Efforts at drug control were not, however, limited to the Federal establishment. A municipal ordinance was passed in San Francisco in 1875 which prohibited the smoking of opium in opium dens (BJS, 1992, p. 78). In the 1890s several states enacted legislation aimed at limiting the supply of morphine and cocaine within their jurisdictions. Such laws generally required a physician's prescription prior to obtaining these drugs, thus limiting their legal use to medical purposes. Since morphine and cocaine could freely be obtained from states without such laws, the laws were not generally effective in controlling the distribution of morphine and cocaine (BJS, 1992, p. 76).
One of the most influential legislative acts ever passed concerning drugs occurred in 1914 when the Congress approved the Harrison Act (after its main sponsor, Representative Francis Burton Harrison of New York). This act (with a multitude of regulations, court decisions, Supreme Court decisions and amendments) was to become the standard and the basis of narcotic regulation in the United States for the next 50 years. It was based upon the constitutional authority of the Federal Government 'to raise revenue and to tax and regulate the distribution and sale of narcotics' (BJS, 1992, p. 76). The Harrison Act ultimately served to make illegal the nonmedical use of morphine and cocaine. It 'required all people who imported, manufactured, produced, compounded, sold, dispensed, or otherwise distributed cocaine and opiate drugs to register with the Treasury Department, pay special taxes, and keep records of all transactions' (Inciardi, 1992, p. 15). Although technically defined as a revenue act and enacted (perhaps) for the purpose of providing some Federal control over drugs, the Harrison Act served to criminalize the estimated 200,000 users of narcotics in the United States. Many so-called honest citizens suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of the law and labeled addicts. Decisions by the Supreme Court supported the legality of the taxing aspects of the Harrison Act and, importantly banned maintenance supplies for addicts. This latter decision essentially deprived the medical profession of the privilege of writing a narcotic prescription for an addict patient for the purpose of maintenance. A later court decision held that a narcotic prescription for an addict was illegal even when the intent was part of a 'cure' program. This was reversed in 1925 but, by that time, physicians were loathe to prescribe narcotics to addicts and an illegal drug distribution chain had become well-established (Inciardi, 1992, p. 16).
By 1920, an illicit drug economy had emerged in the United States that profited principally from cocaine and heroin distribution. In 1922 the Federal response was the Jones-Miller Act. This act provided fines of up to $5,000 and prison sentences for up to 10 years for any individual found guilty of being party to the unlawful importation of narcotics. In fact, the legislation had little influence upon the illicit drug marketplace except to increase the price of heroin and cocaine (Inciardi, 1992, p. 18).
Until 1920, when Alcohol Prohibition was legislated, there were sparse accounts of marijuana in the press and those that did exist showed marijuana to be smoked for recreational purposes. After prohibition was enacted, marijuana markets began to appear in a few cities, most notably New Orleans and New York (Brecher, 1986, p. 14). Harry Anslinger, Federal Narcotics Commissioner, began a war against marijuana in 1933. He used the popular press to prey upon the fears of the American public, including racial fear and division. He believed that marijuana was a 'killer weed.' He supplied information to magazines, periodicals, newspapers, and other media outlets alleging marijuana was responsible for cases of insane violence with only the flimsiest of evidence to support this allegation (Inciardi, 1992, p. 23). By 1937, in large part due to Anslinger's unrelenting campaign against marijuana, 46 of the (then) 48 states passed anti-marijuana legislation.
With Anslinger and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics vocally advocating for its passage, the Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act and it was signed into law on August 2, 1937 (Inciardi, 1992, p. 24). Modeled after the Harrison Act, it essentially placed marijuana into the same category as the cocaine and opium products. It became illegal to import marijuana into the United States (McWilliams, 1991). As predicted by the American Medical Association and others who fought the passage of the bill, it did not serve to curb marijuana use (Brecher, 1986, p. 14).
