The sins of past presidents are visited on the present, and when presidents make poor decisions, the odious results can linger for decades. We are still suffering from Richard Nixon’s drug policy decisions made in the 1960s.
Nixon ignored the advice of both the head of National Institute of Health (NIH), Dr. Stanley Yolles, and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) deputy director Dr. Bert Brown. Each of them had recommended that if cannabis were dealt with at all by the federal government, cannabis use should be treated as a minor problem, equivalent to a parking ticket, deserving of nothing more than a legal infraction.
To circumvent the scientists at NIH and NIMH, Nixon set up the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). NIDA is focused only on drug abuse. As a consequence, NIDA has systematically blocked research designed to study the potential medical benefits of cannabis for treating such maladies as ADD, pain, PTSD, autism spectrum disorder and cancer.
That somewhat distant history came to mind recently, while watching MSNBC the night after the U.S. bombing of the Syrian air field. One of the pundits was former Drug Czar, retired General Barry McCaffrey who, according to reporter Seymour Hersh, was a war criminal for his actions in the first Iraq war.
This led me to thinking how quickly we forget and discount past governmental transgressions. This seems especially true as it pertains to the Middle East. Frequently we don’t recognize the long term adverse effects of previous bad policy decisions. This is doubly true when it comes to oil and the Middle East.
We rarely contemplate the nexus of oil, the half century long mess in the Middle East, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 and the war on hemp. The media rarely reminds us that the person responsible for the chaos in the Middle East, the second longest war after the war on drugs, is former President George W. Bush. He and he alone is the one who set in motion the current dangerous situation.
“We rarely contemplate the nexus of oil, the half century long mess in the Middle East, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 and the war on hemp. The media rarely reminds us that the person responsible for the chaos in the Middle East, the second longest war after the war on drugs, is former President George W. Bush. He and he alone is the one who set in motion the current dangerous situation.”
Bush’s ill advised destabilization of the Middle East, created by the U.S. toppling Saddam Hussein, continues to have serious adverse consequences. Ironically one of the reasons that Donald Trump won the presidency is because in the Republican primary he could be critical of Bush’s war and later attack Hillary Clinton in the general election for voting to support it. In fact, that is also a reason why she lost the 2008 Democratic nomination to Barack Obama, who had always opposed the war.
It seems sad that folks like Bush, Clinton and McCaffrey get away scott free from moral responsibility while hundreds of thousands have died in the Middle East and millions have been displaced due to this U.S. fueled conflagration. We know from well documented reporting that Bush’s Texas oil backers were plotting the war in Iraq even before he was nominated in 2000. We know that the invasion of Iraq was motivated by a desire to protect and have access to the mammoth oil reserves there.
So what does all this oil have to do with marijuana? Well, everything if you’re thinking about hemp and hemp ethanol.
Many experts surmise, with substantial circumstantial evidence, that the petrochemical industry, and DuPont in particular, was the force behind the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. DuPont had invented cellophane, made with petroleum, which was about to become standard packaging for most American goods. DuPont feared competition from hemp as a fiber (the first plastics used plant oils), and competition to synthetic nylon and rayon, other cellulose based products. William Randolph Hearst, who owned most of the newspapers of the time, also owned paper mills and viewed hemp paper, which requires 75 percent less sulfides than making paper out of wood pulp and can be grown annually, as competition. The Rockefeller family, of Standard Oil, viewed hemp-sourced ethanol as competition— Henry Ford’s first Model T was made with a hemp acrylic skin, hemp upholstery and ran on hemp ethanol.
Were it not for the Marijuana Tax Act, we would, at the very least, be seeing a line of Ford cars run on biofuel. At the time, DuPont not only made the gasoline additive tetra-ethyl lead, but was also the number one shareholder in Ford’s major competitor, General Motors. The legislation was carried in the house by a frequent DuPont errand boy, Robert Naughton (D-NC).
With the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, we got the marginalization of hemp. Then in 1970s, with the passage of the Nixon’s Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the federal government provided another tool in the discrimination/marginalization tool box; the launching of a full-fledged “war” on drugs.
Twenty years later, with the presidency of Bill Clinton, General McCaffrey, the purported war criminal, was named as the Drug Czar. Much like the current administration, McCaffery played fast and loose with the truth. His erroneous comments about the effect of liberal drug laws in the Netherlands is a case in point.
McCaffrey said that the Netherlands had a higher murder rate than the U.S. and it was due to then liberal drug laws. In point of fact the U.S. murder rate was eight times higher than that of the Netherlands. McCaffrey had compared murder to attempted murder— obviously two different things. When the Dutch objected and officially corrected the statement, McCaffrey never corrected the record and never apologized.
The United States as a long track record of meddling, which has contributed to the distrust internationally. The current problems in the Middle East stem back to the end of World War I and the creation of Iraq. The region contains three distinctly separate groups: Shiite, Sunni and Kurd. They were artificially merged to form Iraq, creating an unstable situation which we still see today.
We and our oil allies have been stirring up the Shiite vs. Sunni hornet’s nest in the Middle East since well before our 1992 war in Kuwait. In the 1950s, we deposed the elected head of the Iranian government and replaced their democratically elected leader with someone much more favorable to the U.S., the Shah of Iran.
Political actions have consequences, yet we blindly plunge forward with little regard for the lessons of the past. Legalizing all forms of cannabis and producing them in mass could be a great way to establish energy independence and creating jobs for Americans. Were it not for the oil we might not have such difficulty. Were it not for the Marijuana Tax Act we almost certainly would have Ford cars running on ethanol, the demand for oil would be less and we would not have been mired in the second longest war in American history.