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Crime and PoliticsBig Government's Erratic Campaign for Law and Order$
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Ted Gest

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195103434

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195103432.001.0001

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Drugs: Is the War Winnable?

Drugs: Is the War Winnable?

(p.109) Chapter 6 Drugs: Is the War Winnable?
Crime and Politics

Ted Gest (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The federal government asserted a role in fighting narcotics abuse since the early 20th century, but it was not until the Richard Nixon administration starting in 1969 that a federal “war on drugs” became high profile. Nixon stressed drives against smuggling heroin from counties like Turkey and Mexico. His administration's efforts were marred by raids on erroneous locations by a new federal Office of Drug Law Enforcement. A successor agency called the ‘Drug Enforcement Administration’ jockeyed with the FBI for supremacy in the drug enforcement field. Drug treatment generally had lower priority when it came to funding. A scourge of “crack” cocaine spread in the mid‐1980s, causing Congress to increase penalties for drug abuse in such a way that black people who primarily used crack were punished much more severely than whites who tended to use cocaine's powder form. An effort to coordinate federal antidrug resources better resulted in the establishment of a White House director of drug control policy (“drug czar”) in 1989; the first to hold the position was former education secretary William Bennett. Drug abuse declined in the 1990s, but there was disagreement over the primary cause. Advocates credited a combination of more‐intense law enforcement, better treatment, and establishment of more than 500 “drug courts” that could ride herd on offenders. The numbers of drug abusers were creeping back up by 1999.

Keywords:   crack cocaine, drug courts, drug czar, Drug Enforcement administration, drug treatment, heroin, Richard Nixon, Office of Drug Law Enforcement, war on drugs

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