Mexican soldier guards marijuana bonfire

(i) A Mexican soldier stands guard as marijuana is incinerated behind him in the border city of Tijuana, 20 October 2010. Tijuana is a major drug smuggling route into the United States, making it one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Its homicide rate is nearly seventy times higher than that just across the border in San Diego (1).


Nixon and Elvis

(ii) Elvis Presley meets President Nixon at the White House, 21 December 1970.

Elvis Presley’s photograph with President Nixon during a visit to the White House on December 21, 1970, became a powerful cultural endorsement for Nixon’s so-called ‘war on drugs’. Speaking of drugs as “anti-American”, Elvis told Nixon he blamed drug abuse on communist brainwashing and the Beatles. Saying he was “accepted by the hippies”, he pledged to support the President’s anti-drug agenda and asked for a Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) badge for his collection. He got one (2).

Six months later in June 1971, the term itself—‘war on drugs’—was being popularised by the American press following Nixon’s own pledge to wage a “‘national offensive’ against drug abuse” (3). The Controlled Substances Act (1970) had gone into effect in May and gave Nixon the renewed ability to declare such an offensive, while the means to carry it out came in July 1973, with the establishment of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The 1970s, however, do not actually mark the beginning of America’s drug war. Rather, they are part of a pattern of escalation, one which continued in the 1980s when Pablo Escobar expanded the Colombian cocaine market, making him the richest criminal in history and ensuring that billion dollar drug cartels would remain in his place ever since (4). President Trump’s plan to build a wall along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration and drug imports is a contemporary example of this escalation.

This pattern also appears in statistics: in the last twenty years, DEA funding has doubled and fatal overdoses from illicit substances have quadrupled (5). These overdoses are on top of the thousands of other victims resulting from direct or indirect contact with the black market, both domestically and internationally. If only counting from Nixon’s speech in 1971, the war on drugs is still America’s longest and deadliest conflict; approaching half a century and millions of victims.

In reality, it is much longer and much deadlier.

Focusing on federal government legislation, this blog will provide historical context for understanding why this conflict has taken this devastating trajectory, charting development over time, and explaining why one battlefield in particular—marijuana—is so hotly contested today. The federal government did not start this war, but it has left an indelible impact on how it continues to be fought.


Opium Wars

(iii) British East India Company iron steamship Nemesis destroying Chinese war junks, Anson’s Bay, 7 January 1841. Painting by Edward Duncan, 1843.

Human drug use is older than human civilisation and societies around the world have had long and varied relationships with it (6). However, when British warships forced China into repealing its 1729 prohibition of opium, first in 1839 and again in 1856, modern drug use became forever entwined with economics, race, globalisation, and violence (7). The California Gold Rush of 1847 to 1855 then saw approximately 25,000 Chinese immigrants arriving in the United States, some inevitably bringing their opium habits with them (8).

In 1804, Friedrich Sertürner synthesised morphine from opium, naming it after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams (9). Charles Wright first synthesised diamorphine in 1874, but it was not until 1897, when Bayer pharmaceutical company employee, Heinrich Dreser, independently synthesised the drug that it became commercially available under its brand name, heroin (10).

Historian Johnathan Lewy discusses how usage of these opiates in America grew significantly after conventional wars. In 1898, victory in the Spanish- American War made the Philippine opium trade an American problem, while the First and Second World Wars, followed by Korea and Vietnam, saw rises in the numbers of morphine and heroin addicts (11). Lewy theorises that white America’s relationship with opiates may have its roots in the invention of the hypodermic needle and its use to administer morphine during the Civil War (12). In the wake of all of these factors, San Francisco became an early drug war frontline by outlawing opium dens in 1875 (13).

Friedrich Gaedcke isolated the cocaine alkaloid in 1856 and by 1886 John Pemberton’s popular recipe for Coca-Cola was among many commercially available products containing the drug (14). This was because, nationally, no laws prohibited anything. Howsoever it had formed, by 1900, America’s relationship with drugs was manifest in the booming patent medicine industry; opium, morphine, heroin, and cocaine were all legally available to anyone who wanted them (15).