By the early 1940s narcotic addiction had all but disappeared in the United States. This was not the result of some miraculous medical breakthrough nor was it the result of legislative initiatives. It was the fact that World War II was serving to 'cut off the supplies of opium from Asia and interrupt the trafficking routes from Europe' (Inciardi, 1992, p. 24).
Several other legislative efforts in the supply reduction area are worthy of mention. The Opium Poppy Act of 1942 was enacted in an effort to regulate poppy production. As had the Harrison Act and Marijuana Tax Act, it used licensing and taxation as the basis of the regulation. The Narcotics Act of March 8, 1946, sought to regulate synthetic equivalents of opium and cocaine. Two legislative pieces, the Boggs Bill of 1951 and the Narcotic Drug Act of 1956 served to establish more severe penalties for violations of drug laws. The year 1960 saw passage of the Manufacturing Act. Its purpose was to tighten controls and restrictions over legally manufactured narcotic drugs. By virtue of the Manufacturing Act a system of licensing manufacturers and setting quotas for classes of drugs, both natural and synthetic, was set in place. The United States became one of fifty-four nations who became party to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961. (This assumed the status of a U.S. Treaty obligation in 1967.) The primary purpose of the Single Convention was to modernize and coordinate international narcotic control. Provisions were made within the Single Convention for the control of cannabis thus, in some of its features, the Convention singled out cannabis in much the same fashion it singled out opium and coca bushes (the source of cocaine). The Drug Abuse Control Amendments of 1965 revisited the Manufacturing Act of 1960 and tightened controls and increased penalties as found under that act. It was aimed specifically at barbiturates, amphetamines and hallucinogens (U.S. News and World Report, 1970, pp. 85-89).
In October, 1970, President Richard M. Nixon signed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Prevention and Control Act of 1970 into law. This popularly became known as the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. 'It consolidates over fifty federal narcotic, marijuana and dangerous drug laws into one law designed to control the legitimate drug industry and to curtail importation and distribution of illicit drugs throughout the United States' (U.S. News and World Report, 1970, p. 90). Notably, the act compressed the Harrison Act and its five decades of amendments, modifications and interpretations into one law. The act, importantly, also showed a basic 'change in judicial interpretation of the Constitution's commerce clause,' as it relied upon commerce powers for its support thus doing away with having to show 'police function as a revenue measure' (BJS, 1992, p. 86). One aspect of the Controlled Substances Act defines a schedule for drugs. Schedule I lists those substances which have no accepted medical utility but have substantial potential for abuse. Found on this schedule are heroin, marijuana, and various other hallucinogens. Schedule II lists substances having a high abuse liability but also having some accepted medical purpose. Found on Schedule II are morphine and cocaine. It is worth noting that, under the scheduling provisions of the act, marijuana is seen as needing to be grouped with heroin while cocaine with its significant abuse liability and very limited medical use still falls into Schedule II. The Act did, with respect to criminal penalty, select out 'marijuana from other drugs and lowered the maximum penalty for possession of an ounce of marijuana to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine, with the option of probation or a conditional discharge at the judge's discretion' (Slaughter, 1988, p. 421).
In the 1970s two more laws passed the Congress that were to be used (at least in part) to stem the tide of drug abuse. One was the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law (RICO) and the other was the Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE) statute. Both had as their aim the forfeiture of ill-gotten gain, the removal of the rights of drug traffickers to any personal assets or property - including real estate, cash, automobiles, and jewelry, -obtained by or used in a criminal enterprise or undertaking.
Under the Posse Comitatus Act of 1876, military involvement in law enforcement was banned. This act was amended in 1982 to permit state and local law enforcement to use the military for training, intelligence and investigation of law violations involving drugs. Military equipment (for example, planes) could be used by civilian agencies in enforcing drug laws.
