It was forty years ago today… The "War on Drugs" from Nixon's White House Tapes

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It was forty years ago today,
Richard Nixon taught the world to hate
The people who would smoke a weed
Protesting war and hate and greed.
So may I introduce to you
The war you’ve known for all these years,
Richard Nixon’s Hopeless War on Drugs.
(lyrics by Russ Belville set to the tune of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” – apologies to Lennon & McCartney!)

On this 40th Anniversary of the “War on (Certain American Citizens Using Non-Pharmaceutical, Non-Alcoholic, Tobacco-Free) Drugs”, I decided for our podcast I would delve deep into the Nixon White House Tapes (available at with some help from transcripts provided by Common Sense for Drug Policy.   Visit to read and hear the rest of our audio chronology of the War on Drugs and the Shafer Report that first called for decriminalization of marijuana in 1972.

40 thoughts

  1. I love when he says the homosexuals will destroy the country…but they are too weak to serve in the millitary…so if they are that weak how can they destroy the country?

  2. Congradulations you White House ha ha charade you are.
    40 of my 51 spent chasing your own tail.
    And me standing by watching money n lives wasted.
    Good thing my fish dint get caught in your net.
    How bout we norml ones all get it done.
    Spank their silly asses n take our money baxck.

  3. Nixon was a crook and a grade A Asshole to boot! 58,000 soldiers died in Vietnam and countless others were wounded both mentally and physically. It was a total waste. I will say I respect the troops that went and wish they were treated better coming home both then and now! Soldiers I salute you. Politicians I despise you.

  4. It should be obvious to anybody who studies history that Nixon’s “Drug War” had more to do about quelling the popularity and agenda of the hippie movement from the 60s than keeping people safe from drugs. Nixon used drugs as an excuse to go after anti-war protestors that were really having an effect on US foreign policy at the time. Along with hippie celebrities like John Lennon who were becoming too powerful for the establishment, Nixon wanted to stop the whole counterculture movement.
    For anybody out there reading this that supports the Drug War, grow the hell up! Anybody with enough compassion and sense can see that the Drug War is only a tool to crack down on segments of the population; and a tool to generate money from the public through legal fees and forfeiture. Right now the big purpose for the Drug War 2011 is to feed the prison industrial complex, drive the judicial businesses from legal aids to judges, and of course law enforcement.
    The pharmaceutical, tobacco, and alcohol industries also play a roll, along with other lobbyists usually with monetary ambitions. The Drug War today is also an attack on people of color.
    Please, be a real human being of understanding and reason and support ending this horrible crime against humanity known as the Drug War.

  5. $80.00..!! thats a little steep for information that can be found for free and with ease on the internet. I love reading and it looks like a cool book….but $80.00?
    [Russ responds: $60. The Big Book is only $80 if you want the next year’s updates. As the person who compiled this information “for free and with ease”, let me tell you it’s been almost nine months of fact-checking and researching. Then there are the custom charts I created that you won’t find anywhere on the internet. It’s meant to be used by activists who are tabling at expos and outdoor hempfests who won’t have access to the internet (even AC power sometimes). It’s like an oversize coffee-table book that doubles as a free-standing presentation easel. I understand money is tight (believe me!) but I assure you that price covers printing cost, assembly time, and licensing fees back to NORML (aka “a percentage of this book benefits NORML” which pays for the research and writing and web hosting that makes this information available “for free and with ease on the internet”. Plus, I am self-publishing and don’t have the benefit of a huge company with great bulk processing and assembly line labor. Literally every NORML Big Book is put together by hand by me.]
    I guess I wouldnt have a problem with the price but honestly Im not sure if NORML is inline with my beliefs any longer (Full Legalization). They have really seemed to fully embrace the Medical Marijuana movement which in the end is not sustainable (for alot of reasons) and will eventually give FULL CONTROLL to the PHARMACEUTICAL companies. Once they have control of a multi million/billion dollar industry they we NEVER release it. If you think the lobbists from the alcohol and cig companies were tuff … just wait.
    At the end of the day I dont want to smoke Medical Marijuana its just too darn strong the high is too much. I just want to sit back and smoke some good old fashion hippie brew.
    Legalize it and be done with it!
    [Editor’s note: Again, you must have NORML confused with medical cannabis-only groups like Americans for Safe Access as NORML is clearly the most famous and transparent public advocate on earth in favor of legalizing cannabis. Period.]

  6. There are those who have great sympathy toward Nixon’s failed ambition.
    I am not one of them.

  7. its not like any other president has been any better on the war on drugs. its still failing and still costing tax payers out the ass. Ron Paul 2012, Legalize freedom of choice, personal responsibility, and the constitution, and end the fed!
    [Editor’s note: Unfortunately, Ron Paul is too old and is clearly unelectable (even among Republican voters…) for president, so how can he be the answer for voters?]

