This Week in History

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August 2, 1937: The Marijuana Tax Act is passed by Congress, enacting marijuana prohibition at the federal level for the first time. Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner Harry Anslinger tells the Congressmen at the hearings, "Marihuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death."

August 2, 1977: In a speech to Congress, Jimmy Carter addresses the harm done by prohibition, saying, "Penalties against a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against possession of marijuana for personal use. The National Commission on Marijuana... concluded years ago that marijuana should be decriminalized, and I believe it is time to implement those basic recommendations."

July 29, 1995: In an interview with the editors of the Charlotte Observer, Pat Buchanan says he favors measures that would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for relief from certain conditions. "If a doctor indicated to his patient that this was the only way to alleviate certain painful symptoms, I would defer to the doctor's judgment," he says.

July 29, 1997: A large number of Los Angeles sheriff's deputies swarm into the home of author and medical marijuana patient Peter McWilliams and well-known medical marijuana activist Todd McCormick, a medical marijuana user and grower who had cancer ten times as a child and suffers from chronic pain as the result of having the vertebrae in his neck fused in childhood surgery. McCormick ultimately serves a five-year sentence, while McWilliams chokes to death on his own vomit in 2000 after being denied medical marijuana by a federal judge.

July 31, 2000: In Canada, Ontario's top court rules unanimously (3-0) that Canada's law making marijuana possession a crime is unconstitutional because it does not take into account the needs of Canadian medical marijuana patients. The judges allow the current law to remain in effect for another 12 months, to permit Parliament to rewrite it, but says that if the Canadian federal government fails to set up a medical marijuana distribution program by July 31, 2001, all marijuana laws in Canada will be struck down. The Canadian government did set up a medical marijuana program, and the law remains intact.

August 1, 2000: The first Shadow Convention convenes in Philadelphia, PA, with the drug war being one of the gathering's three main themes.

August 3, 2001: The Miami Herald reports that the CIA paid the Peruvian intelligence organization run by fallen spymaster Vladimiro Montesinos $1 million a year for 10 years to fight drug trafficking, despite evidence that Montesinos was also in business with Colombian narcotraffickers.

July 30, 2002: ABC airs John Stossel's special report, "War on Drugs, A War on Ourselves," which critically points out the futility of the government's current approach to drug control policy.

July 28, 2003: James Geddes, originally sentenced to 150 years for possession of a small amount of marijuana and paraphernalia and for growing five marijuana plants, is released. Geddes had said, "How can it be that the President, his wife, the Vice President and his wife, the mayor of Washington DC, even the Speaker of the House can do these things, but I must pay dearly?"

July 31, 2003: Karen P. Tandy is confirmed by unanimous consent in the US Senate as Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Tandy was serving in the Department of Justice (DOJ) as Associate Deputy Attorney General and Director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. She previously served in DOJ as Chief of Litigation in the Asset Forfeiture Office and Deputy Chief for Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and she prosecuted drug, money laundering, and forfeiture cases as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia and in the Western District of Washington.

August 1, 2004: The Observer (UK) reports that the US blames Britain's "lack of urgency" for its failure to arrest the booming opium trade in Afghanistan, exposing a schism between the allies as the country trembles on the brink of anarchy.

August 3, 2004: Sixty percent of Detroit's residents vote in favor of Proposition M ("The Detroit Medical Marijuana Act") which amends the Detroit city criminal code so that local criminal penalties no longer apply to any individual "possessing or using marijuana under the direction... of a physician or other licensed health professional."

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