Richard Nixon on Drugs

President of the U.S., 1968-1974


1971: start War on Drugs via Special Action Office

On June 17, 1971, President Nixon declared war on drugs. "Public enemy No. 1 in the U.S. is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive." Nixon laid out a plan to build a central agency--the Special Action Office of Drug Abuse Prevention--to coordinate the federal response to drug abuse. He asked for an additional $371 million from Congress to "conquer drug abuse in America." His funding request included new dollars for the treatment, prevention, education, eradication, and stepped up law enforcement.

"When traffic in narcotics is no longer profitable, then that traffic will cease. Increased enforcement and vigorous application of the fullest penalties provided by law are two of the steps in rendering narcotics trade unprofitable." Nixon ended his declaration detailing the federal government's new role in ending drug abuse by stating, "The final issue is not whether or not we will conquer drug abuse, but how soon."

Source: Dealing Death and Drugs, by Beto O'Rourke, p. 63 , Nov 29, 2011

Marijuana users experiment with other drugs

A popular theory is that marijuana is a "gateway drug," meaning that the use of this drug will lead to the use of other, harder drugs.

In 1999, the White House Office Of National Drug Control Policy asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to access this theory. The IOM report concluded that "the legal status of marijuana makes it a gateway drug." Or, as a 1972 report commissioned by President Nixon put it, because marijuana is an illegal drug, "[the user] may eventually view himself as a drug user and be willing to experiment with other drugs which are approved by his peer group."

Another way to look at it is through the prism of the black market. To buy marijuana in the U.S., you must purchase it from an illegal drug dealer. There is a good chance that the same dealer is also selling other, harder drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines. It is in his interests to get you to buy these other offerings.

Source: Dealing Death and Drugs, by Beto O'Rourke, p. 94 , Nov 29, 2011

Coined phrase "War on Drugs" in 1969

In 1986, an FBI information inside the Medellin cartel testified that she's seen the organization loading cocaine onto aircraft that belonged to Southern Air Transport, a company that used to be owned by the CIA and was flying supplies to the Contras. There was strong corroboration for her story, but somehow the Justice Department rejected it as inconclusive. Senator John Kerry started looking into all this and said at one closed-door committee meeting: "It is clear that there is a network of drug trafficking through the Contras. We can produce specific law enforcement officials who will tell you that they have been calle off drug trafficking investigations because the CIA is involved or because it would threaten national security."

All this, remember, while we're spending millions supposedly fighting the "war on drugs," a phrase first coined by Nixon in 1969.

Source: American Conspiracies, by Jesse Ventura, p.117 , Mar 8, 2010

US spends as much on illegal drugs as rest of world combined

The richest country in the world cannot tolerate the fact that America--with 1/20 of the world's people--spends almost as much on illegal drugs as the rest of the world combined.

We will not gain the upper hand in the war against drugs until we shift the focus of our efforts from a supply-side battle in distant corners of the world to a demand-side battle at home. Victory will only come if we reduce the demand for drugs through stronger legal sanctions, education, treatment, and a radical change in community values. The current drug culture has its roots in the permissive attitudes of the 1960s, which glorified the use of both marijuana and hard drugs, and in the condoning of the "casual" use of drugs today. Unless we reach children early with knowledge of the consequences of drug use, and unless we reverse the tolerance and even glamorizing of drug use in the popular culture of Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment industry, we will stand no chance of winning the war on drugs.

Source: Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon, p.292-294 , Jan 15, 1992

Don't let elite casual drug users off the hook

Temperance is defined as drinking in moderation or total abstinence. Many would favor expanding the definition to include drug use, with the implication that using drugs in moderation is acceptable. Despite the misery and death drugs have brought to our homes, neighborhoods, and schools, some still favor this permissive approach. They urge the government to go ahead and bomb the Colombian drug plantations and clean out the ghetto crack houses, so long as the weekend cocaine and marijuana user is left in peace to unwind in whatever manner he pleases. This approach was proved wrong 20 years ago. It would compound the tragedy to let the elite casual user off the hook again.
Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p.150 , Apr 1, 1991

Ensure that no one who wants treatment is excluded

A tough policy can also be a compassionate one. When I visited Daytop Village drug rehabilitation center in Swan Lake, New York, in 1988, I met scores of young people who had fallen into the drug trap. With guidance from Monsignor O'Brien and his dedicated colleagues, they were now on the road to productive, drug-free lives. Daytop offers 24-hour-a-day supervision, stiff punishments for patients who stray, and regular follow up testing after they go home. Because many such programs rely solely on private donations, only a fraction of those who need them can get in. No matter what else President Bush does, he should make it a national goal to ensure that no one who really wants to beat drugs is ever excluded from treatment. Any American who saw the hopeful faces of the young people at Daytop Village would gladly open his heart and his checkbook if it meant saving even one more child from oblivion.
Source: In The Arena, by Richard Nixon, p.153 , Apr 1, 1991

Strong stand against legalizing marijuana

I was asked about marijuana because [a group is conducting] a study. Now, my position is flat-out on that. I am against legalizing marijuana. I know all the arguments about [how] marijuana is no worse than whiskey. But the point is, once you cross that line, from the straight society to the drug society -- marijuana, then speed, then itís LSD, then itís heroin, etc. then youíre done. Weíve got to take a strong stand. I think if we legalized it, then your high school and elementary kid, well why not?
Source: White House tapes: meeting with Mayor Richard Daley , May 13, 1971

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Other past presidents on Drugs: Richard Nixon on other issues:
Former Presidents:
Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

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Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022