discussed in class, drugs have been a part of the human
experience from the beginning. Most of the regulation during that
time was through social sanctions and responses to intoxication
(rather than sanctions for use).
official proclamations against the use of various substances have occurred
over the centuries (including laws forbidding the consumption of coffee,
smoking of tobacco, etc.) In this country, the restriction of use
and distribution of drugs on a Federal level is less than 100 years
old. Previous to 1914, any restrictions were on the State or local
level, and those restrictions were few and far between and commonly
targeted to use by certain groups.
I'll do here is trace the development of legal control over drugs to give
you an idea of how we came to where we are now. (Don't
memorize specific years. I won't ask you, "What
law was passed in 1938?" However, the chronology is important
for understanding how these regulations have developed (and how relatively
recent most of them are. Also, you'll need to know what the major
drug acts did. Major acts will be marked in red.))
History of drug laws and restrictions in
In Massachusetts, first law to limit alcohol availability in U.S.--
forbade selling to Indians.
Between 1851 and 1855, 13 states passed alcohol prohibition
laws. By 1868, 9 had repealed them. Same pattern later. Again,
laws aimed partially at those who were partaking rather than on the drug
San Francisco Ordinance banning the operation or visiting of opium
dens. Again, the drug itself not banned, only a particular setting
(aimed at controlling use among Chinese immigrants).
Tea Importation Act-- possibly first consumer
protection law. Test incoming loads for quality. (How done? By tasting, of
At this point, there are no Federal laws
governing use or distribution of any drug (medicinal or
recreational). Substances such as heroin, morphine, and cocaine are
readily available and sold as part of "patent" medicines to cure
everything from menstrual cramps to toothaches in children.
However, times are beginning to
change. The morality movement against alcohol has begun to take hold
in various areas of the country. Also, concerns about the use of
opium and cocaine beyond medicinal uses is gaining attention. The
Federal government was much less activist in controlling behaviors at the
turn of the century, however, and very narrowly saw its province as dealing
with interstate commerce. Accordingly, the U.S. government was very
slow at responding to what was seen by some as a crisis, and was actually
involved in the exportation of opium into China and the Philippines. At the beginning of
the 20th century, the stage is set for greater Federal response to drugs
and their use.
Food and Drug Act enacted-- strictly a
"labeling law"-- only affected misbranded foods and drugs.
Main concern was "patent medicines" that could be made up of
tar, animal secretions, cocaine, heroin, or whatever and no one would
know. As far as the law was concerned, the medicine could contain
all of these as long as it was labeled properly.
Around this time the fear of Chinese opium dens coupled with stories
of supposed cocaine-fueled violence by Blacks down South-- topped by an
inflammatory and unsubstantiated accounts to Congress of how cocaine was
leading to the raping of White women by Black men-- lead to calls for
From 1907 to 1919, 39 states enacted prohibitions and
only 2 repealed, showing a resurgence in the Prohibition movement.
Some of this was fueled by religious prejudice, with the prohibitionists
being Protestant using Irish-Catholics as examples of decadent
drunkenness. 64% of Americans lived in "dry"
Hague Conventions-- calling for international
regulation of opium. U.S., who convened international meeting at The
Hague because of
growing concerns about opium use at home, called on the
carpet for not having any drug restrictions of its own. This led to
the enacting of the Harrison Tax Act.
Harrison Tax Act-- Direct response to Hague
Conventions to deal with "narcotics." Keeping in line with
the view of the Federal government's role in interstate commerce, this act
was a tax and only a tax (NOT a prohibition, as it is often misinterpreted
as doing.) Under the act, physicians were able to "minister to
patients" and "...drugs obtained by addicts were to be secured
through registered physicians." That meant that at this
time, addiction was legally seen as a medical issue rather than a
punishable, behavioral one. Coca and cocaine were inappropriately identified in this Act as narcotics.