The 1980s saw the passage of four major antidrug bills. All were primarily within the supply reduction arena. First was the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 which broadened criminal and civil asset forfeiture laws and increased Federal criminal sanctions for drug offenses. The next bill passed was the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act. While providing money for prevention and treatment, it also 'restored mandatory prison sentences for large-scale distribution of marijuana, imposed new sanctions on money laundering,' and other demand reduction components (BJS, 1992, p. 86). A third piece of legislation was the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Amendment Act which primarily increased the sanctions for crimes related to drug trafficking and set in place new Federal offenses. It should be noted that these three legislative pieces were dramatic with respect to an enforcement model and marijuana. They 'raised federal penalties for marijuana possession, cultivation, and trafficking. Sentences were to be determined by the quantity of the drug involved; 'conspiracies' and 'attempts' were to be punished as severely as completed acts; and possession of a hundred marijuana plants (would) now carry the same sentence as possession of a hundred grams of heroin' (Schlosser, 1994, p. 52). The fourth bill, the Crime Control Act of 1990 was almost totally aimed at supply reduction and law enforcement, doubling the appropriations for drug law enforcement grants to states and localities, and strengthening forfeiture and seizure statutes (BJS, 1992, p. 86).
In the preceding discussion of supply reduction policy as reflected by the legal system, no attempt has been made to be all inclusive. A major centerpiece of legislation not directly related to drugs but certainly of interest was the era of Prohibition in the United States (Under the Volsted Act of 1920, alcohol was prohibited in the United States and temperance was the official policy of the nation. Repeal did not occur until 1933). Certainly the lesson to be learned from a purely supply related vantage point could be applied to any anti-drug effort, that a drug cannot unilaterally be legislated out of existence, but the decade of alcohol prohibition is beyond the scope of this effort. Suffice it to say that, from an historical perspective, one anti-drug effort followed another, many claiming success with only a modicum of evidence for support. In outlining the main entrants over the past Century, we are struck by the fact that the legislation, in many cases, does not appear to learn from the past - that a supply reduction philosophy is not sufficient to stem the tide.
With respect to social policy and marijuana, it does not appear that marijuana was considered a problem until the 1930s. Prior to that time, marijuana enjoyed an anonymity that minimized it being worthy of social policy or action. Even in the 1920s use of marijuana was limited to big city slums, minority groups (blacks in the South and Mexicans, many illegal aliens, in the Southwest, and jazz musicians); it had not as yet moved 'uptown,' but was beginning to be defined as a social problem. Largely due to the mood of the times (Prohibition, the Harrison Narcotic Act, the depression), and the war on marijuana as led by Harry Anslinger, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed in 1937 and became the first Federal piece of supply reduction legislation that was specific to marijuana. In 1961, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs mentions the control of cannabis as one of its primary objectives. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, as earlier stated also puts marijuana in the same schedule of illicit substances as heroin. The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 and the Anti-Drug Abuse Acts of 1986 and 1988 cited earlier also had major impact upon marijuana. The history of Federal policy towards marijuana as reflected by the legislative process is clear. Legislation has made precious little distinction between narcotics, cocaine and marijuana. For practical purposes, Federal law does not recognize any distinction between marijuana and other illicit substances. Having outlined the supply side of Federal policy, the discussion now necessarily shifts to the demand side and the degree to which Federal legislation has recognized prevention and treatment of substance abuse as worthwhile goals.
In 1962 the Supreme Court (Robinson v. California) ruled that addiction to narcotics, in and of itself, was an illness and not a criminal offense. This led to an increase in Federal treatment efforts (U.S. House of Representatives, 1978a, p. 9). The Community Mental Health Centers Act of 1963, passed by the 90th Congress, was the first to provide Federal assistance to non-Federal entities for treatment. 'The 1968 amendments to this Act established specialized addict treatment grants' (BJS, 1992, p. 81). The significance of the Act was major in that it brought 'narcotic addiction' into the realm of mental illness thus enabling Federal support for local drug treatment efforts.
In 1966, the Congress passed the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act (NARA). The legislation called for addicts charged with federal crimes to be civilly committed rather than face prosecution and it allowed the court to mandate a treatment program in lieu of prison. It also permitted the establishment of a treatment program for addicts not charged with crimes (though this received criticism as a form of preventive deterrence (detention)) (U.S. News and World Report, 1970, p. 88). In all cases, before civil commitment could occur, the addict had to be judged by the court as likely to be rehabilitated.
