Use of heroin peaked between 1969 and 1971, marijuana between 1978 and 1979, and cocaine between 1987 and 1989. A major decline in the use of opium started after the Harrison Act of 1914 was initiated.
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.
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.
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. The number is about to reach 2.5 million inmates, of which approximately half are incarcerated on drug related offenses.
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.
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.
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