Focusing on Chicago at the turn of the century, historian Joseph Spillane writes that “The rise of ‘recreational’ usage of cocaine and opiates at the end of the nineteenth century, especially among socially and economically marginal groups, created a sense of public crisis” (16). Spillane claims the foundations for this panic were “both real and imagined” (17). Chicago’s authorities reacted, as had San Francisco’s in 1875, driving the drug trade underground where it began “bearing most of the characteristic features of the contemporary illicit drug trade” (18).

Historian Michael M Cohen, meanwhile, alleges that “the root of the drug- prohibition movement in the United States is race” (19). He claims that San Francisco’s 1875 clampdown on opium dens came “lest some white woman should fall into the hands of the yellow peril” (20). He also points to the myth of “negro cocaine fiends”, which claimed cocaine made black men superhumanly sex-crazed and violent, as driving the anti-cocaine movements of the Jim Crow South (21). Cohen also suggests that Mexican labourers migrating into California and Texas during the economic hardships of the Great Depression were the basis for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 (22). He then concludes:

When it came time for the United States to declare its first war on drugs during the Progressive era, the South’s racial politics fused with broad national anxieties about race and immigration to shape dramatically not only U.S. public policy but also the nation’s moral judgments about drugs as well (23).

This last point on morality is what Spillane writes about, citing plenty of primary sources, like as municipal investigations and reports, and engaging them in a complex dialogue with each other. Cohen relies more heavily on secondary sources, however, both historians identify crucial pieces of a complex puzzle: moral panicking and racism. Their given timeframes of investigation are 1890 to 1940, with a thirty-year overlap of 1900 to 1930.

In Drug War Politics: The Price of Denial, Eva Bertram, Morris Blachman, Kenneth Sharpe, and Peter Andreas devote their fourth chapter to a similar time period, titling it ‘The Punitive Paradigm: The Early Struggles, 1900–1930’ (24). This coincides with the prohibition of alcohol in 1920 and its repeal in 1933 and adds legitimacy to scrutinising the federal government’s actions in this era (25).


Upton Sinclair's The Jungle cover(iv) Cover of the first edition of Upton Sinclair’s 1906 landmark work, ‘The Jungle’.

The federal government’s first effort to legislate drug use was the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. It came about after the collective work of various people and institutions, including the American Pharmaceutical Association, investigative journalist Upton Sinclair, and many others working within the nation’s rapidly urbanising landscape. Published in 1906, Sinclair’s The Jungle exposed the unhygienic conditions in which many migrants were forced to work in the meatpacking industry, highlighting the need for urgent national regulations of consumable products (26).

Targeting the food and patent medicine industries, the law’s stated purpose was “preventing the manufacture, sale, or transportation of adulterated or misbranded or poisonous or deleterious foods, drugs, medicines, and liquors, and for regulating traffic therein” (27). Among other repercussions, the law “required that all narcotic ingredients, as well as cannabis, be listed on the labels of any patent medicines shipped in interstate commerce” (28). The legislation also led to the creation of the Bureau of Chemistry, renamed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1930.

Importantly, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 did not criminalise the issue of drugs. It merely regulated their use as a health issue.

Mrs Winslows Soothing Syrup

(v) Before in 1906, Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup for babies did not have to mention that it contained morphine and alcohol.


The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was successful at regulating the food industry and reining in the patent medicine industry; for example, Coca-Cola no longer included cocaine (29). However, the law did not address the underlying issue of morality that Spillane suggests underscored the anti-drug movements at this time. In other words, drug users were still not criminals.

As mentioned, America’s acquisition of the Philippines and its opium trade in 1898 perpetuated the “internationalization of the problem” (30). Then, The Hague’s International Conference on Opium in 1911 ended without a consensus on the need for international drug laws, but it did “open the door to domestic narcotics legislation” in the United States (31).

