On March 22, 1972 -- 30 years ago today -- the presidentially-appointed National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse (also known as the "Shafer Commission," after its chair, the Republican former governor of Pennsylvania, Raymond Shafer), released its report and recommendations. The commission, like similar commissions before it, called for decriminalization.

Recently released tapes of discussions in Richard Nixon's oval office reveal that bizarre prejudices and biases pervaded that administration's decision to ignore the commission's highly-researched findings and instead dramatically escalate marijuana enforcement and the overall war on drugs.

"We need, and I use the word 'all out war,' on all fronts..." was Richard Nixon's reaction to his national commission's recommendation that marijuana no longer be a criminal offense, according to recently declassified Oval Office tapes. The year after Nixon's "all out war" declaration, marijuana arrests jumped by over 100,000 people even though the experts had said it should not be criminal.

The tapes from 1971-1972 demonstrate that the foundation of the modern war on marijuana was Nixon's prejudice, culture war and misinformation. Common Sense for Drug Policy has issued a report on the recently released recordings, whose highlights are excerpted below.

"At a critical juncture when the United States decided how it would handle marijuana, President Nixon's prejudices did more to dominate policy than the thoughtful and extensive review of his own Blue Ribbon Commission," observed CSDP president Kevin Zeese. "If we had followed the advice of the experts rather than Nixon's prejudices, we would have less marijuana use, be spending less money on marijuana enforcement, and many millions less people would have been arrested." Since the Commission issued its recommendation that marijuana offenses not be a crime, fifteen million people have been arrested on marijuana charges.

Highlights of Nixon comments on marijuana:

The CSDP Research Report, "Nixon Tapes Show Roots of Marijuana Prohibition: Misinformation, Culture Wars and Prejudice," and text transcripts of portions of Nixon White House taped conversations, including the portions excerpted in the report, are available online at:
The full text of the report of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, "Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding," is available online at:

-- END --
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Issue #229, 3/22/02 Editorial: Congress's Bad Joke | DRCNet Launching John W. Perry Scholarship Fund for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions at NYC Event on March 26 | Alert: Tell Congress to Repeal the HEA Drug Provision in Full | Supreme Court Hears Arguments in High School Drug Testing Case -- Comments by Justices Ominous | 3th Anniversary of Shafer Commission Report -- New Nixon Tapes Reveal Twisted Thinking at Root of Modern Marijuana War | Bush Administration Asks Congress to Lift All Restrictions on Aid to Colombia | Colorado State University Opens Nation's First College Drug Court | Canadian Firm That Sued US Over Hemp Foods Ban Set to Meet With Array of Feds -- NAFTA Rules Force US to Talk to Kenex | Medical Marijuana Bills Still Moving in Maryland, Vermont | Sentencing Project Study Finds 135,000 Children Affected by Welfare Ban for Drug Offenders | Alerts: HEA, Bolivia, DEA Hemp Ban, SuperBowl Ad, Ecstasy Legislation, Mandatory Minimums, Medical Marijuana, Virginia | The Reformer's Calendar

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