May 1, 1971 - Controlled Substances Act Goes Into Effect


This Day in Cannabis History:


It was exactly 50 years ago today that the Controlled Substances Act, the law that served as the basis for the War on Drugs, first went into effect.


Having run a campaign centered around "law and order," President Nixon wasted little time in launching his efforts to take down the hippie revolution—and his greatest weapon against them was drugs. Shortly after his inauguration in January 1969, he tasked his Attorney General John Mitchell with putting together a comprehensive new plan to combine all of the nation's various anti-drug laws into one overarching draconian measure he could then use to arrest and jail leaders of the counterculture.


The result was the Controlled Substances Act—a new law that categorized all known dangerous and/or illegal drugs into five "Schedules" of severity, supposedly based on their potential for addiction, harm, and abuse. Yet somehow cannabis, which his own appointed Schafer Commission had recommended decriminalizing for its lack of harm and addictiveness, made into Schedule I—reserved for the most addictive, and harmful substances that had no medicinal value (along with LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and heroin). Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it remains in that category to this day—serving as the foundation for the modern War on Drugs.


Nixon signed the CSA into law on October 27, 1970, but it was on this day, May 1, 1971, that it officially went into effect.