BFTN #19 2018-09-24
September 24, 2018
BFTN #20 2018-10-01
October 1, 2018
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Part TWENTY-FOUR of our series on the WAR ON DRUGS – “Say No To Drugs”.

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Show Notes:

  • Hoover had been dead 8 years, and the new Director, William Webster, was all for it.
  • He’d been appointed to the role by Carter, even though he was a Republican.
  • He was going to get his agents to use RICO to wage war on the drug business.
  • But what drug business where they going to go after?
  • Heroin was a nonissue; nobody talked about it officially or in the press.
  • Although the number of addicts hadn’t shrunk since Nixon’s day, it hadn’t grown, either.
  • The problem was stationary, and therefore invisible.
  • About cocaine the country had not yet made up its mind, and its ambivalence was typified by Times cover story that summer displaying a martini glass full of white powder under the legend “High on Cocaine: A Drug with Status — and Menace.”
  • In small and occasional doses, Time said, cocaine “is no more harmful than equally moderate doses of alcohol and marijuana, and infinitely less so than heroin.”
  • An Illinois appeals court had just ruled there was “no causal connection between the ingestion of cocaine and criminal behavior.”
  • It was still the drug of the “smart set”; all the cokeheads in the story were people otherwise enviable for their wealth and fame — Richard Pryor, Keith Richards, and a long string of well-heeled yups.
  • A Chicago cop quoted in Time explained: “These people,” he said, “are not the dregs of society.”
  • Heroin was invisible, and cocaine wasn’t yet a demon.
  • That left marijuana.
  • But marijuana use was also in decline.
  • At least it was in teenagers, according to studies done at the time.
  • As was the use of tobacco.
  • Whether the propaganda was starting to get to them, or they were just not as rebellious as previous generations, who knows.
  • Vietnam was over, the hippy movement had finished / been crushed.
  • The 80s were the years of technology, Wall Street, Michael J Fox, and Knight Rider.
  • And of course everyone who bothered to read the studies knew that marijuana was neither a health problem or a crime problem.
  • But hey – never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
  • We don’t.
  • Carlton Turner, Ross Perot’s anti-drug guy, was appointed as Reagan’s new drug czar.
  • His position on marijuana was: “Stop talking about whether marijuana’s good or bad for you; I’m here to tell you it’s bad.”
  • In September 1981, about 9 months into his first term, Reagan gave a big speech in New Orleans.
  • He said
  • His War on Drugs, was  “one of the single most important steps that can lead to a significant reduction in crime,”
  • It would include injecting the military into the drug fight, bail and parole “reform”, enlisting the FBI into the War on Drugs, and “the responsible use of herbicides”.
  • But more than this, he saw drugs as a spiritual problem.
  • “It’s ultimately a moral dilemma, one that calls for one that calls for a moral or if you will, a spiritual solution.”
  • …in the end, the war on crime will only be won when an attitude of mind and a change of heart takes place in America, when certain truths take hold again and plant roots deep in our national consciousness, truths like: right and wrong matters; individuals are responsible for their ac- tions; retribution should be swift and sure for those who prey on the innocent,
  • Reagan was redeploying the tactic Richard Nixon used to batter “root causes” in 1968: shift the blame for social problems away from inequality, racism, injustice, and the like and place it on the immoral acts of bad individuals.
  • That way, government has no greater role than to mete out “swift and sure” retribution.
  • “[Crime is] a problem of the human heart and it’s there we must look for the answer,” he said. “Men are basically good but prone to evil, and society has a right to be protected from them.”
  • Turner, his drug czar, was a chemist and an expert in marijuana as a plant.
  • But he had zero experience in drug treatment, or social policy making, or politics.
  • Unlike his three predecessors.
  • He didn’t know much about cocaine or heroin and he knew they weren’t a big issue anyway, so he only wanted to focus on mj.
  • His goal, he said was to “create a generation of drug-free Americans to purge society.”
  • When Turner quoted marijuana studies on fat solubility, sperm counts, and immune-system damage, he was selective.
  • He never cited Nixon’s marijuana commission, which found the drug relatively benign for adults and recommended decriminalization.
  • Nor did he acknowledge researchers at Harvard Medical School and elsewhere who were reporting similar conclusions with remarkable consistency.
  • While nobody was saying that drawing hot, psychoactive smoke into the lungs was good for one’s health (except perhaps in prescribed medical circumstances), many researchers were saying that a society that tolerates alcohol, tobacco, and bacon-double-cheeseburgers cannot on medical grounds justify jailing people for smoking marijuana.
  • And meanwhile the press suddenly dropped cocaine like a hot rock.
  • As though a switch had been thrown, all drug coverage turned to marijuana.
  • It started in Science News, which reported a University of Kentucky study “proving” marijuana “is a cause of heroin use.”
  • Like other “gateway drug” theorists, the researchers looked in only one direction, asking heroin and cocaine users if they first used marijuana and predictably finding that a great many had.
  • They didn’t ask, though, whether the addicts had first used alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine — any of which might also be described, under the study’s methodology, as the “gateway.” More important, the researchers failed to track mari- juana smokers on how many graduate to harder drugs.
  • Whenever the question is asked that way, the percentage is in the single digits.
  • The gateway theory made no sense.
  • The number of Americans who had smoked pot has skyrocketed in the past thirty years — to as many as 70 million — while the number of heroin addicts was about the same – about half a million.
  • In one interview, Turner made it clear what the real issue was:
