Weekly: This Week in History

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December 17, 1914: Congress passes the Harrison Narcotics Act, initiating federal prohibition of cocaine and opiates.

December 12, 1981: The report of the Task Force on Cannabis Regulation to the Center for the Study of Drug Policy -- Regulation and Taxation of Cannabis Commerce is issued, reading, "It has been observed that marijuana is one of the largest tax-exempt industries in the country today and regulation would end that exemption."

December 17, 1986: Guillermo Cano Isaza, editor-in-chief of El Espectador (Colombia), is assassinated while driving home from work. Cano frequently wrote in favor of stiffer penalties for drug traffickers. His murder leads to a national outrage comparable to the assassination of Attorney General Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, and a subsequent government crackdown on traffickers.

December 15, 1989: Medellin cartel leader Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha is killed by Colombian police in a raid on his Tolu ranch.

December 20, 1989: The US invades Panama with 24,000 soldiers in Operation Just Cause in order to overthrow dictator Manuel Noriega for drug trafficking, money laundering, and selling information to Cuba.

December 16, 1991: The US Supreme Court allows a US Court of Appeals ruling to stand which found that the government's interest in screening out possible drug users outweighed the applicant's constitutional right to privacy. Prior to this decision, only federal employees in occupations related to public safety (e.g. truck and bus drivers) could be tested without cause. The ruling opens the door to across-the-board drug testing for millions of businesses and was a boon to the drug testing industry.

December 12, 1995: Director Lee P. Brown announces his resignation as head of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy.

December 13, 1995: In response to a December 1 rally held outside the offices of Boston radio station WBCN to protest the airplay of the NORML benefit CD Hempilation, the National Writers Union and the Boston Coalition for Freedom of Expression issue statements condemning the actions of rally organizers, the Governor's Alliance Against Drugs (GAAD). Both groups are highly critical of the overall nature of the protest and specifically of the alleged use of state power and finances to help institute the rally. Reports note that protesters arrived in state vehicles, attendees were encouraged to "bring their squad cars," and an individual identified as a Boston liaison to the DEA accompanied Georgette Wilson, Executive Director of the GAAD, as she entered the station. "These sort of actions, when performed [and sponsored] by government agents, are specifically [prohibited] by law," charges Bill Downing, president of NORML's Massachusetts chapter.

December 14, 2001: While signing a new anti-drug bill that expands the Drug-Free Communities Support Program, President George W. Bush makes his first official mention that the Administration would begin leveraging its political successes with the War on Terrorism back into the War on Drugs when he says, "If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terrorism... It's so important for Americans to know that the traffic in drugs finances the work of terror, sustaining terrorists, that terrorists use drug profits to fund their cells to commit acts of murder."

December 13, 2002: A disabled, deaf, wheelchair-bound British charity worker returns home after spending two years in a primitive Indian prison after being found guilty of trafficking drugs even though it was a physical impossibility. Stephen Jakobi, director of Fair Trials Abroad, described the case against him as absurd. "There are things that just scream out to you," he said. "I have never actually been presented with a case where the guy is physically incapable of acting in the manner suggested by police."

December 18, 2002: 108 members of the European Parliament endorse a letter calling on the United Nations and its member states to establish a "system for the legal control and regulation of the production, sale and consumption of substances which are currently illegal."

December 13, 2004: Hungary's Constitutional Court restricts the use of diversion to drug treatment for some drug offenders, narrowing the scope of reform legislation enacted in 2003. In so doing, it also explicitly rejects an argument that the laws against drug possession are unconstitutional.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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