San Francisco opium bonfire 1914(vi) Opium, morphine, and heroin about to be burned in front of San Francisco City Hall, still under reconstruction following the 1906 earthquake, February 1914.

Having attended the 1911 conference, Dr Hamilton Wright—“the father of American narcotics laws”—led calls for a federal bill “that would eliminate all non-medical use of narcotics” (32).

The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 is described by historian Erich Goode as “the single most important piece of drug legislation ever enacted in the United States” (33). It was sponsored by New York Democrat, Representative Francis Harrison, who cited an “enormous increase in the importation of and consumption of opium in the United States” (34). With cooperation from major pharmaceutical associations and with no organised resistance from drug users, Harrison’s act became law (35). Only Southern Democrats, worried of federal government infringement of states’ rights, voiced any opposition (36).

The law stipulated three requirements for anyone trading in “opium or coca leaves, their salts, [and] derivatives” (37). First, traders had to register with the federal government (38). Second, records had to be kept of all transactions (39). Third, taxes had to be paid (40). Technically speaking, the law’s language did not criminalise drug sellers or users, but punishments for noncompliance on behalf of retailers made the trade “more troublesome than profitable” (41).

The law also required unregistered buyers (drug users) to obtain prescriptions for their drugs, which could be issued by physicians in “good faith” (42). Almost immediately, a Pittsburgh physician’s arrest for prescribing drugs to an addict led to the Supreme Court ruling that the language of “good- faith” was “so far vague” and ruled in favour of the physician (43). Even so, between 1914 and 1938, nearly 30,000 medical professionals were arrested and nearly 3,000 served sentences (44). This pressure saw the medical profession withdrawing from the dispensing of narcotics and addicts were forced to turn to the black market.

By its very nature, drug addiction was thus implicitly unlawful, and by the 1920s, drug users had been transformed from patients into criminals.


The First World War, the failed prohibition of alcohol, and the Great Depression were transformative events on an unprecedented scale. The economic, social, political, and technological landscapes were dramatically altered and influenced how the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 came about. The effects of this law are still being reckoned with today.

In June 1930, the agencies tasked with implementing the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 were merged into the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN). Journalist Johann Hari claims that the newly-appointed FBN Director, Harry J Anslinger, sought to prevent his agency from fading into irrelevancy as support for the prohibition of alcohol began to wane (45). However, newspaper articles linking marijuana to violent crime date back to at least 1919, with New Orleans police making their first arrests for possession of “a Mexican smoking weed better known as ‘Mary Warner’” in June 1923 (46).

Evidently, however, unlike opiates and cocaine, marijuana was not as widely known by the American public. Mirroring opium’s early entanglement with race and economics, marijuana’s use in America is generally attributed to Mexican migrant farm workers in the states along the border (47). During the Great Depression, these Mexican labourers began seeking employment in places like California, Texas, and Louisiana (48). It was in New Orleans that marijuana began being introduced into the African American community, where it entered jazz musician circles, black and white, who in turn introduced it to intellectuals and criminals alike (49).

In November 1926, Dr W A Evans sought to reassure the public of their growing concerns of this new “Mexican drug” (50). He wrote that it is “mistaken” to suppose “the drug is habit forming, or that it renders its victim a public menace”. Of its effects, he wrote that one “laughs inordinately; he is annoyingly ostentatious to the opposite sex; jazz works him into a frenzy of joy; he is quite imbecile in his words and actions yet he is not dangerous” (51).

That same month, the use of marijuana by American soldiers stationed in the Panama Canal Zone was the subject of an extensive investigation. The investigation concluded that “The influence of the drug when used for smoking is uncertain and appears to have been greatly exaggerated. The reports seem to have little basis in fact, and there is no medical evidence that it causes insanity” (52).

