To understand how marijuana even became “evil,” one has to go back to the Nixon administration. Nixon created the DEA. And by executive order, not a federal law passed by congress, Nixon (most lawyers would say illegally, sidestepped the constitution and stripped congress of constitutional powers), Nixon empowered the DEA to schedule and to classify drugs (without any congressional hearings, as required for every other criminalizing law that is passed), including drugs not yet then illegal (shortly after being formed, DEA scheduled marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, and soon thereafter scheduled ecstasy, previously legal, a scheduled and thereby prohibited drug).
Nixon declared the war on drugs. (Side note…even further back than that….the US government declared opium illegal because it didn’t like the Chinese immigrants. Then it went for cocaine and heroin…. There’s a multi-part documentary the name of which escapes me that traces the history of the US and how and why it illegalizd drugs, one or more at a time. Each time, it was not the drug. It was the people associated with a particular drug and how the powers that be viewed them as enemies). I digress. Back to Nixon creating the DEA, and declaring a war on drugs.
Nixon hand selected the head and members of a commission to study marijuana and its effects; he just knew marijuana was evil. Raymond Shafer. Was his man!
The 1972 Shafer report came back. And, Nixon was not happy. Not happy at all with the report. And its findings that marijuana was not harmful and should be decriminalized. In fact, Nixon even had the report removed for a time from the library of congress.
Salient Findings of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse include:-
“No significant physical, biochemical, or mental abnormalities could be attributed solely to their marihuana smoking.” (National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, “Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding; First Report, Washington, DC, U.S. Govt. Print. Off, 1972, p. 61)
– “No valid stereotype of a marihuana user or non-user can be drawn.” (p. 36)- “Young people who choose to experiment with marihuana are fundamentally the same people, sociallyand psychologically, as those who use alcohol and tobacco.” (p. 42)
– “No verification is found of a causal relationship between marihuana use and subsequent heroin use.”(p. 88)
– “Most users, young and old, demonstrate an average or above-average degree of social functioning, academic achievement, and job performance.” (p. 96)
– “In sum, the weight of the evidence is that marihuana does not cause violent or aggressive behavior; if anything marihuana serves to inhibit the expression of such behavior.” (p. 73)
– “In short marihuana is not generally viewed by participants in the criminal justice community as a major contributing influence in the commission of delinquent or criminal acts.” (p. 75)
– “Neither the marihuana user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety.” (p. 78)
– “Recent research has not yet proven that marihuana use significantly impairs driving ability orperformance.” (p. 79)
– “No reliable evidence exists indicating that marihuana causes genetic defects in man.” (p. 84)
– “Marihuana’s relative potential for harm to the vast majority of individual users and its actual impact onsociety does not justify a social policy designed to seek out and firmly punish those who use it.” (p. 130)
Nixon ignored the recommendations of his hand picked commission. The report did not fit his paranoid narrative. And Nixon went on an all out war on drugs. Created the DEA. Ensured its funding. Used it to undermine governments in central and South America. All under the guise of war on evil drugs. And worse. Used it against his own paranoid conceived domestic enemies…United States citizens.
His right hand man, Ehrlichman. Backed him all the way. Yet, Erhlichman long has admitted it was all based on lies…
“At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
“I must have looked shocked. Ehrlichman just shrugged. Then he looked at his watch, handed me a signed copy of his steamy spy novel, The Company, and led me to the door.”
If you’re at all seriously interested, you have to read the Schafer report. You have to listen to or read the transcripts of the inner circle among Nixon and his people.
All of them. Are available online. Norml.org has all of it. This is a good starting point.
p.s. the featured image is a new work inspired by Richard Prince’s new work inspired by a photograph by Gago.