Federal efforts in demand reduction activities probably did not begin as a major or focal activity until the passage of Public Law 92-255, the Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act of 1972. This law mandated the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention (SAODAP) whose task was to provide 'overall planning and policy and establish objectives for all Federal demand reduction programs' ( U.S. House of Representatives, 1978a, p. 2). The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) was created and was to be the center piece for a major Federal effort in demand reduction. In spite of this serious effort at centralization, Federal efforts within the demand reduction arena remained highly fragmented prompting the second report of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse to note that drug abuse 'prevention' was 'promoted by all levels of Government, but rarely planned by any of them' (U.S. House of Representatives, 1978a, p. 2). Federal legislation in the demand reduction area from that time until the present has taken on the task of trying to centralize and provide leadership to drug abuse demand reduction activities. Legislation established the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA) in 1974, and other legislation established various strategy councils, several successors to SAODAP, and most recently the successor to ADAMHA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). With the creation of SAMHSA in 1992, drug abuse demand reduction services were transferred to SAMHSA and research activities remained with NIDA. NIDA along with the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse and the National Institute of Mental Health became Institutes of the National Institutes of Health. It is probably safe to say that, to date, little positive centralization of demand reduction action has occurred within the Federal Bureaucracy.
With respect to demand reduction activities specifically geared to marijuana, probably the closest effort came in the creation of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse in 1970 by Congress (under President Nixon) for a two year term. The Commission's role was to examine the nature and extent of drug abuse demand reduction activities and issue annual reports on findings, conclusions, and suggest needed future activities. Both anti and pro marijuana reform groups testified before the Commission. In its 1972 report, Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding, the Commission recommended that decriminalization of marijuana be considered. The Nixon Administration rejected this proposal out of hand. While marijuana was certainly implied and included in many demand reduction activities of the Federal effort, it has never been explicitly legislated.
The history of narcotic and cannabis legislation is not necessarily, however, the same as the social or public policy it purports to reflect. The actual policy may be more restrictive or less restrictive than the enacted legislation and it may be instructive to look at actual Federal policy for the past several presidencies. It is probably fair to say that during the Nixon and Ford years, public policy towards all drugs including marijuana was highly restrictive. While there was certainly acknowledgement of demand reduction, the major emphasis was clearly on supply reduction and enforcement.
With the Carter years (1977-1980) came a very clear distinction between narcotics and marijuana. Testifying before the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control in July 1978 two high ranking Carter officials made several statements of note: (1) It was admitted the Federal Government did not have a specific treatment program for marijuana and in fact, the Administrator of the Federal Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Agency said, 'There is no treatment required for the use of marijuana as such' (U.S. House of Representatives, 1978, p. 9); (2) The Associate Director of the Domestic Policy Staff, the White House while stating the Administration's position to discourage marijuana use went on to say, '...we have talked about the propriety of decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, under Federal statute only. This would, in effect, merely codify what is already occurring, since Federal law enforcement efforts should not be directed at people who possess small amounts of any drug, particularly marijuana' (U.S. House of Representatives, 1978b, p. 8); (3) The Federal position under the Carter Administration was that this move towards decriminalization was a state-by-state choice and should not be mandated by the Federal establishment. This tolerance was not a totally new point of view as the period 1973-1978 saw eleven states decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use (one state, Alaska, has since recriminalized its statutes).
