Crime Of The Century

In June 1971, President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs. The “war” increased the size, as well as the presence of federal drug control agencies. Nixon was also responsible for mandatory sentencing for drug offenses, and no-knock warrants. One of President Nixon’s top aides later said that the planning for the war on drugs began during the 1968 campaign when Nixon believed he had two “enemies,” the anti-establishment left and black people. The President couldn’t single out these two elements of society, but he could associate hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and let the media demonize these two groups. The President even made marijuana a Schedule One drug, the most restrictive class of drugs, which includes heroin. Marijuana was supposed to be reviewed by a special commission, which recommended decriminalization of it in 1972. The President refused to budge. Between 1973 and 1977, eleven states decriminalized it, and in October 1977, a Senate Judiciary Committee voted to decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use. However, parents became concerned about marijuana use, and with Ronald Reagan’s election as President, the drug war opened up full throttle.

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This episode was researched and written by Suzy St. John.

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