The war on drugs: The key dates revealed

It was a term coined by Nixon back in the 70s and in truth, it’s stuck ever since. The US, along with most of the world for that matter, has been embroiled in a war on drugs for decades. One would also suspect that this war will never quite be over.

Something that the so-called war does prompt are a lot of interesting dates. This became apparent following an infographic that entered our inbox, courtesy of the team at In short, this was a timeline of illegal drugs and to gain full context of the matter, we would urge you to take a look for yourself.

Today is going to take a brief look at some of the high-profile dates that were mentioned in the piece though. There are countless ones mentioned there but for us, the following stand out as key dates of interest:

  • 1875 – The first drug control comes in
  • 1924 – Anti-Heroin Act
  • 1937 – The Marihuana Tax Act
  • 1973 – The establishment of the Drug Enforcement Administration
  • 2012 – Colorado and Washington legalize marijuana

Based on the above, one could argue that it all started in 1875. This is when the first form of drug control came into play, as the authorities tried to tackle the impact of opium dens on San Francisco. Put simply, this law put an end to the use of opium and cocaine for anything that wasn’t related to a medical condition.

From then on, the restrictions gradually started to become more prominent. For example, in 1924 the Anti-Heroin Act was released and as the name suggests, this targeted heroin users and suppliers and attempted to put the brakes on the drug.

The next date worthy of a mention comes thirteen years later, in 1937. Again, this is where the name does most of the talking, with the Marihuana Tax Act putting some severe limitations on marijuana. This was one of the more interesting policy changes that was brought into play in relation to drugs. After all, the act didn’t specifically ban the use of marijuana, but it did place a tax and a license on it. In a bid to receive a tax stamp, one would have to show their goods to the authorities and subsequently admit to their crime. It meant that marijuana had been effectively banned, although interestingly this was ruled unconstitutional in 1969. It meant that the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 was left to “tidy up” and make marijuana finally illegal.

The next major date we have picked out comes in the form of 1973. This was the establishment of the Drug Enforcement Administration and as we all know, they are still around to this day.

There is quite a gap for our next big date, but if you do decide to look closely at the infographic you will find that there were a lot of smaller pieces of legislation that still heavily impacted the world on drugs.

However, none might have been as significant as in 2012, when both Colorado and Washington were able to legalize marijuana. This obviously completes something of a U-turn on the substance and shows just how full-circle the war on drugs has gone.

This hasn’t been the most recent liberal change, either. There have been others, affecting other states and other drugs, which show that the war on drugs is perhaps attempting a different approach – and one that is the polar-opposite to what we have witnessed in the past.


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