The following is a paper in which creates a timeline of the policies and laws legislation has enacted in order to regulate the law enforcement over drugs.

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Keywords: Drugs, Laws, Regulation, Enforcement, Policies

Chronological Timeline of Drug Law Acts in the United States
Drugs have been apart of American society since the 1600’s. They are used for recreational purposes and some use them strictly for medicinal purposes. These drugs have different effects depending on the class of drug it falls into. During that time many people were ignorant to the severe consequences of drug use. Heroin addiction was prevalent during this time because in many cases it was used as medicine to treat certain addiction such as alcoholism; cocaine was also used as medicine and was also one of the main ingredients in the popular drink, Coca-Cola (Department of Health & Human Services 2016). Due to the many variations of drugs, American policy makers had to come up with policy statements and legislation in order to have some regulations on drugs.

In order to regulate the drugs and keep them from being incorporated into food, the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act was enacted. This Act was made in order to prevent the manufacture, sale, and transportation of adulterated or misbranded food or drugs (Federal Food & Drug Act 1906). It also required food and drug manufacturers to label the content, which affected the patent medicine industry greatly. As food and drugs were being strictly regulated, legislatures began taking a deeper look into opiates and Cocaine.

In 1914, the Harrison Tax Act was enacted in order outlaw opiates and Cocaine. It was unlawful for any individual to produce, import, manufacture, or sell any of these drugs without proper registration and paying the proper taxes. A year after the act was passed, Utah became one of the first state to pass an anti-marijuana law. It is said that Mormons brought marijuana back with them from Mexico (Department of Health & Human Services 2016). Racial prejudices against Mexico caused many southwestern states to also outlaw marijuana just as Utah did. Due to the lack of knowledge on the drug, many policies and laws were made based off of prejudice propaganda. This caused the American population to go into frenzy and desire a tougher approach on drug regulation as the years went by.

In 1922, the Narcotic Drug and Import and Export Act was passed and eliminated the use of narcotics unless it was being used for medicinal use which needed to be approved by a Doctor (Department of Health & Human Services 2016). The Heroin Act, Marijuana Tax Act, and Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act are among the list of many acts that were enacted in order to gain control over drug safety in the United States.

One of the most significant shifts in American drug policy was the declaration of War on Drugs in the 1980’s. “The War on drugs” is the campaign of for prohibition of drugs in the United States (Drug Policy Alliance 2016). This was a zero tolerance policy, which meant that severe punishment would be implanted for anyone who violated the drug laws. One of the most severe punishments was associated with the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity (Drug Policy Alliance 2016). Though crack and powder cocaine have nearly the same molecular levels, one being in the form of rock and the other in the form of powder, those who are charged with 1 gram of crack are given the same sentence as those who are found with 18 grams of cocaine (ACLU 2016). This has caused uproar in the American society because millions of people are imprisoned with lengthy sentences for minor crime violations. As more knowledge about drug use are developing, it is being seen as a mental issue rather then a criminal problem, which will allow for reform to be possible.

  • A Brief History of the Drug War. (2016). Retrieved June 17, 2016, from http://www.drugpolicy.org/new-solutions-drug-policy/brief-history-drug-war
  • Fair Sentencing Act. (2016). Retrieved June 17, 2016, from https://www.aclu.org/feature/fair
  • Federal Food and Drugs Act of 1906. (2009, May 20). Retrieved June 17, 2016, from http://www.fda.gov/RegulatoryInformation/Legislation/ucm148690.htm
  • Significant Dates in U.S. Food and Drug Law History. (2016). Retrieved June 17, 2016, from http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/WhatWeDo/History/Milestones/ucm128305.htm