The Reagan-Bush years (1981-1992) in the presidency heralded an increasing emphasis on law enforcement, seizures and interdictions. While, at least in theory, high level policy groups at the White House level were coordinating supply reduction and demand reduction strategies, the emphasis of the strategies were markedly supply oriented. Some major happenings and events during these years were: (1) Between 1978 and 1992 some 35 states endorsed the medicinal use of marijuana, a position supported by the American Medical Association. In 1988, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) won a 16-year law suit to force the Federal Government to make marijuana accessible as medicine. This, however, was rejected by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on the basis that other medications exist which can function as well or better than marijuana within the medical model and that insufficient controlled scientific data were available to support its being rescheduled. (2) The emphasis on slowing drug trafficking through seizures and interdictions had (say some experts) some unforeseen consequences. One was the switching by drug traffickers from marijuana to cocaine as it was more easily concealed and brought significantly higher prices. Another was the stimulation of American ingenuity to domestically grow a high quality of marijuana. During the 1970s, almost all marijuana (particularly of good grade) was trafficked into this country. Recall that it is estimated that currently about half of the marijuana consumed in the United States is locally grown and a portion of this is now being grown indoors under highly controlled conditions. (3) During the 1970s the military establishment (Title V of the Military Selective Service Act) emphasized identification and treatment of alcohol and drug dependent military personnel. The keynotes of this period were rehabilitation, treatment and prevention. In August 1980, a Department of Defense (DOD) directive turned the pendulum away from treatment and towards detection and enforcement. A urinalysis program was instituted in late 1981. The current military policy honed during the Reagan-Bush years is one of 'Zero Tolerance'. 'For the military, any use of drugs constitutes abuse and will result in instant discharge for all but the lowest level personnel' (BJS, 1992, p. 85).
Within the current (Clinton) Administration the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has 25 percent less staff than in the previous administration. Further, under President Clinton, 'drug abuse' on both the supply and demand sides has been rather low profile. Illicit drug use is not being given the prominence and visibility of the Reagan-Bush era. Also notable is that at the beginning of the Clinton Administration term the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control (House of Representatives) was not reconstituted by the Congress. While not able to introduce legislation (Select committees recommend but may not introduce legislation), the committee was valuable in providing Congressional oversight of both supply and demand Federal agencies. It must be noted, however, that provisions of mandatory sentencing, forfeiture, and seizure, as set forth in the Reagan-Bush years are still in place and actively enforced. Under Federal mandatory minimum drug sentences (for first offenders) having 100 marijuana plants or 100 kilos of marijuana (each plant is assumed to be worth a kilo of marijuana) yields 5 years without parole. Possession of 1000 plants or 1000 kilos yields 10 years without parole. The Court has no discretion in its sentencing of those charged under Federal statute and found guilty.
During the 1970s some 11 states instituted a policy of decriminalization for the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. It is instructive to note that research indicates there was no increase in marijuana use in those states decriminalizing marijuana and these states essentially maintained the same rate of use as in those states not instituting a decriminalization policy. It should also be pointed out that several states, Maine, Oregon and Ohio, who decriminalized marijuana in the 1970s tightened their marijuana restrictions in the 1980s and no states have further decriminalized marijuana since 1978. Further, Alaska, in 1990, voted to recriminalize marijuana possession.
In summarizing this section on the history of marijuana policy in the United States, some facts stand out above all others. First, the history has been one of legal sanctions and control; not treatment, prevention and education. The United States has made every effort to keep marijuana from being imported into its borders and the result has been domestic cultivation of new, even more potent strands of marijuana. Every conceivable law enforcement authority including the military has been called upon for assistance and yet marijuana use continues unabated.
The one period of so-called tolerance towards marijuana in this country was in the 1970s when some states began to consider and pass decriminalization statutes. When, however, the Congress failed to pass Federal decriminalization statutes in the same time frame, the thrust of the movement towards decriminalization was lost. The movement had not been focused or made clear enough to the people of the United States as a whole. As a result, the opportunity for concerted action was lost, the efforts of lobby groups such as NORML not withstanding. However, as Dr. Inciardi points out in The War on Drugs II, 'Perhaps most important of all, marijuana has always been viewed as a drug favored by youth' (Inciardi, 1992, p. 44). The implication being the people of this country are very much concerned about the effect(s) marijuana might have upon its young. Given the policies of the Reagan-Bush years and the current Clinton Administration, it is not likely that Federal statutes will be proposed which seek to decriminalize marijuana.
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