wish in Washington) the moving parties were merely under a compulsion to do something, instead of nothing. Be that as it may, on February 7, 1968, the President sent a message to Congress stating in part as follows:
Under the President's power to reorganize executive departments this proposal required no legislation. Instead, the Reorganization Plan had merely to be submitted to Congress and allowed to he for a period of sixty days, after which it took effect automatically unless the lawmakers expressly intervened in the interim.
Needless to say, this plan was not ignored when it reached Congress. Several representatives introduced a disapproving resolution, and a new committee, with virtually an all-new cast of participants, commenced hearings in March 1968: "We are all aware that serious social and criminal problems have developed from the use and abuse of narcotics and dangerous drugs, particularly among our young people. We all are searching for proper answers to these vexing problems."
Much of the testimony evoked from spokesmen for the affected agencies is doubletalk, for they dared not oppose the proposal openly, coming as it did from the head of their executive branch, though it meant the total liquidation of some of their prime dominions. But they put their best feet forward. Food and Drug sent an Assistant Secretary of HEW who told how in its brief two-year life the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control had carried out 2,000 criminal investigations resulting in 1,300 arrests, had seized forty-five clandestine laboratories, had completed 300 criminal prosecutions, and had seized various drugs capable of providing an estimated 600 million dosage units; then he (Assistant Secretary Lee) made his mild pitch:
Before this witness was through, Dr. Goddard was dragged in again:
After the congressmen finished with him, Dr. Lee was taken to task by minority counsel for the Committee, who badgered him into a revelation of some infighting:
Even the 1963 Advisory Commission had had no thought of transferring all functions pertaining to federal control of drug abuse to the Attorney General. It recommended only that enforcement of the purely criminal laws should be entrusted to the FBI, and that regulatory functions vested in Treasury governing manufacture, distribution, record keeping, etc.-be transferred to the Food and Drug Administration, along with the scientific responsibilities of the Secretary of the Treasury in classifying and exempting new preparations. This would have been a substantial wrench nonetheless, to the extent that it put the FBI directly into the business of enforcing tax laws.
But the 1968 Executive Order went further, calling for the transfer of everything-scientific analysis, education about drugs and drug abuse, classification of new substances, and even the international aspects based on treaty obligations-lock, stock, and barrel into an entirely new enforcement arm under the exclusive control of whoever happened to occupy the post of Attorney General. Administration spokesmen finally made this clear:
The only thing that was split, and which remained in part under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration, was the regulation of counterfeit drugs other than drugs in the controlled categories. The Executive Order made no change in the provisions of the counterfeit drug sanctions, but specified that counterfeiting would be policed jointly by the two agencies, FDA and Justice, depending on what category the counterfeited article might fall into.
President Johnson withdrew as a candidate for renomination on March 31, 1968, at the climax of the Reorganization Plan fight. The resolution disapproving it was defeated in the House only two days later, on April 2, by a margin of ten votes. But nonetheless the President moved fast. On April 8 the FDA and Treasury Bureaus were disbanded, and the new Justice Department Bureau was established, with an announcement that recruiting would commence at once to build up a new force of agents. Early in May a separate section was established in the Criminal Division of the Department to centralize prosecution functions arising out of the new Bureau's enforcement efforts, and early in July Ingersoll was named director.
When President Nixon brought in Attorney General Mitchell to replace Ramsey Clark, the new Bureau of Narcotics and Drug Abuse was still being organized. Though weighted with Anslinger-trained enforcement agents, the Bureau also contained a sprinkling of FDA men with solid scientific orientation. But Mitchell made it clear at once that he intended to run the Department as , in his own words, "an institution for law enforcement, not social improvement." His speeches and press releases puffed the menace of addiction, and especially addiction to so-called hard narcotics, in the ranks of adolescents and schoolchildren.
In the summer of 1969 lines were recast so as to emphasize the Department's involvement with marijuana, the federal authorities announced they were concentrating on drug importers, and the highly publicized weekend raid on the Mexican border dubbed 'Operation Intercept' was carried out (with few direct results except a temporary inflation of the black-market price of pot, plus a shortage which was claimed by some knowledgeable observers to have actually facilitated the sale of more heroin and other "hard" narcotics in the vacuum created by this brief interruption of a main marijuana supply channel).
So now it has come to pass that after fifty years of tolerating an illogical and unreasonable situation by virtue of the overemphasis on drug-law enforcement in the Treasury Department, America is proceeding under a new arrangement which threatens to be worse. justice gets exaggerated authority, funds, and headlines by promoting its dramatic attacks on the traffic. The National Institute of Mental Health carries on research projects in a relationship openly subordinated to the purposes of the Attorney General. And preventive education in the drug field has fallen under the uncoordinated control of the Department of HEW, whose competence and dedication in the field are by no means well established and whose first head in the Nixon cabinet, Secretary Finch, became embroiled in a feud with Mitchell that will leave bitter traces and impair cooperation for a long time.
In sum, after all these years during which the drug problem has been distorted and aggravated by a small bureaucratic tyranny entrenched at Treasury, in the current phase the whole story may well be repeated from the beginning by a new Bureau, equally inappropriately located in and dominated by the Department of Justice.