  8. “And – they keep paying on a dead horse” – and – we keep letting them. We can correct man’s mistakes – just stop re-electing them. It’s funny – they spend like a drunken sailor – and – we keep letting them back in the bar.

  9. Economical gain via prohibition, need a job then try law enforcement. I’d much rather you be a cop than a non-user. Take back America, be the police, the Judge, the legal system.

  10. I should get a metal for being in this war. I have seen good friends die and go to prison I lost the love. And respect. Of my loved one’s. And now my youngest son life is all mess up do to drugs pharmacology drugs was the gate way. BongBong

  11. From #8
    [Editor’s note: Unfortunately, Ron Paul is too old and is clearly unelectable (even among Republican voters…) for president, so how can he be the answer for voters?]
    A loyal Norml supporter note: That is the most stupidest and the most damaging thing I have ever heard from Norml.
    There are people out there who wants to know what Ron Paul is all about? How immature of you to play the age game and give out an UN-NORML cheap shot on a candidate that has a very good mind and soul and who can out debate anybody.
    Ron Paul can beet Obama from being re-elected.
    Ron Paul and also Gary Johnson are the best and they both have the experience of being elected.
    Ron Paul is ageless.

  12. Ron Paul can beat Obama from being re-elected.
    The primaries haven’t even started yet. Let the debate begin. Ron Paul is no joke.
    There are a lot of old intelligent people out there that wants to end the Drug War and live in a free society without being discriminated because of age. Freedom shouldn’t fade with age.

  13. I love Ron Paul too! But I understand what Russ is saying. The game is rigged — people. The media will not give Paul any credibility or attention compared to the other mainstream candidates. The MSM will undoubtedly give the masses the impression that Paul does not have a chance, just like last time. And it is a self fulfilling prophecy that even supporters buckle and ‘want to make their vote count.’
    Sooooo, we have to work within ‘their’ stupid system; like it nor not. No matter how much people complain about Obama; the fact is not since Jimmy Carter have we had such a passive climate in which to work toward reform. So these mainstream candidates do offer some hope.

  14. Libertarians (like Ron Paul) have some great ideas. Unfortunately, some of their not-so-great ideas revolve around “the market” becoming a de facto government in the sense of not having any laws whatsoever regarding what businesses can or cannot do. Yes, a libertarian government would legalize cannabis. But they would also allow every corporation in the country to have the right not to hire you if you tested positive for cannabis, even though it would be legal. Because there would be no laws saying corporations cann’t discriminate. Don’t forget, Libertarians think Brown Vs. Board of Education (which ended segregation) was a bad idea. Rand Paul (Ron Paul’s son) said as much.
    Like I said, Libertarians have some great ideas. But trading a government police state for a privately-owned police state is not an improvement. That’s why Ron Paul will never garner the votes of the Left. We dig a lot of what he’s sayin’, but scrapping environmental laws and workplace safety laws and privatizing the national parks isn’t our idea of improving the situation. Why should we trade a bunch of tyrants a thousand miles away for a thousand tyrants in our own town? That’s how privatization works. Just ask the Bolivians what happened when water got privatized.

  15. “Libertarians (like Ron Paul) have some great ideas. Unfortunately, some of their not-so-great ideas revolve around “the market” becoming a de facto government in the sense of not having any laws whatsoever regarding what businesses can or cannot do.”
    You got it all wrong man. Ron Paul is a Constitutionalist; which means he promotes “self responsibility.” In other words, Paul feels people don’t need “babysitters.” And he is not trying to have business replace government. In his model, business would have a whole lot more competition so this would even out the playing field better. In a true free market, business wouldn’t be bullied to drug test. Freedom is good for business and good for the people.

  16. I still have found memories of Nixon… when he got on that helicoptor and flew his ass away into the sunset. That SOB has blood on his hands for what he did to so many families. And many other presidents do too including our lying SOB Obama.

