A History Of Cannabis Prohibition by Thomas E Young- Part 3
If you missed Part 1 and want to catch up first it’s here
If you missed Part 2 this is also available here
Jimmy Carter calls for Decriminalization but ends up poisoning crops
President Ford would find himself far too busy with discovering himself suddenly in office, that at the most, he would become basically a foot note in the war on drugs. He would simply have continued on with the policies that had just been put into place by Nixon. Unable to waste any effort on contributing to them substantially.
President Jimmy Carter; here will be a mostly sad and conflicted effort for something different. There was just too much going on with the Carter Presidency that by now most Americans would have actually forgotten his stand on cannabis. The most notable event happening during the Carter Presidency of course, the Iran hostage crisis that started around 1979 towards the end of his time in office. By that time most Americans no longer where thinking of how the newly elected President Carter had been calling in 1977 for a “nationwide decriminalization of cannabis”. It was August of 1977 and President Carter was giving a message regarding drug abuse to Congress. He touched upon many aspects from the nations problems with the use of heroin to cocaine and the many different aspects that were available and should be available to fight these problems. But when it came to cannabis, which was outlined separately within his speech as marijuana for several paragraphs, his views were markedly different. Although he was not whole heartedly endorsing the use of cannabis he was able to recognize that even though only active for a few years, the Federal laws regarding cannabis were more destructive to a person than cannabis itself and not very helpful in preventing cannabis use. A most notable line from that speech is, “Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself; and where they are, they should be changed.”. This would sadly be lost as an ideal for many years. It has only been recently brought back to the forefront. It easily shows the connection of overcharging and punishing people of color within the war on drugs, most specifically cannabis. President Carter also felt that “Therefore, I support legislation amending Federal law to eliminate all Federal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.”. Again he was quick to point out that this “decriminalization is not legalization.”. He wanted to have people avoid the connection of a Federal criminal penalty for cannabis use. He still did feel that ” chronic intoxication with marijuana or any other drug may deplete productivity”, so he was definitely not in favor it seemed. Although it should be mentioned that in 2011 Jimmy Carter had come out in favor of ending the war on drugs as having seen it as an incredible failure. Yet that tolerant note of that drug speech would never be imagined. That would all change during the last years of his presidency when he would have “bowed to prohibitionist pressure and authorized.. Paraquat- to be sprayed on Mexican marijuana fields.”. This was horrible in its own right. The purposeful poisoning of this crop that undoubtedly would make it to the American consumer. Yet as incredibly insidious an act as this was it would pale in comparison with what the next President and that First Lady would bring to the war on drugs.
The 1980’s would bring the war on cannabis to all new levels. Of course just as politicians had done before, President Regan would couch his obvious hatred of cannabis with the professed term of the ‘War on Drugs’. Thus trying to show everyone that he was in a battle against all drugs, of course not just cannabis. But just consider a famous quote spoken approximately in 1980 from a stumping speech he gave in which he said the “marijuana, … , is … the most dangerous drug in the United States.”. This truly only sets the tone for what President Reagan, his administration, as well as the First Lady herself would now bring with them in their battle against cannabis. Although it had been a stage that was set by Nixon, President Regan would put an extremely tyrannical and militant spin on his version of the War on Drugs. There would be the new implementation of asset forfeiture laws, zero tolerance(which was regarding not only what would be allowed for evidence to support a crime but in so far as how society itself should view any drug use), and a more militant and aggressive policing force all in the name of eradicating the devils weed. Reagan would go so far a to say, “We’re taking down the surrender flag that has flown over so many drug efforts; we’re running up a battle flag.” There would be the extreme push for drug testing in ALL work places every where with the heavy emphasis on testing for marijuana (something that remains in place to this day). The racial disparity for arrests for all drugs with the emphasis being still more slanted towards marijuana arrests would only continue and grow under Reagan’s administration. Just listening to him a person would swear they hearing the sound track to one the of the anti marijuana propaganda films from the 1930’s. The problem being that this was for real and not at all funny. Reagan was not alone in his endeavors though, he would be joined by a large group of cohorts that would be very prepared to put in their efforts for this ‘war’. The First Lady would be right by his side from the beginning. Nancy Reagan would even go to the point of starting her own separate effort by officially creating her “Just Say No” campaign in 1986. All the while the Vice President, George H. W. Bush, would be busy doing his part in the fight in the war on drugs backed as he had been for many years by pharmaceutical giants such as Lilly, Pfizer, and Abbott to name just a few. There were still many more people in the Reagan administration which would be doing there part against marijuana during the years of his two terms. But soon the end of his presidency would be drawing to a close and he would be finding himself as well as many in the administration in the predicament of trying to find plausible deniability for the Iran Contra scandal and many other problems. Soon his two terms would become just another painful memory within the ‘War on Drugs’. George H.W. Bush would be there to pick up that battle flag and carry it forward.