  • Point is, illegal, i.e. non-prescription, use of drugs … is not only a perverse, pervasive plague of itself, though it is that. But drug use also is a behavioral pattern that has sort of tagged along during the present young-adult generation’s involvement in anti-military, anti—nuclear power, anti-big business, anti-authority demonstrations; of people from a myriad of different racial, religious or otherwise persuasions demanding “rights” or “entitlements” politically while refusing to accept corollary civic responsibility.
  • But as I said before, the hippies were mostly gone by the 1980s.
  • They had yuppies instead.
  • But they still had teenagers – and teenagers had parents.
  • And if the teenagers were angry or sad or discombobulated because their parents were working long hours, mothers were now working too, or the parents were watching the TV instead of spending quality time with their kids, were divorced, getting drunk at night, etc – then the parents could just blame marijuana and rock and roll for their teen’s attitude and avoid looking at their own behaviour.
  • THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES had commissioned a study of marijuana’s health effects in the middle of Jimmy Carter s presidency and in 1982 was ready to release the results.
  • Acknowledging that it had come up with “politically inconvenient scientific knowledge,” NAS found “no convincing evidence” that pot permanently damages the brain or nervous system, or decreases fertility.
  • As for the legal question, small-quantity possession should not be a crime, the report said. “Alienation from the rule of law in democratic society may be the most serious cost of the current marijuana laws.”
  • Heresy! The new president of the NAS, Frank Press, hotly disavowed his own agency’s report.
  • The committee that prepared it had “insufficient data,” he said, and had rendered a “judgment so value laden that it should have been left to the political process.”
  • “The report,” mused Time, “may have ignored the temper of the times.”
  • One group who *did* understand the times was the Ad Council — the advertising industry’s public service arm.
  • They offered their services to Turner’s dept.
  • And came up with the slogan “Say No To Drugs”.
  • Over at NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, created by Nixon in 1974, the director William Pollin – He may be best remembered as the person who “declared cigarette smoking was more addictive than alcohol or heroin.”-  ordered his staff to read the drug-abuse publications his agency had published and remove any containing the word “social.”
  • Pollin then sent a list of suspect documents to every librarian in the country along with a letter explaining: “These publications reflect preliminary marijuana and cocaine research findings that often found equivocal results. I strongly suggest that you purge your collection of these old materials.”
  • The list included sixty-four NIDA booklets, papers, and monographs dating from 1972.
  • So – make sure the kids can’t read any scientific literature.
  • BTW
  • In February 2005, Westat, a research company hired by NIDA and funded by The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, reported on its five-year study of the government ad campaigns aimed at dissuading teens from using marijuana, campaigns that cost more than $1 billion between 1998 and 2004.
  • The study found that the ads did not work: “greater exposure to the campaign was associated with weaker anti-drug norms and increases in the perceptions that others use marijuana.”
  • NIDA leaders and the White House drug office did not release the Westat report for a year and a half.
  •  On June 24, 1982, Ronald Reagan stood in the White House Rose Garden and declared his War on Drugs.
  • “I was not present at the Battle of Verdun in World War I,” he
  • said.”But from that battle I learned of that horrendous time of an old French soldier who said something we could all heed. He said, There are no impossible situations. There are only people who think they’re ” impossible.’
  • With a finely aimed chop at Jimmy Carter, Reagan added, “I want to get away from the fatalistic attitude of the late seventies and assert a positive approach.”
  • His federal government would abdicate all responsibility save the rough stuff.
  • “We can put drug abuse on the run through stronger law enforcement, through cooperation with other nations to stop the trafficking, and by calling on the tremendous volunteer resources of parents, teachers, civic and religious leaders, and State and local officials.”
  • Only one drug earned specific mention.
  • The country must “mobilize,” Reagan said, “to let kids know the truth, to erase the false glamour that surrounds drugs, and to brand drugs such as marijuana exactly for what they are — dangerous, and particularly to school-age youth.”
  • He then signed an executive order bringing Carlton Turner out of the shadows of his undefined “adviser” role and naming him director of a new Drug Abuse Policy Office, whose authority derived entirely from the Oval Office.
  • ”We’re taking down the surrender flag that has flown over so many drug efforts,” Reagan said to applause.
  • “We’re running up a battle flag.”
  • The reference to Verdun was odd: the battle is famous for killing half a million men on each side while resolving exactly nothing.
  • But he was serious and took the war to an entirely new level.
  • From that point on, Turner, the drug czar, started calling the heads of all of the government departments and asking them what they were doing about the war on drugs.
  • Every single department and agency needed to have a “drug budget” when they submitted their budget for the year.
  • Most of them had never even considered it before.
  • But they were basically told to have one or forget about getting the rest of their budget approved.
  • So of course, they all started to think about they could get involved in the war.
  • Reminds me of what Carver said on The Wire: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXUqJC3rXV0
  • BTW.
  • Violent Crime at the beginning of Reagan’s first term was 596 per 100,000 people.
  • Guess what it was at the end of his second term?
  • 731 per 100,000.
  • 20% higher.
  • The number of Americans addicted to drugs at the start of Reagan’s first term?
  • About 1.3% of the population.
  • The number at the end of his second term?
  • About 1.3% of the population.
  • The number today?
  • About 1.3% of the population.

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