Jan. 16, 1920-- 18th Amendment (Volstead Act;
alcohol prohibition) was ratified; took effect 1/16/21. Helped launch
suffragette movement since women were instrumental in the passage of this
Since Harrison Act was a tax, enforcement taken
over by treasury department during 1920's along with alcohol prohibition
enforcement. An over-zealous interpretation of
law developed-- not just collect
taxes and insure registration, but it took on a prosecutorial position.
Strict interpretation saw the prosecuting of doctors that prescribed to
addicts, no longer seeing addiction as a medical issue. Over a short
period of time, the Treasury Dept. refused to register other
sellers (even though allowed by law), and closed public health clinics
that administered to addicts (since not considered legitimate medical
purpose). Two times as many drug (opiates and cocaine) arrests as
for alcohol during this time.
During this time, marijuana use was popular in some areas (cities)--
at "tea dens"-- since marijuana legal and alcohol was not.
Some references to use by Mexican-Americans, but
use and concern about it low. In 1926,
however, a series of reports from New Orleans linking marijuana with crime
piqued public concern.
Dec. 5, 1933-- 21st Amendment overturning
18th Amendment (Prohibition).
Realized that, while drinking and alcoholism had gone down, organized
crime had become stronger; willful violation of law was rampant; and, with
the Depression, tax money was wanted. Sales did not reach
pre-prohibition levels, however, until after WW-II.
36 states with laws regulating use, sale, or
possession of marijuana. By 1936, all 48 states had laws.
Increasingly, violent crimes blamed on marijuana use. By 1937, it
was touted as the "foremost menace to life, health and morals in America."
Marijuana Tax Act-- Only
a tax! While not making it illegal, by
taxing grower, distributor, seller and buyer, it made it virtually
impossible to get. (The Act specified only one species of cannabis,
and although all contain the same active ingredients, they are impossible
to tell apart after processing, making enforcement impossible as
well). The STATE laws then made it illegal. HOWEVER, in 1969,
the Supreme Court ruled the Tax Act unconstitutional because for it to be
followed, the user or seller would have to declare self, thus
incriminating self, in violation of the 5th Amendment. Use dropped
markedly until late 1950's/early 1960's.
Up to this point, then, any control of
drugs at the national or Federal level involves taxation-- the tool used
to control commerce. However, views toward the Federal government
fundamentally changed following the Great Depression and during World War
II. A view that the government should play an active role in
protecting the citizenry developed. Along with that grew changes in
how drugs were regulated:
Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act-- At this time,
sulfa drugs commonly used as antibiotics, which could not be taken easily
because there was no liquid form. In search of a liquid form, a
chemist found that one sulfa drug (sulfanilamide) dissolved in diethylene
glycol. Unfortunately, diethylene glycol causes kidney poisoning and
this drug killed 107 people before being pulled off the shelves in
1937. Reason for it being pulled off? A true elixir, as it was
advertised to be, contained alcohol. By the 1906 Food and Drug act,
the drug needed to be properly labeled; it did not have
to be safe. The chemist committed suicide; the company paid the
largest fine in the history of the existing 1906 law; and the 1938 Act was
enacted saying that drugs or cosmetics had to be tested for toxicity
before marketing. Also, adequate directions for use needed to be on
package and made first mention of "use by instruction from physician
only"-- in other words, prescription vs. non-prescription
Amendments (1962)-- It wasn't until 1962, on the heels of the
Thalidomide situation (a drug given to pregnant women for morning
sickness that caused severe birth defects), that amendments were added stating that a drug had to be
effective for what it was intended and that approval had to be given
before trials on humans could be conducted, thus creating the Food
and Drug Administration (FDA). Investigation of
existing drugs' effectiveness began in 1964-- by 1974, 6133 drugs had been
removed for ineffectiveness. This is important because it marks
direct involvement of the federal government in the safety and
effectiveness of a product-- a much more activist stance than in
1900. We now take for granted that a drug or medical device has
passed such scrutiny. It is, however, quite recent in our history.
