Federal drug policy of the United States


Use of heroin peaked between 1969 and 1971, marijuana between 1978 and 1979, and cocaine between 1987 and 1989.[1] A major decline in the use of opium started after the Harrison Act of 1914 was initiated.[2]

An overarching effort to impose mandatory penalties for federal drug crimes took place in the 1980s. This caused many drug crimes that were common at the time to carry mandatory minimum sentences of 5 to 10 years in a federal prison.

In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, legalizing the growing and use of marijuana for medical purposes. This created significant legal and enforcement conflict between federal and state government laws. Courts have since decided that a state law in conflict with a federal law concerning cannabis is not valid. Cannabis is restricted by federal law (see Gonzales v. Raich). In 2010 California Proposition 19 (also known as the Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Act) was defeated with 53.5% 'No' votes, and 46.5% 'Yes' votes.[3]

Pursuant to regulations (34 CFR 86) required by the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989 (codified at 20 U.S.C. § 1011i), as a condition of receiving funds or any other form of financial assistance under any Federal program, an institution of higher education must certify that it has adopted and implemented a drug prevention program which adheres to regulations in 34 CFR 86.100. It has recently gained renewed attention due to Colorado Amendment 64.[4]

Drug policy beginning to relax in new millennium

A review of drug policies at the turn of the century has given way to more relaxed US drug policies. The "War on Drugs", initiated during the Reagan and Nixon administration, has been proven ineffective. Prisons in the United States are heavily populated with drug users via laws which were primarily implemented in the 1980s. The US has more incarcerated individuals, per capita, than any other nation.[citation needed] The number is about to reach 2.5 million inmates, of which approximately half are incarcerated on drug related offenses.[citation needed]

Many states looking for a solution to this issue are considering 'Rehabilitation' as opposed to 'Incarceration' for drug users. As of January 2015, 23 states and the District of Columbia have made the use of marijuana legal for medical use. Seven more states are close to adopting the same policies, and Colorado, Washington (state), and twelve other states have legalized marijuana completely.[citation needed]

For other, more stigmatized drugs, much stronger opposition for legalization should be anticipated. However, many Americans believe that all drugs should be legalized, and that this will eventually happen. Under such ideas, much of the money traditionally used to prosecute, incarcerate, parole and monitor convicted drug users, would instead be used for drug rehabilitation and education.[citation needed]

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) opposes the legalization of marijuana but supports increased use of alternatives to incarceration for drug abusers. At an international conference hosted by the United Nations' Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the US proposed a declaration to this effect. It was subsequently approved in March 2015[5]

See also


  1. ^ "Interviews - Dr. Robert Dupont". Frontline. PBS. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  2. ^ Stephen R. Kandall, M.D.:Women and Addiction in the United States—1850 to 1920 Archived August 22, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Supplement to the Statement of Vote Statewide Summary by County for State Ballot Measures" (PDF). Secretary of State's office. January 6, 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 4, 2011. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
  4. ^ Yoder, Dezarae (February 25, 2013). "Marijuana illegal on campus despite Amendment 64". The Scribe.
  5. ^ "Commission on Narcotic Drugs Endorses Alternatives to Incarceration for Substance Use Disorders". whitehouse.gov. Retrieved January 24, 2016 – via National Archives.

External links

  • Office of National Drug Control Policy
  • Drug Enforcement Administration
  • George W. Bush Announcing His National Drug Control Policy on YouTube
  • NATIONAL DRUG POLICY: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Prepared For The Senate Special Committee On Illegal Drugs - Report for the Canadian Parliament
  • Human Rights Watch Racially Disproportionate Drug Arrests