  17. I took special note of this tragic anniversary, 17th of June 1971, to become Prop 215 | SB 420 compliant. GFY, Nixon … along with every other Right Wing Authoritarian / Fascist that has occupied the White House ever since that time.
    If hell does exist, and I have my doubts, Richard M. Nixon is hopefully sitting in the 6th or 7th (lowest) level of Dante’s Hell.
    With any luck, there were a few disgruntled tourists available to piss on Nixon’s grave to mark this date.
    Under our Constitutional Republic, with an English common law heritage that reaches back 800 years to the Magna Carta, citizens natural and inalienable rights flow to our governments, State or Federal, not granted to us by our governments’ leave. The Right Wing Authoritarians / Fascists have had to shred our Constitution and Bill of Rights ( Prohibition, War of Drugs, PATRIOT Act, Help America Vote ( Our Way ) Act, War of Terror, Military Commissions Act, etcetera ) to pry our inalienable rights and liberties out of our own hands, while we are supposed to ‘thank them’ for keeping us ‘safe’ ( from them ).
    The Republic is dead. American democracy has been crushed under a Fascist jack-boot. And apparently even the Department of Education has militarized SWAT teams to go after people with student loans in arrears. This country is ripe for a revolution — at the ballot box, if at all possible …

  18. David, you are correct to excoriate Nixon, and right wing fascists, but the left wing are just as guilty in the creation and maintenance of the drug war.
    And just when you think an intelligent person has come along to reintroduce sanity, he (Obama) does the opposite.
    Mister Obama is a hypocritical narcissist. He loves himself too much to admit that he supports the drug war, so he lies. Obama would make Nixon proud!

  19. Jeedi, I have read the Libertarian philosophy quite extensively. I know what they cloak behind “Constitutionality”. The same thing the Republicans cloak behind the word “Freedom”. It’s Orwellian Doublespeak. I know that Ron Paul named his son Rand after Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand’s bizarre philosophy only works for the rich.
    We already have corporate tyranny. By the way, the government does not force corporations to drug test. Corporations do it because they can and because insurance companies tell them to. They’re not bullied into it at all. Remember, the Bill of Rights does not apply on private property. So how does giving corporations even more power equal more freedom for the working people?
    Ron Paul wouldn’t be any worse than anyone else currently running. But he won’t get elected because of the not-so-nice things Libertarians stand for. Like unfettered capitalism where they can do anything they want with impunity.

  20. Ll Says:
    June 19th, 2011 at 9:01 pm
    “Is it just me, or does it seem like Obama has put the war on drugs on steroids!?”
    It’s obvious to me… They are setting up Big Pharma to take over Medical Cannabis and then they will double down on the prohibition to keep black market prices artificially high (hehe I said “high”) so they don’t lose market share to the streets.
    This is exactly why rescheduling cannabis to Schedule III is a BAD idea. I suspect botanical Cannabis will remain illegal and they will justify this by saying ‘smoking is bad…mkay?’.
    queueing “I told you so”… but I do hope I am wrong.

  21. All libertarians (Ron Paul included) are unelectable for high office due to the fact that their economic policies will produce feudalism. Libertarian philosophy has no beef with monopolies. The philosophy has no beef with selective service by any agency, I.E. white only shopping is a OK (for a American example). Profits are what is supposed to motivate virtuous behavior. LOL, what a joke. Profits are maximized by built in obsolescence. Profits are always taking more then one needs, how is that virtuous? Libertarianism requires people to be inherently intelligent, good, and far sighted which they are not.
    By the way, I won’t vote based on feelings. So and so feels that the rule should be this..Appeals to reason are the only legitimate angles to approach a problem.
    You people complaining about the pharmaceutical industry getting control of this commodity are contradicting your own positions. If the Pharmaceutical industry was going to get that kind of monopoly, it would totally be for it (full legalization). The whole point of Pharma being anti-legalization is because it can not have a monopoly outside of prohibition. Marinol is legal because it is very difficult to make. Pot is illegal because any dedicated halfwit could get in on the game.
    Why is growing opium illegal but buying pharmaceutical morphine is legal? This is because the pharmaceutical industry needs your business. God forbid an individual produce their own morphine. Oh, but they will be degenerate drug addicts. LOL. Degenerates are the same whether on drugs or not. Id rather them be able to get cheap drugs and be lazy bums then having them burglerize and exoring people to get artifically expensive substances.

  22. It just occurred to me that, alcoholism is a disease, so drug addiction is a disease, so prohibition literally criminalizes people who suffer from a disease!

  23. It is still early in the political game of Who Wants to be President?
    Nixon was a very good poker player and he uses those skills on almost on all of his political ambition.
    What are his ambition? Let’s just say that he likes to be on top screwing people he doesn’t like and to impress other dictators on how quickly he can gain power. Then he was caught cheating during his political game (Watergate) and fell rock-bottom.
    Ronald Reagan with his acting skills did well, but stabbed his “yuppie” followers in the back during his second term by reintroducing the Drug War by naming marijuana as the number one enemy and to provide a very big increase in the DEA budget; it’s been hell ever since.
    The point I’m making is that this corrupted and misleading Drug War must stop because it is unconstitutional and it is making enemies and criminals out of people.
    Right now it is a vicious cycle. Corporations — Government — Organize Crime.
    Vote out the bad guys in the primaries!
    Free the market.
    Free the cannabis plant.
    Legalize freedom!

