This Week in History

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February 9, 1909: Congress passes the Opium Exclusion Act.

February 8, 1914: In an example of the role of racial prejudice in the genesis of US drug laws, The New York Times publishes an article entitled "Negro Cocaine 'Fiends' New Southern Menace."

February 7, 1968: In a move likely spurred on by the Nixon campaign's "law and order" rhetoric, President Lyndon Johnson creates the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD) by combining the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) with the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control. By 1972, the BNDD is 1,361 agents strong.

February 7, 1985: Enrique Camarena, an aggressive DEA agent stationed in Mexico who discovered that drug traffickers there were operating under the protection of Mexican police officials, is kidnapped outside of his office in Guadalajara. His body is found several weeks later bearing marks of brutal torture.

February 3, 1987: Carlos Lehder is captured by the Colombian National Police at a safe house owned by Pablo Escobar in the mountains outside of Medellin. He is extradited to the US the next day. On May 19, 1988 Lehder is convicted of drug smuggling and sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus an additional 135 years.

February 5, 1988: A federal grand jury in Miami issues an indictment against Panamanian General Manuel Noriega for drug trafficking. Noriega had allowed the Medellin cartel to launder money and build cocaine laboratories in Panama.

February 4, 1994: An unpublished US Department of Justice report indicates that over one-third of the drug felons in federal prisons are low-level nonviolent offenders.

February 9, 2000: Deborah Lynn Quinn, born with no arms or legs, is sentenced to one year in an Arizona prison for marijuana possession and violating probation on a previous drug offense, the attempted sale of four grams of marijuana to a police informant for $20. Quinn requires around the clock care for feeding, bathing, and hygiene.

February 7, 2001: After a contentious confirmation process, new Attorney General John Ashcroft declares, "I want to escalate the war on drugs. I want to renew it. I want to refresh it, re-launch it, if you will." He said this despite the fact that under President Clinton's two terms in office the number of jail sentences nationwide for marijuana offenders was 800% higher than under the Reagan and Bush administrations combined.

February 4, 2003: Jurors who had convicted Ed Rosenthal on federal marijuana cultivation charges hold a press conference, saying they were deceived by the withholding of information about Rosenthal's involvement in medical marijuana, that they would not have convicted him had they known, and calling for a new trial.

February 4, 2003: The New York Times publishes an editorial defending Ed Rosenthal and medical marijuana. It says, in part: "The Bush administration's war on medical marijuana is not only misguided but mean-spirited. Doctors have long recognized marijuana's value in reducing pain and aiding in the treatment of cancer and AIDS, among other diseases. A recent poll found that 80 percent of Americans support legalized medical marijuana. The reasons the government gives for objecting to it do not outweigh the good it does. And given the lack of success of the war on drugs in recent years, there must be better places to direct law enforcement resources."

February 6, 2004: The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejects the DEA's ban on hemp foods.

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