However, towards the end of the 1920s, with Mexican immigration increasing, these early reports were drowned out as a mutually beneficial relationship between newspaper mogul, William Randolph Hearst, and Anslinger began to form (53). The FBN fed increasingly salacious stories of marijuana-induced rapes, murders, suicides, and insanity to Hearst, helping boost newspaper sales while also helping the FBN to ferment the public opinion needed for a federal ban (54).

Full page articles were published describing marijuana as “evil”, “insidious”, and “a false god” (55). It was also called “Green Goddess” and “loco weed” (56). Spillane’s moral panics and Cohen’s racism is evident: “The drug is particularly popular with Latin Americans … its use is rapidly spreading to include all classes” (57). Testifying before the Wickersham Commission in 1931, New Orleans Police Captain Richmond Hobson said marijuana “motivates the most atrocious acts” (58).

That marijuana inspired criminal behaviour was a common theme, one article stating that “When smoked in cigaret [sic] form, marijuana has an effect similar to that of cocaine … It undermines both body and mind, one of its most vicious effects being the development of criminal traits” (59). Anslinger himself appeared in numerous newspapers, explaining how marijuana’s late arrival meant it was not covered by the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, and since only California, Texas, and Louisiana had prohibited the plant, a federal ban was needed (60).

Even after the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was enacted, FBI Director J Edgar Hoover wrote articles like ‘War on the Sex Criminal!’—an early use of the terminology ‘war on…’—where he blamed marijuana for “torture, rape, mutilation, and murder”. Noting “The sex fiend may strike anywhere, at any time”, Hoover praises Anslinger’s work towards the “eradication of a drug which violently affects the sex impulses” (61).

Scholarly work added to this literature condemning marijuana. Publishing ‘Marihuana as a Developer of Criminals’ in 1931, Eugene Stanley writes how marijuana causes “a rapid flow of ideas of a sexual nature” before detailing a Persian ritual of sexual domination of “young men whom the Shiek [sic] desired to subjugate”. He also tells how the word ‘assassin’ derives from the Arabic name of a Persian military unit given hashish (marijuana) and called “Hashishan” (62). Testifying before Congress in 1937, Anslinger repeated this story (63).

This mixture of exoticism, eroticism, racism, and fear can be seen in Louis Gasnier’s Reefer Madness propaganda film. Released in 1936, it claimed to depict the dangers of marijuana. What it really depicts is the result of the media and federal government’s overzealous reaction to marijuana. The title is now synonymous with this era of fear and disinformation.

Anslinger’s law imposed a so-called ‘nuisance’ tax of one dollar on marijuana sales. Anyone found with marijuana without proof of paying this tax could be fined or imprisoned. In 1969, after marijuana’s upsurge in popularity during the 1960s brought it to the fore, the Supreme Court ruled the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 unconstitutional. Controversial psychologist, Timothy Leary, had claimed that showing proof of this tax’s payment forced him to incriminate himself, violating his rights under the Fifth Amendment (64). This led to the Controlled Substances Act (1970), which remains in force to this day.

The hysteria of the reefer madness era was still being felt, and in the heightened political climate of the 1960s, marijuana was classed as a Schedule I narcotic, meaning it has “high abuse potential, no medical use, and severe safety concerns” at a federal level (65).

Reefer Madness movie poster(vii) Theatrical release poster for ‘Reefer Madness’, 1 January 1936.


Considering marijuana’s strictest possible classification at a federal level, as the map below indicates, the government is not enforcing this law.

(viii) The legal status of marijuana by state as of 18 May 2019 (66).

Legal status of marijuana by state

Ten states have now legalised marijuana for full commercial use, a reversal of the gradual state-by-state prohibition seen in the 1930s before the federal ban came into force. In a twist of irony, the nation’s capital, the very city trying to impose a nationwide prohibition, has legalised the drug. This blog has shown why this particular battlefront has come about; by the federal government’s reaction to public fears, moral and racial, “both real and imagined” (67).

