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Richard Nixon's Vengeful War on Marijuana

President Nixon saw it as a way to hit back against pot-smoking Vietnam protesters, and presidents since have feared being smeared as "soft on drugs."

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Allegations in foreign publications that BZ was deployed against North Vietnam troops have never been confirmed, and all files on the subject remain top secret. However, it is known that the government considered using it for the control of domestic riots.

- To facilitate its alliance with the intelligence agencies of Thailand and Nationalist China, the CIA supported the transportation and refining of opium into heroin in Southeast Asia, including the opening of a cluster of heroin laboratories in the Golden Triangle in 1968-1969.

The CIA remained silent as its allies, including officers of the Hmong irregular army, routinely supplied heroin to American troops in Vietnam, resulting in the addiction rates as high as 34 percent. In a secret report in - 1972, the CIA Inspector General said: "The past involvement of many of these officers in drugs is well-known."

Overall, drug use became endemic among U.S. troops serving in Vietnam with more than 80 percent getting stoned on marijuana and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).

- During classified testimony before a House committee in 1999, CIA Inspector General Britt Snider admitted that the CIA allowed its Nicaraguan Contra allies to smuggle huge quantities of cocaine into the United States during the 1980's, some of which was refined into "crack" for sale by street gangs.

The House report found that "CIA employees did nothing to verify or disprove drug trafficking information, even when they had the opportunity to do so. In some of these, receipt of a drug allegation appeared to provoke no specific response, and business went on as usual."

Who Benefited?

The only victors in the war on drugs have been the criminals who have profited from illegal sales. There is an estimated $15 billion in illegal cannabis transactions each year just in California. These transactions are not taxed or regulated, and they serve as a massive subsidy to organized crime.

The cultivation of marijuana in Mexico soared 35 percent last year to production levels greater than any time in the last 20 years. According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, in 2006 more than 60 percent of the revenue generated by Mexican drug cartels came from cannabis sales in the U.S.

Nixon's war has been expensive; it also has been a failure; and it has caused great damage to the fabric of America society. The harm has been particularly felt by its young people who suffer up to 80 percent of the marijuana arrests and who are disproportionately African-American and Latino.

However, there are finally signs of change, the kind of humane and reasoned approach to marijuana use that Gov. Shafer envisioned in his report nearly four decades ago.

The penalty upon conviction for possession and use of less than an ounce of marijuana in California is now restricted to a maximum of a $100 fine. If California voters approve Proposition 19 on their November ballot, such possession by a person over the age of 21 will no longer be a crime under California law.

Just as California and New York ended criminal sanctions against the possession and sale of alcohol before prohibition was repealed, California voters again have the chance to remedy the evils caused by almost 40 years of a war without foundation or cause.

The initiative is entitled, "Changes California Law to Legalize Marijuana and Allow It to Be Regulated and Taxed." It includes the following provisions:

- Allows people 21 years or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use.

- Permits local governments to regulate and tax commercial production and sale of marijuana to people 21 years or older.

- Prohibits people from possessing marijuana on school grounds, using it in public, smoking it while minors are present, or providing it to anyone under 21 years old, and

 
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