Ronald Reagan on drugs

Ronald Wilson Reagan ? America’s 40th president ? died on June 5, 2004 at the age of 93.
Though some may try to remember him as “the great communicator” or the “vanquisher of communism,” Reagan should also be remembered for turning Nixon’s drug war rhetoric into an actual war, complete with military involvement against the American people.

Beginning in 1980, the first year of his presidency, the Reagan Administration launched an enormous campaign against drug use. The effort was spearheaded by the president’s wife, Nancy, under the slogan, “Just Say No.”

“We’re taking down the surrender flag that has flown over so many drug efforts,” said Reagan. “We’re running up a battle flag.”

During their eight years in power, the Reagan administration passed many bills to boost prison terms, allow for seizure of property without conviction, and ordered the CIA to become active in the domestic drug war.

The Reagan era saw the creation of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) school propaganda program, and the spraying of American marijuana fields with the toxic weedkiller paraquat. Reagan’s Drug Czar, Carlton Turner, said that kids deserved to die as punishment for smoking the poisoned weed. Two years later, he called for the death penalty for all drug users.

Yet despite the anti-drug rhetoric, the Reagan administration allowed CIA-backed Nicaraguan contras to build up the cocaine trade in the US. Best documented in the 1996 San Jose Mercury News series Dark Alliance, the profits from this operation were used to further American interests in Nicaragua.

Ronald Reagan declared the war on drugs to be one of the major achievements of his administration. The greatest legacy of Reagan is a doubling of the federal prison population, a deep erosion of civil liberties, hundreds of thousands of families destroyed, and the launching of a drug war that continues to tear America apart.

? For more on Ronald Reagan’s legacy: