50 Years Into the War on Drugs, Drugs Are Winning

We’re now 50 years into the war on drugs, and drugs continue to post their Ws. On June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon declared that “public enemy number one is drug abuse.”
“In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new all-out offensive,” the president said at the time, announcing more funding for anti-drug efforts, the creation of a new anti-drug organization within the White House, and calling for “the American people [to] all join in” on the fight.
Decades later, most people seem to have switched sides in this conflict. Some 60 percent of Americans said they support the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana in an April 2021 poll conducted by Pew Research Center.
Gallup found an even higher 68 percent of people supported marijuana legalization in a November 2020 poll. That’s up from about 16 percent in 1971.
Nixon stressed in his remarks 50 years ago that the fight against drugs needed to be bipartisan. Today, members of both political parties are increasingly willing to live and let live. That Pew poll found 47 percent of Republicans support the legalization of recreational marijuana, alongside 72 percent of Democrats.
The shift in public opinion has been complemented by the slow rollback of drug prohibition in the states.
Just yesterday, the Connecticut Senate passed a bill legalizing recreational cannabis for those 21 and older. Once Gov. Ned Lamont (D) signs it into law, the Constitution State will become the 19th state to legalize recreational marijuana.
As of early April, about 138 million Americans live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal, according to U.S. News and World Report.
And while the increasingly widespread legalization of marijuana is the most obvious sign of drug prohibition on retreat, there’s also been progress in liberalizing the law’s treatment of other substances, too.
On Thursday, the Maine House of Representatives approved a bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of all drugs. That legislation is modeled off a similar law approved by Oregon voters in 2020. That same year, Oregon voters also approved a ballot initiative that legalized psychedelic mushrooms.
Other cities, from Denver to Washington, D.C., have passed measures decriminalizing mushrooms or deprioritizing enforcement of their prohibition.
Of course, it’s not all good news when it comes to ending the war on drugs. Plenty of people still remain incarcerated for possessing or selling illicit substances. Millions more have had their lives upended by a drug arrest or conviction.
And even though marijuana policy might be getting better across the country, that progress has been counteracted by the federal government’s crackdown on opioids, which has deprived patients of needed pain medicine and led to a massive rise in fatal drug overdoses.
That aside, there’s still plenty for supporters of drug legalization to cheer.
President Joe Biden signed a bill yesterday making June 19, or Juneteenth, a federal holiday to commemorate the end of slavery. Zuri Davis explained the history and importance of the day for Reason in 2019:
Juneteenth, America’s other day of independence, is celebrated by black Americans in commemoration of the day the last of the slaves heard the news of the Emancipation Proclamation. On June 19, 1865, two years after the proclamation, Union General Gordon Granger led 20,000 troops to Galveston, Texas, and read from Order No. 3. Jubilation followed, and the day lives on as a joyful memory of a moment when the nation’s founding ideals were finally applied to black Americans.
The bipartisan bill Biden signed establishes June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day (not to be confused with the other Independence Day on July 4). The legislation passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate. Only 14 members of the House voted against creating the holiday.
Rep. Matt Rosendale (R–Mont.), one of the new holiday’s few detractors, took to Twitter to explain his opposition to commemorating the end of slavery.


Thanks, Matt.
On the flip side, federal employees were so eager for the new holiday that they preemptively gave themselves June 18 off, despite the fact that Juneteenth is not a floating holiday and falls on a Saturday this year.
That’s a little ironic given that the original Juneteenth wouldn’t have happened if federal employees hadn’t shown up to work. Nevertheless, the official creation of a new holiday to celebrate the end of slavery kicking off a one-day government shutdown feels like a win for libertarians.
California’s post-pandemic reopening is continuing apace. The state’s top workplace safety regulator announced that vaccinated employees no longer need to wear masks. The San Francisco Chronicle has the details:
The standards board for the California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, voted 5-1 Thursday to replace stricter rules in effect since November to stop the spread of the virus in work settings. Those rules included strict masking and physical distancing, among other requirements. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on Thursday that allows the rules to be implemented as soon as they are filed with the California secretary of state. Normally there would be a 10-day review period before the rules become active.
The new standards dictate that unvaccinated employees have to keep their masks on indoors, in line with state health department and federal recommendations. Those who haven’t received the shots can also request N95 masks from their employers to reduce the chance of being infected with the virus.
Earlier this week, Newsom lifted all capacity restrictions on businesses statewide.
• Russian President Vladimir Putin criticizes the U.S. media for their unfair portrayal of Biden.
• A reporter for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, live-tweeted an incredible feat of strength and endurance:


• Los Angeles County is considering an ordinance to ban the feeding of peacocks, which have apparently become a nuisance in some neighborhoods.
• The European Union is recommending its member states lift their ban on nonessential travel from the U.S.
• A national “right-to-repair” bill has been introduced in Congress, reports Vice. See Reason’s video on the topic from 2018.
• A graduate student tried to correct a misleading COVID-19 narrative. Rebekah Jones tried to ruin his career for it, the National Review reports.
• Porn production appears to be a felony now in Texas:


via reason

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