President Carter tried to deescalate the war, saying “We can, and should, continue to discourage the use of marijuana, but this can be done without defining the smoker as a criminal” (68). His proposal went nowhere and with President Reagan, alongside his wife Nancy’s anti-drugs campaign of ‘Just Say No’, and with President Bush also, “the drug war escalated as never before” (69). President Clinton, who claimed to have once smoked marijuana but without inhaling it, later said “[President Bush] hasn’t fought a real war on crime and drugs; I will” (70).

Fatal drug overdoses from illicit substances have increased fourfold since Clinton’s hardline rhetoric with 70,237 Americans dying in 2017 (71). Over half a million Americans die each year from tobacco and alcohol (72). Deaths from marijuana are difficult to calculate partly because marijuana is often used concurrently with other drugs (73). Of those 70,237 deaths in 2017, however, none were attributed to marijuana alone. This is not to say that marijuana is without risks, particularly concerning the mental health of habitual users, especially so in teenage users (74). Yet with two-thirds of Americans supporting legalisation and 41.9% claiming to have used marijuana at least once, including President Obama, the Schedule I classification is appearing increasingly unsustainable (75).

For some, the first African American president also being the first to openly admit to marijuana use likely further conflated the issue of race and drugs. For others, it likely reaffirmed their beliefs of the relatively benign nature of the drug. The history of racism, however, is evidenced in today’s incarceration rates; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) stating that “African Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but the imprisonment rate of African Americans for drug charges is almost 6 times that of whites” (76).

Obama smoking(ix) President Obama photographed smoking marijuana while attending Occidental College in Los Angeles, 1980, circa Nancy Reagan’s ‘Just Say No’ campaign.

This blog has shown why finding the line for marijuana between the laissez-faire approach of the late nineteenth century and the increasingly severe approach adopted by the federal government during the twentieth century is being so fiercely contested today. But will the outcome of the battle of marijuana help bring about a conclusion to the war on drugs? As this blog has shown, the scope of factors that contributed to the war is nothing if not extraordinarily vast and complex. Critics of America’s drug war often point to Portugal, which decriminalised all drugs in 2001, as an alternative model of how central governments can deescalate the seemingly endless trend the war has developed. Studying a decade of data, criminologists Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes and Alex Stevens conclude:

Decriminalization of illicit drug use and possession does not appear to lead automatically to an increase in drug-related harms. Nor does it eliminate all drug-related problems. But it may offer a model for other nations that wish to provide less punitive, more integrated and effective responses to drug use (77).

One thing is certain: the war is far from over.




1. Kate Linthicum, ‘Meth and murder: A new kind of drug war has made Tijuana one of the deadliest cities on Earth’, Los Angeles Times, 30 January 2019;; accessed 20 May 2019.

2. ‘Memorandum for the President, Re: Meeting with Elvis Presley, 21 December 1970’, Nixon Presidential Materials, National Archives.

3. ‘War On Drugs Gets White House Priority’, New York Amsterdam News, 5 June 1971, p. A1.

4. ‘The Richest Man In the World’, Forbes, 5 October 1987, p. 153.

5. Drug Enforcement Administration, ‘Staffing and Budget’, US Department of Justice;; accessed 18 May 2019. ‘Figure 1. National Drug Overdose Deaths’, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Center for Health Statistics, December 2018; trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates; accessed 18 May 2019.

6. Erich Goode, Drugs in American Society, 9th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015), p. 269.

7. Ibid., p. 42.

8. John Faragher, Mari Buhle, Daniel Czitrom, and Susan Armitage, Out of Many, Vol 1, 6th ed. (United States: Pearson, 2008), p. 411.

9. Rudolf Schmitz, ‘Friedrich Wilhelm Sertürner and the Discovery of Morphine’, Pharmacy in History, Vol. 27, No. 2, 1985, p. 63.

10. Doug Latimer and Jeff Goldberg, ‘Heroin Boys’, BOMB, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1982, p. 24.

11. Jonathan Lewy, ‘The Army Disease: Drug Addiction and the Civil War’, War in History, Vol. 21, No. 1, January 2014, pp. 118–119.

