Posted March 14, 2013 by evergreen-culture in Advocacy

The True Origins of the DEA and the “War” on Drugs



any people think about the DEA today and kind of act like it has always been around, or at least been around since the prohibition of various drugs in the opening decades of the 20th century. But, in fact, the actual phrase “war on drugs” and the establishment of a militaristic, federal police agency to fight this war on U.S. soil can be accredited to Richard Nixon.  We wanted to post a quote that was made available after the Freedom of Information Act opened up countless, previously suppressed, documents and recordings that were under the control of the U.S. government. Here is Tricky Dicky’s view on marijuana, and the clearly scientific and socially conscious reasoning for him launching a war against it (understand that in the 70s, “drugs” typically meant marijuana, or at least 90% marijuana and 10% regarding actual hard drugs.

“You know, it’s a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews?…You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks…You see, homosexuality, dope [marijuana], immorality in general. These are the enemies of strong societies. That’s why the Communists and the left-wingers are pushing the stuff, they’re trying to destroy us.…Soft-headed psychiatrists favor marijuana because they’re probably all on the stuff themselves.” – Richard Nixon, The White House Tapes, 1971
Tricky Dick tricked you good.

Tricky Dick tricked you good.

Yes. This was the reasoning behind forming the DEA and waging a war that has now accounted for more than 15 million Americans being imprisoned, having their lives destroyed through a policy that was founded on nothing short of racism and despicable character. And if that isn’t inexcusable enough, it really gets strange when you consider that in 1970, Nixon himself commissioned a presidential council to look into drugs, with marijuana mentioned as the prime target. He reached out to Raymond P. Shafer, the former governor of Pennsylvania who had a very public profile as a “law and order” governor who Nixon felt would align with his opinions. We know what you’re thinking: “How do you know that Nixon came to pre-conceived conclusions and put the commission in place to make sure the results would yield the control and power they wanted?” Well, here are some other little tidbits from our pal Dick:

“ … you’re enough of a ‘pro’ to know that for you to come out with something that would run counter to what the Congress feels and what the country feels and what we’re planning to do, would make your Commission just look bad as hell…Keep your Commission in line!” – Nixon to Shafer during the commissions investigations – clearly trying to ensure results that would play to Nixon’s agenda (underlining mine)


You see? They already had a plan. Nixon and his cronies had already decided they were going to institute this “war” on drugs (marijuana) and he was simply looking for Shafer to perform some public show of thoroughness, with the understanding the report would validate Nixon’s plans (not through actual investigation and evidence but through politicking). To his credit, Shafer did no such thing. He actually underwent a serious and thoughtful (according to the understanding of the time) investigation into marijuana on both scientific and social fronts. When the council didn’t seem to be producing the predetermined view of marijuana that Nixon wanted this was his response:
“I want a Goddamn strong statement about marijuana. Can I get that out of this son-of-a-bitching, uh, Domestic Council? … I mean one on marijuana that just tears the ass out of them.” – Richard Nixon

It is interesting to us that this information has been available to the public, and made known all over the internet and by people within the marijuana legalization and advocacy culture. Even public officials and medical/science experts who are calling for the end of marijuana prohibition have used these, and many other juicy little nuggets, to demonstrate that our public view of marijuana began to be formed by racism and corporate greed in the 20′s and 30′s, and then solidified into our more modern view of the “war” on drugs (primarily marijuana, shown time and time again to be the least dangerous – even when including alcohol and tobacco in that list) through the policies of power-hungry politicians such as Nixon (also racist) who were using marijuana as a tool to garner the control and ability to manipulate policy according to their endgame. You don’t think so? Consider this. Everything that you likely know about marijuana was taught to you through government-funded programs such as D.A.R.E or the “Just Say No!” campaigns. And all of these programs use information that was used during prohibition and the Nixon era – minus the racists remarks of course because no one would have continued listening. But even with the ugly bigotry removed, the fact remains that when the Shafer Report came back, it highlighted that the official understanding around marijuana, its dangers and its impact to society, were fraught with mythology and false information. And this was in 1970! Do you know how much information is out there today that even shows the Shafer Report to be too extreme in its views, with countless studies showing that not only is it not the problem the government has sold to us, but it just may well be a very significant field of medical discover and advancement, far safer than countless substances, pharmaceuticals and chemicals the government puts their enthusiastic stamp of approval on.
Just for the sake of sharing information that people might not go look up on their own, we wanted to include a couple of statements that were made in the official report by the Shafer-led commission that was presented to President Nixon:

“Despite the fact that substantial numbers of adults use marihuana, society does not appear to feel greatly threatened by this group, probably because included in the group are a considerable number of middle class individuals who are regularly employed and whose occupational and social status appear to be similar to those of peers and colleagues who do not use marihuana.

