This Week in History

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October 24, 1968: Possession of psilocybin or psilocin becomes illegal in the US.

October 27, 1969: Anthropologist Margaret Mead provides testimony to Congress: "It is my considered opinion at present that marihuana is not harmful unless it is taken in enormous and excessive amounts. I believe that we are damaging this country, damaging our law enforcement situation, damaging the trust between older people and younger people by its prohibition, and this is far more serious than any damage that might be done to a few over-users."

October 27, 1970: Congress passes the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. It strengthens law enforcement by allowing police to conduct "no-knock" searches and includes the Controlled Substances Act, which establishes five categories ("schedules") for regulating drugs based on their medicinal value and potential for addiction.

October 22, 1982: The first publicly known case of Contra cocaine shipments appears in government files in a cable from the CIA's Directorate of Operations. The cable passes on word that US law enforcement agencies are aware of "links between (a US religious organization) and two Nicaraguan counter-revolutionary groups [which] involve an exchange in (the United States) of narcotics for arms." [The material in parentheses was inserted by the CIA as part of its declassification of the cable. The name of the religious group remains secret.]

October 27, 1986: President Reagan signs the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, an enormous omnibus drug bill which appropriates $1.7 billion to "fight the drug crisis." The bill's most consequential action is the creation of mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenses.

October 26, 1993: Reuters reports that the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) joined scores of Boy Scout troops, Elks Clubs, and other community groups in a program in which participants clean up sections of Ohio's highway system. The Ohio Department of Transportation had denied NORML's application twice previously, arguing it would be helping to advertise a "controversial activist" group. The American Civil Liberties Union stepped in, and Ohio's attorney general forced transportation officials to relent.

October 25, 1997: Regarding Colombia, the New York Times quotes US Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey as saying, "Let there be no doubt: We are not taking part in counterguerrilla operations." Less than two years later, on July 17, 1999, the Miami Herald reports: "McCaffrey said it was 'silly at this point' to try to differentiate between anti-drug efforts and the war against insurgent groups."

October 26, 1997: The Los Angeles Times reports that twelve years after a US drug agent was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in Mexico, evidence has emerged that federal prosecutors relied on perjured testimony and false information, casting a cloud over the convictions of three men now serving life sentences in the case.

October 27, 1997: After a four-year investigation and a five-month trial, a federal jury returns a not guilty verdict on one racketeering charge against two former US prosecutors who became lawyers for a drug cartel, but fails to reach verdicts on drug trafficking and other charges against the two lawyers.

October 23, 2001: Britain's Home Secretary, David Blunkett, proposes the reclassification of cannabis from Class B to Class C. Cannabis is soon decriminalized in Great Britain, only to be returned to Class B by the Labor government in 2008.

October 26, 2001: DEA agents descend on the LA Cannabis Resource Center, seizing all of the center's computers, files, bank account, plants, and medicine. The DEA cites a recent Supreme Court decision as justification for their action. The patient cannabis garden at the West Hollywood site is seized by DEA agents despite the loud protestations of the West Hollywood mayor and many local officials and residents.

October 27, 2001: The Guardian (UK) reports that a majority of Britons believe cannabis should be legalized and sold under license in a similar way to alcohol. Some 65 percent of those questioned in a poll agree it should be legalized and 91 percent said it should be available on prescription for sufferers of diseases like multiple sclerosis.

October 23, 2002: Time/CNN conducts a telephone poll of 1,007 adult Americans over two days (October 23-24). The result: Nearly one out of every two American adults acknowledges they have used marijuana, up from fewer than one in three in 1983.

October 27, 2004: In an op-ed piece in the Paris newspaper Le Monde, Raymond Kendall, the chief of the international law enforcement agency Interpol from 1985 to 2000, calls drug prohibition "obsolete and dangerous" and says its continuation represents a missed opportunity for reform. He says prohibition has failed to protect the world from drugs and Europe must take the lead in reforming the drug laws, particularly at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs in Vienna in 2008.

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