12. Ibid., p. 102.

13. Michael M Cohen, ‘Jim Crow’s Drug War: Race, Coca Cola, and the Southern Origins of Drug Prohibition’, Southern Cultures, Vol. 12, No. 3, Fall 2006, p. 56.

14. Goode, p. 35.

15. Eva Bertram, Morris Blachman, Kenneth Sharpe, and Peter Andreas, Drug War Politics: The Price of Denial (United States: University of California Press, 1996) p. 61.

16. Joseph Spillane, ‘The Making of an Underground Market: Drug Selling in Chicago, 1900-1940’, Journal of Social History, Vol. 32, No. 1, Autumn 1998, p. 28.

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. Cohen, p. 56.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid., p. 57.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid., p. 77.

24. Bertram, Blachman, Sharpe, and Andreas, p. 61.

25. U.S. Const. amend. XVIII (repealed 1933).

26. Thomas Napierkowski, ‘Reviewed Work: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair’, Polish American Studies, Vol. 52, No. 1, Spring 1995, pp. 92–93.

27. Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, § 1.

28. Bertram, Blachman, Sharpe, and Andreas, p. 63.

29. Goode, p. 35.

30. Toby Seddon, A History of Drugs: Drugs and Freedom in the Liberal Age (New York: Routledge, 2010), p. 68.

31. Goode, p. 43.

32. David F Musto, The American Disease: Origins of Narcotic Control (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), p. 31. Goode, p. 43.

33. Goode, p. 43.

34. Bertram, Blachman, Sharpe, and Andreas, p. 67.

35. Ibid.

36. Ibid.

37. Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914, § 1.

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid., § 2.

40. Ibid., § 1.

41. Goode, p. 43.

42. Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914, § 8.

43. United States v. Jin Fuey Moy, 241 U.S. 394 (1916).

44. Goode, p. 45.

45. Johann Hari, Chasing the Scream (United Kingdom: Bloomsbury, 2015), p. 10.

46. Kent Hunter, ‘Some Mexican Slayings That Were Hushed Up: Murderers of U.S. Men Go Free; Washington Notified’, Chicago Daily Tribune, 17 Sep 1919, p. 10. ‘Police Raid Sellers Of Mexican ‘Smokes’’, Washington Post, 17 June 1923, p. 2.

47. Goode, p. 47.

48. Bertram, Blachman, Sharpe, and Andreas, p. 80.

49. Goode, pp. 47–48.

50. ‘Sale of Marijuana to Miami School Students Is Barred’, Atlanta Constitution, 20 May 1928, p. 2.

51. W A Evans, ‘Hashish As Public Menace’, Chicago Daily Tribune, 3 November 1926, p. 10.

52. ‘Marijuana Smoking Is Reported Safe’, New York Times, 21 November 1926, p. E3.

53. Alexander Chasin, Assassin of Youth (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2016), p. 174.

54. ‘Attacker of Girl Is Doomed to Hang’, Washington Post, 23 November 1935, p. 2. ‘Woman Raped On South Side; 2D In Two Days’, Chicago Daily Tribune, 3 July 1936, p. 3. ‘Ft. Clayton Insane Called Numerous’, New York Times, 26 September 1935, p. 26. ‘Use of Marijuana Spreading in West’, New York Times, 16 September 1934, p. E6. Chasin, p. 174.

55. Nell Clarke, ‘More ‘Mary Jane’ Laugh Addicts’, Washington Post, 2 September 1928, p. SM6.

56. ‘Narcotics Commissioner Urges Drastic Action Against Hashish’, Christian Science Monitor, 2 October 1931, p. 4.

57. ‘Use of Marijuana Spreading in West’, New York Times, 16 September 1934, p. E6.

58. ‘Use of New Narcotic Reported Spreading’, Washington Post, 5 March 1931, p. 1.

59. ‘The Threat of Marijuana’, Atlanta Constitution, 25 August 1934, p. 4.