Drug Abuse Control Amendments-- referred to
amphetamines, barbiturates and LSD (added in 1968) as "dangerous drugs" and allowed for FDA
to recommend to Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to control them
and other drugs that may later be deemed a problem. This is the
first direct prohibition of a drug decreed by the Federal Gov.
The last "dry" state (Mississippi) went
"wet" in 1966.
Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970
(Controlled Substance Act of 1970)-- Specifically stated that drugs under
act were now under Federal jurisdiction and dealt with both narcotics and
other "dangerous" drugs. Also dealt with prevention and
treatment. Treated marijuana differently-- making a separate
commission to study this and report in 1972. Continuing
with the trend started in 1965, and in contrast to early acts, this one was to control
drugs directly, not through taxes-- moving enforcement out of Treasury to
Justice and established the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Attorney General in charge of enforcement; but Health,
Education, and Welfare (through the FDA) in
charge of defining what needs to be controlled, considering:
1) pharmacologic actions
2) other scientific knowledge about it and related
3) risk to public health
4) dependence (psychic or physiologic) potential
5) whether the drug was a pre-curser for other drugs
Alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine excluded.
The 1970 Controlled Substances Act brought
about our current approach to drugs. Addiction and drug use are now
squarely in a behavioral realm with the government's role being in
enforcement. The laws that followed 1970 have been to strengthen or
expand the Controlled Substances Act:
Marijuana recommended to be downgraded to
misdemeanor. (Previously, states treated as felony resulting in
extreme penalties). Oregon first state to do so in 1973-- resulting in
small increase in use. Other states followed (inc.
Minn.) In 1970's, Carter administration worked toward Federal
Drug Analogue (1984) and Anti-Drug Abuse
The Drug Analogue
act was enacted to deal with "designer" drugs, allowing
immediate classification of a substance as a controlled substance.
Previous to this, people were avoiding prosecution with chemically altered
versions of controlled substances with similar drug effects because they
didn't appear on the Schedules. The Anti-drug abuse act focused
on penalties for trafficking.
Omnibus Drug Act (a.k.a., "Chemical diversion and
trafficking act")-- added registration requirements on airplanes and
boats, dealt with arms sales, money laundering, and added death penalty
for murder connected with drug-related felony. Toughened penalties for
users and allowed for confiscation of vehicles used in distribution.
Legislation and litigation regarding tobacco has taken on a new
twist, with cigarette manufacturers being challenged for health costs
associated with use of their product. This has led to settlements
with numerous states, notably the Minnesota settlement in 1998.
Further, the Food and Drug Administration proposed in 1996 to place
tobacco under its control (excluded in the Controlled Subst. Act and also
the Pure Food and Drug Act that established the FDA.) The FDA
maintains that cigarettes are a "nicotine delivery device" and,
therefore, similar to any other drug product. Congress has disagreed
and the cigarette manufacturers have challenged this in the courts.
The Clinton administration has sided with the FDA. The Supreme Court
heard arguments on this matter in Fall, 1999. The
Supreme Court decided against the FDA being able to regulate tobacco,
citing the Controlled Substances Act as deliberately excluding tobacco
from the FDA's control. Congress would need to act to change the
The Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control
Act restricts access to chemicals and equipment used in the manufacture of
methamphetamine and increases penalties for possession of these plus the
manufacture and/or sale of the drug. The Combat
Meth Act of 2005 amended
the Controlled Substances Act to make pseudophedrine (the active
ingredient in Sudafed and a necessary ingredient for home meth production)
a Schedule V drug to limit amounts that can be purchased and requiring
I.D. This amendment has been credited with a significant drop in
home meth production. However, distribution has shifted to cheaper
sources from, predominantly, Mexico.
The text goes through a
similar timeline, splitting medicinal controls from drug abuse controls
after 1914. You should be
familiar with this material before contributing to the drug