For almost 40 years, the United States has waged a war on its own citizens who have used marijuana as a part of a drug culture originally encouraged by the government. The war was commenced despite the government's own findings that marijuana posed less of a risk to American society than alcohol, and that the greatest harm that would result from criminalization would be the injury caused to those arrested for possession and use. The harm caused by the war extends beyond its 15 million prisoners; its cost has exceeded a trillion dollars, and it has benefitted only those who profit from the illegal cultivation and sale of marijuana.
Government Responsibility for the Drug Culture
Drug use became endemic among U.S. troops serving in Vietnam with more than 80% getting stoned on marijuana and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Many of the secrets are still hidden; however, we now have some information about the extent of the government's responsibility for the development of the drug culture in the military and in communities across America. These are the highlights:
Although the U.S. was a signatory to the Geneva Convention protocols banning the use of chemical weapons, the U.S. Army engaged in extensive testing of marijuana and its active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as an incapacitating agent in warfare. A secret research program tested these substances, including highly-concentrated derivatives, on thousands of American GIs without their informed consent.
The CIA engaged in a ten-year secret program to identify and test drugs for use as truth serums during interrogations and as incapacitating agents. Operation Midnight Climax secretly tested LSD on the unwitting patrons of a CIA-financed whorehouse.
The U.S. Army envisioned "driving people crazy for a few hours" by spiking a city's water supply and developed a super hallucinogen known as quinuclidinyl benzilate (BZ), which was tested on thousands of soldiers. Known as "agent buzz," the Army produced more than 100,000 pounds of the chemical in a facility specifically designed for its incorporation into conventional bombs. Allegations in foreign publications that BZ was deployed against North Vietnam troops have never been confirmed, and all files on the subject remain top secret. However, it is known that the government considered using it for the control of domestic riots.
To facilitate its alliance with the intelligence agencies of Thailand and Nationalist China, the CIA supported the transportation and refining of opium into heroin in Southeast Asia, including the opening of a cluster of heroin laboratories in the Golden Triangle in 1968-1969. The CIA remained silent as its allies, including officers of the Hmong irregular army, routinely supplied heroin to American troops in Vietnam, resulting in the addiction rates as high as 34%. In a secret report in 1972, the CIA Inspector General said: "The past involvement of many of these officers in drugs is well-known."
During classified testimony before a House committee in 1999, CIA Inspector General Britt Snider admitted that the CIA allowed its Nicaraguan Contra allies to smuggle huge quantities of cocaine into the United States during the 1980's, which was refined into "crack" for sale by street gangs. The House report found that "CIA employees did nothing to verify or disprove drug trafficking information, even when they had the opportunity to do so. In some of these, receipt of a drug allegation appeared to provoke no specific response, and business went on as usual."
The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse
In 1971, President Nixon appointed Governor Raymond P. Shafer of Pennsylvania to chair a national commission to "report on the effects of marijuana and other drugs and recommend appropriate drug policies. Governor Shafer was a former prosecutor, who was known as a "law and order" governor.
The "Shafer" Commission conducted the most extensive and comprehensive examination of marijuana ever performed by the US government. More than 50 projects were funded, "ranging from a study of the effects of marihuana on man to a field survey of enforcement of the marihuana laws in six metropolitan jurisdictions . . ."
"Through formal and informal hearings, recorded in thousands of pages of transcripts, we solicited all points of view, including those of public officials, community leaders, professional experts and students. We commissioned a nationwide survey of public beliefs, information and experience . . . In addition, we conducted separate surveys of opinion among district attorneys, judges, probation officers, clinicians, university health officials and free clinic personnel."
Among the Commissions findings were:
"No significant physical, biochemical, or mental abnormalities could be attributed solely to their marihuana smoking."
"No verification is found of a causal relationship between marihuana use and subsequent heroin use."
"In sum, the weight of the evidence is that marihuana does not cause violent or aggressive behavior; if anything marihuana serves to inhibit the expression of such behavior."