60. ‘Government Will Ask States To Ban Growing of Marijuana’, New York Times, 6 September 1931, p. 37.

61. J Edgar Hoover, ‘War on the Sex Criminal!’, Los Angeles Times, 26 September 1937, p. K2.

62. Eugene Stanley, ‘Marihuana as a Developer of Criminals’, The American Journal of Police Science, Vol. 2, No. 3, May – June 1931, pp. 254–256.

63. US Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means, Hearing on Taxation of Marihuana, 75th Cong., 1st sess., April 27–30, May 4, 1937.

64. Leary v. United States, 395 U.S. 6 (1969).

65. Controlled Substances Act (1970), § 812 (b) (1) (A–C).

66. ‘State Policy’, Marijuana Policy Project;; accessed 18 May 2019.

67. Spillane, p. 28.

68. ‘Drug Law Revision’, Congressional Quarterly Almanac 32, 1977, p. 41E.

69. Bertram, Blachman, Sharpe, and Andreas, p. 110.

70. William J Bennett and John P Walters, ‘Suddenly Losing the War Against Drugs’, Washington Times, 7 February 1995, p. 2.

71. ‘Figure 1. National Drug Overdose Deaths’, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Center for Health Statistics, December 2018; trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates; accessed 18 May 2019.

72. ‘Smoking and Tobacco Use: Diseases and Death’, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;; accessed 19 May 2019. ‘Alcohol Facts and Statistics: Alcohol-Related Deaths’, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism;; accessed 19 May 2019.

73. Stephen Sidney, Jerome E Beck, Irene S Tekawa, Charles P Queensbury, and Gary Friedman, ‘Marijuana Use and Mortality, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 87, No. 4, April 1997, pp. 588–589.

74. Adam R Winstock, Chris Ford, and John Witton, ‘Assessment and management of cannabis use disorders in primary care’, BMJ: British Medical Journal, Vol. 340, No. 7750, 10 April 2010, p. 801.

75. Justin McCarthy, ‘Two in Three Americans Now Support Legalizing Marijuana’, 22 October 2018, Gallup;; accessed 20 May 2019. ‘National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 2011’, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration;; accessed 19 May 2019. David Maraniss, Barack Obama: The Making of the Man (London: Atlantic Books, 2012), p. 293.

76. ‘Criminal Justice Fact Sheet’, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People;; accessed 19 May 2019.

77. Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes and Alex Stevens, ‘What Can We Learn From The Portuguese Decriminalization of Illicit Drugs?’, The British Journal of Criminology, Vol. 50, No. 6, 1 November 2010, p. 1018.


i. ‘Soldier guards the incineration of marijuana in Tijuana’, 20 October 2010, Associated Press;; accessed 20 May 2019.

ii. ‘Richard M Nixon Meeting with Elvis Presley, 12/21/1970’, Roll 5364, Ref. No. 194703, Nixon Presidential Library, National Archives.

iii. ‘The East India Company iron steam ship Nemesis, commanded by Lieutenant W. H. Hall, with boats from the Sulphur, Calliope, Larne and Starling, destroying the Chinese war junks in Anson’s Bay, on 7 January 1841’, by Edward Duncan, 30 May 1843, Ref. No. JEAWJD, NMUIM/Alamy Stock Photo.

iv. ‘Cover of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, first edition’, The Jungle Publishing Co., 1906.

v. ‘Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup’, Ref. No. DTEFTG, 503 collection/Alamy Stock Photo.

vi. ‘Opium about to be burned in San Francisco’, February 1914, Underwood Archives/Getty Images.

vii. ‘Theatrical poster for Reefer Madness’, 1 January 1936, Ref. No. J152335505, Hulton Archive/Stringer, Moviepix.

viii. Created using MapChart with data sourced from ‘State Policy’, Marijuana Policy Project;; accessed 18 May 2019.

ix. ‘Barack Obama posing for a portrait session while he was a student in 1980’, Lisa Jack, Ref. No. 16429831, Contour RA.

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