Nixon got impeached, harassed, embarrassed and was the first and only president to resign from office. He got off easy, if you ask me.
During his first inaugural address, Richard Milhous Nixon said, “the greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker.” He then went ahead and authorized secret bombing campaigns in North Vietnam as part of his Vietnam War strategy. Later he would wage the War on Drugs – a war which continues to claim lives and incarcerate innocent people at an alarming clip – disproportionately so if you’re a person of color.
Some peacemaker Nixon turned out to be.
Now, to his credit, the concept of drug control and regulation is an important one that requires our attention. We must make every effort to keep our kids off of drugs. To this end Nixon opted for the hard line: prohibition and criminal penalties. It turns out, however, that there is no correlation between prohibition and decreased use, and in fact, an inverse relationship may exist. The hard line leads to increased usage rates by, and greater availability to, young people across the board. Not only has prohibition failed, the collateral damage is just enormous. It includes violent drug cartels fueled by massive profits, drug dealers on campus, sick persons losing access to a lifeline, overburdened prisons, billions in wasted tax dollars, destroyed families, and scores of kids unable to qualify for a school loan because of a simple possession pot offense, to name a few.
Now Nixon’s administration was not the first or last administration to make a bad policy decision. Perhaps this was just an instance of poor policy, and a review of the record would reveal that Nixon investigated the facts and did his best to draw sound conclusions based thereon.
Yeah, no. It didn’t go down like that. In fact, the transcripts from his recently declassified audio tapes reveal a much more dubious intent playing out.
When Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act of 1970 (which includes the Controlled Substances Act), it recognized that it lacked sufficient information from which to draw conclusions about marijuana and the amount of regulation it required. President Nixon appointed a “Presidential Commission” to investigate which of the 5 Schedules of the Controlled Substances Act marijuana should be placed in, among other marijuana policies. Nixon appointed Governor Raymond P. Shafer of Pennsylvania to head the bipartisan Commission, which otherwise consisted of a congressman and senator from each party, a dean of a law school, the head of a mental health department, and a retired Chicago police captain.
What followed was the most extensive investigation of marijuana ever conducted by the federal government. The Commission arranged for 50 different projects and conducted a nationwide survey of public beliefs and experience. It also surveyed district attorneys, judges, probation officers, clinicians, and university health officials. The Commission even sought data from India, Greece, North Africa, Jamaica, and Afghanistan because those countries had a longer history of dealing with the issue.
The Commission discovered that marijuana was not the dangerous substance that some considered it to be. In fact, the Commission’s report to Congress was titled, “Marijuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding.” Nixon, however, didn’t care much for his Commission, which spent more than a year completing its work.
When Nixon got wind that Shafer was going in the direction of decriminalization, he let Shafer have it. The following quotes are taken from Nixon’s recently declassified Oval Office tapes from 1971-72:
“You’re enough of a ‘pro’ to know that for you to come
out with something that would run counter to what…
we’re planning to do, would make your Commission just
look bad as hell….Keep your Commission in line.”
To hell with science and commissions. Nixon had an agenda and he wasn’t going to let a little thing like facts and research get in the way of that. He continued:
if [the American people] get the idea [the Commission is] just a bunch of
do-gooders that are going to come out with a quote ‘soft
on marijuana’ report, that’ll destroy it, right off the bat. I
think there’s a need to come out with a report that is
totally oblivious to some obvious differences between
marijuana and other drugs, other dangerous drugs, there
Nixon knew the score. He knew marijuana was not the “devil weed,” but he didn’t care. He was going to fix the game based on his own conservative agenda:
“I want a Goddamn strong statement about marijuana. Can I get that out of this sonofabitching, uh, Domestic Council? …I mean one on marijuana that just tears the ass out of them…
“You see, homosexuality, dope, 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.”
But it wasn’t just homosexuals, the Red Army, and the Democrats that were plotting the demise of the nation. It was the Jews, too.
[E]very one of the bastards that are out for legalizing
marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with
the Jews, Bob [Haldeman], what is the matter with them? I suppose
it’s because most of them are psychiatrists, you know,
there’s so many, all the greatest psychiatrists are Jewish.
By God we are going to hit the marijuana thing, and I want to hit it sqaure in the puss.
The end of this tale is well known. Nixon rejected his own Commission’s findings that marijuana “does not justify a social policy designed to seek out and firmly punish those who use it.” Nixon required that Marijuana remain on Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act – the most restrictive class of controlled substances reserved for highly dangerous chemicals that have “no accepted medical use.” And as a result, millions of dying people have no access to an incredibly effective natural medicine and pain reliever. Hey, at least we can score some cocaine from our doctors. Cocaine is on Schedule 2.