5 Completely Embarrassing Moments in the War on Drugs

Decades later, and still zero confirmed cases of reefer madness
5 Completely Embarrassing Moments in the War on Drugs

For decades now, the American government has been fighting the “War on Drugs.” Results have been less than stellar. When a war has been going on for almost a half-century, it’s not usually because you’re winning. When you decide to declare war on the general idea of recreational chemicals, it might sound cool during the speech, but that’s a battle that you’re going to have a hard time proving any actual progress in. Unless the goal was to horrendously overcrowd the nation’s prisons with nonviolent offenders. In which case, you showed them!

The term crashed onto the scene after it was proclaimed in a speech by actual criminal Richard Nixon. This was in 1971, shortly before he would resign from office due to the Watergate scandal. As you might imagine from something created by a man who may hold the dubious and hotly contested title of the most bluster-filled president in American history, the War on Drugs was, and remains, more of an empty, grandstanding threat than any real genuine plan. After all, there’s nothing better in the world of politics than a powerful statement with almost absolutely nothing behind it, like a cardboard cutout of The Punisher.

Here are five of the most embarrassing products and occurrences since the War on Drugs started…

DARE Doesn’t Work


Cool car, narc!

Maybe one of the most famous anti-drug campaigns ever created was D.A.R.E., which is what I assume is a backronym of the unwieldy Drug Abuse Resistance Education. This program came about when some absolute bona-fide geniuses came up with the idea to get teenagers to stop doing drugs by having authority figures tell them not to, which is not exactly a slam-dunk plan. The success rate of cops telling kids not to do drugs is about as high as the success rate of a chaperone telling kids not to have sex at prom.

All research since has backed up the fact that D.A.R.E. did absolute nothing to affect rates of drug use among teens, with some studies even finding that it might have  increased the rates of their drug use. An outcome that a blind man submerged in a vat full of India ink should have been able to see coming. D.A.R.E. probably had more of an effect on the graphic T-shirt business than the drug trade.

Legal Weed’s Success


Ahh! Get it away before Im dragged to hell!

Recently, in a long-overdue move, the government has finally started to legalize marijuana. The devil’s lettuce was, for ages, one of the chief bogeymen in the War on Drugs’ lore as a gateway drug and the leading cause of reefer madness. There was a time where a single skinny joint would be held up by pale-faced, breathless parents, looking as if they’d just walked into John Wayne Gacy’s crawl space. Nowadays, even the narc-iest of narcs will begrudgingly admit that weed isn’t doing much evil outside of holding up the line at 7-Eleven.

Not only that, but the legalization of weed has created a booming business and a positively shocking amount of tax revenue for the states in which it’s implemented. Just last year, the single state of Colorado brought in almost a HALF BILLION DOLLARS in tax revenue from the good ol’ jazz cabbage. I’ll let you decide what you think is better for the public: hundreds of millions of dollars in extra government money, or spending the same amount to keep a guy who had an ounce of sticky in his glove compartment in prison away from his family.

Quadro Tracker

Public Domain

This and Quadro Tracker both used about the same amount of science.

Policy and actions taken can be argued about endlessly, as pretty much 90 percent of Twitter proves every day. Kick around the internet’s gutter long enough and you’ll probably find some people arguing that you should still be able to smoke cigarettes on airplanes. This entry, however, is pretty much completely irredeemable in the most entertaining possible way. It’s nothing more than a good old-fashioned scam that police departments, despite their crime-solving acumen, fell for, head over heels.

I’m talking about the Quadro Tracker, a device that was marketed to police departments nationwide. It was a small plastic device that claimed to be able to detect things like guns and drugs after you inserted the corresponding “frequency card” (which, of course, cost money). The location was then meant to be indicated by a metal antenna. Now, calling it a device at all might have been generous, given that it turned out to be just a hollow piece of plastic. Basically, police across the country dished out taxpayer dollars in a big way to buy drug-dowsing rods.

”Fentanyl Overdose” Cop Footage


A lethal dose of fentanyl, if you actually ingest it.

One trend that continues to make news on the kind of news sites that need to be read with one eyebrow raised is footage or photos of a police officer who “overdosed” on fentanyl through skin contact or just general vibes, it seems. Now, fentanyl is a hugely dangerous opioid, hard to detect and easy to overdose on by accident, such as when it’s included in cocaine or other drugs. However, overdoses do generally require ingesting the actual drug.

The stories continue to pile up of officers left lying panicked on the ground or looking like they can see directly into the face of death after contact such as brushing it off their uniform, or just being in a car where the drug was found. Unfortunately, doctors and chemists have repeatedly explained: That is not how it works. Even more embarrassingly, some scientists and doctors have suggested that what these cops think are fentanyl overdoses are actually just panic attacks.

Admitting It Was B.S. in the First Place

Public Domain

Nixon and Ehrlichmann (second from left)

There’s plenty of failures to speculate on, and we could easily poke more holes into public policy that already resembles a colander at this point. What might be a more useful take on the War on Drugs, though, comes directly from one of the men responsible for it, and it’s a pretty straightforward take: The whole thing was bullshit.

Nixon’s domestic policy chief, John Ehrlichman, in an interview from Harper magazine in 1994, finally gave up the ghost on the true motives of declaring a War on Drugs. Even as admissions of guilt go, it was pretty stark. 

He told the interviewer, “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black (people), but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.” 

Wait, so bongs don’t open up a direct line of communication between you and Satan? Because that’s what I’d been hoping for.

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