In the course of its fact-finding effort, the Commission has met with several groups of socially and economically “successful” marihuana users in the professions of law, medicine, banking, education and business. In most cases, these persons, in their external appearances, seemed to be mature and responsible adults whose social attitudes and behavior did not mark them as radical ideologues or essentially irresponsible individuals.

For the most part, use of marihuana by adults has been found to be more directly related to the facilitation of social interaction (much like the adult use of alcohol in social gatherings) than to any other factor. Although their marihuana smoking behavior is illegal, most adult users are not ordinarily considered by their peers to be criminal nor is their use generally likely to result in arrest.

Because the adult user generally maintains low visibility, is primarily a recreational user, is not usually involved in radical political activity and maintains a life style largely indistinguishable from his non-using neighbors, he is not ordinarily viewed as a threat to the dominant social order. In short, aside from his use of marihuana, the adult recreational user is not generally viewed as a significant social problem.” – National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Use, Chapter III, Social Impact of Marihuana Use, The Adult Marihuana User
That is a huge statement when you consider the passing of I-502 in Washington State. Dealing with Marijuana like alcohol allows enforcement agencies to to do the work they should be doing – focusing on actual crimes that are actually having huge social ramifications.  We are completely behind enforcing legal marijuana laws to keep it out of the hands of people who fall outside of those laws, most significantly young people under 21 – as we are for alcohol and tobacco policies as well. As people seeking to legitimize cannabis on par with alcohol, this statement mirrors what we have learnt time and time again in study after study. The caricatures in movies and TV are not the majority of marijuana consumers. They are successful, responsible, contributing members of society who have found cannabis to be enjoyable in social situations, when unwinding from work and stress, and even in dealing with common ailments that you would normally run to the drug store for synthetic substances for. The bottom line is this, if you want to know what a common marijuana smoker looks like, check out the wine aisle at the store next time you are there.
When all was said and done, the commission’s final statement was the following:

“In this Chapter, we have carefully considered the spectrum of social and legal policy alternatives. On the basis of our findings, discussed in previous Chapters, we have concluded that society should seek to discourage use, while concentrating its attention on the prevention and treatment of heavy and very heavy use. The Commission feels that the criminalization of possession of marihuana for personal is socially self-defeating as a means of achieving this objective. We have attempted to balance individual freedom on one hand and the obligation of the state to consider the wider social good on the other. We believe our recommended scheme will permit society to exercise its control and influence in ways most useful and efficient, meanwhile reserving to the individual American his sense of privacy, his sense of individuality, and, within the context of an interacting and interdependent society, his options to select his own life style, values, goals and opportunities.

The Commission sincerely hopes that the tone of cautious restraint sounded in this Report will be perpetuated in the debate which will follow it. For those who feel we have not proceeded far enough, we are reminded of Thomas Jefferson’s advice to George Washington that “Delay is preferable to error.” For those who argue we have gone too far, we note Roscoe Pound’s statement, “The law must be stable, but it must not stand still.”

We have carefully analyzed the interrelationship between marihuana the drug, marihuana use as a behavior, and marihuana as a social problem. Recognizing the extensive degree of misinformation about marihuana as a drug, we have tried to demythologize it. Viewing the use of marihuana in its wider social context, we have tried to desymbolize it.

Considering the range of social concerns in contemporary America, marihuana does not, in our considered judgment, rank very high. We would deemphasize marihuana as a problem.

The existing social and legal policy is out of proportion to the individual and social harm engendered by the use of the drug. To replace it, we have attempted to design a suitable social policy, which we believe is fair, cautious and attuned to the social realities of our time.” - National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Use, Chapter V, Marihuana and Social Policy, A Final Comment
In other words, “Dick, you want to launch a war on marijuana, but our findings suggest that we have much larger issues facing our nation, and marijuana ranks very, very low on any list about things we need to be concerned about in America”. Nixon’s response? Full-on war against marijuana, and more specifically, the hippie radicals that opposed his policies concerning the Vietnam war and other important social issues of the time.
I wanted to leave you with a similar situation – modernize it, if you will. Let’s say a report came out that President Obama had commissioned a council to look into healthcare, and it was released a few months later that he had sought to influence the findings, and then ignored the results when they came back with evidence that  conflicted with his view on healthcare. (warning: this did NOT happen, and we happen to believe in healthcare reform, but this is arguably one of THE social issue of our time, as marijuana was in the 70s). People would be outraged. There would be a call for all kinds of proceedings, impeachment probably being immediately suggested by various people in politics, the media and the public. So, why is it that we don’t apply similar outrage to policies and laws that were framed around equally sinister political motivations?  And if we continue to do so, how is anything ever going to get any better?
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