  24. “So how does giving corporations even more power equal more freedom for the working people?”
    Corporations (Too Big To Fails) already have unlimited freedom. Paul is well aware of the blatant crimes commented by corporations like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, etc., everyday! Yet these “White Shoe Boys,” as Celente likes to call them, get away with murder. Sometime literally.
    If Paul got in, he would find that the whole agenda America is on is unchangeable and put in motion decades ago. This is what Obama found out and then joined ‘them.’ So if President Ron Paul started investigations into neo-cons, and abolished the Federal Reserve, Ended the Drug War, ended all current foreign wars, closed Gitmo, ended torture, etc., he would create a shit storm in this country that would absolutely destroy the economy and politics as we know it today (and many big Corporations it cahoots with the government) which would ultimately give the power back to the people. And then we would have freedom!

  25. “Corporations do it because they can and because insurance companies tell them to. They’re not bullied into it at all.”
    Directly from the US Dept of Labor Website, “Although Federal agencies are required to have drug-free workplace programs for their employees, no Federal regulations universally affect private-sector employers that establish drug-free workplace programs. However, depending on the organization’s industry and whether or not it does business with the Federal government, certain Federal regulations may apply.”
    When you consider that many of the largest Corporations in the US at one time or another are contractors for the Federal Government, I’d say these Corps are often bullied into drug testing their employees.”

  26. To; 26 LI
    fyi, there is an excellent paper out on the internet from a professor in canada (sorry, no link) regarding his landmark study on ‘Right Wing Authoritarianism’. as it turns out, the political party of RWA is democrat and republican — it’s a matter of fascistic tendencies.
    Both parties are chock full of RWAs, including and especially the Obama regime.
    if you take a look at the level of tyrannical national security surveillance police state policies from Reagan forward, Obama has fully embraced the USA prohibition prison planet, a 180 degree turn from the more libertarian positions that he campaigned from. when it comes to the Police State, secrecy in government, the PATRIOT Act and all the rest, Obama is actually more of a fascistic RWA than his predecessor — something i would not have believed possible in january 2009.

  27. Just watched Allan St. Pierre on the “ABC Marijuana Debate”, and for the first time in a long while I felt like NORML might actually be for legalizing marijuana! Good debate Allan! I just wish instead of trying to interrupt your opponent, you just sat quietly until the discussion came to you and then said, “I’ll start debating when this joker stops LYING”!!!

  28. The only good thing about evil people like Richard Nixon is that eventually they die. Their legacy lives on but the rat bastards croak. I am being hypocritical because I was raised to not talk badly of the dead. Nixon deserves badmouthing.

  29. Well, Jeedi, if Ron Paul did that, I’d vote for him. As I said, he’d be no worse than any of the clowns currently planning to run. He might be better. But he won’t get elected because they’ll pull the “He doesn’t support our valiant troops!” crap. I admire Paul taking the unpopular stands against war and the police state. But too many Americans are in a nationwide Stockholm Syndrome and in love with their captors. They like wars. They like the police carting off people they don’t like. These are the attitudes that need to change.

  30. we the people need to get out in the streets and stand up for what is right! these politians are playing us like puppets. u see what it’s going to take to get our gov. back , look over seas ,,the same type of people are running this country down the same way. and what? we gonna stand for that? the reason all this is going on is because we let it. american people are weak and miss guided, by a currupt gov., they’re not gonna stop, they’re going to suck every penny out of us. guys life shouldn’t be stressful, you should be able to enjoy life, enjoy every part of life, doing good and healthy things for your life you only have one life to live. the gov. wants to put all this tv and the news they want you to hear which is mostly bad an depressing for our lives and all this material crap in your face so you won’t focus on your life. we need to stand up for what is right,our gov. has had the 2 worse chemicals for human consumption on our shelves for 2 long, i’m not saying make them illegal, i’m just saying for people like me that don’t care to drink much and will never try a cigg again,… just because i’m not a alcohol using tabacco spitting hill billy, shouldn’t mean i can’t smoke pot!!!!! please help me people! i’m in louisiana, i don’t do anything wrong and i’ve felt like a criminal my whole life, i’m tired of having to deal with dealers on the street, u know what i mean?,so please lets stand up for whats right and get our country back, and quit letting them treat us like babies and irresponsible people. if you didn’t know a gambler now you do ( our government! ) and it’s a disease no different from any other drug. WE NEED TO PUT AN END TO THIS!!

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