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U.S. Drug Control Timeline
by Fire Erowid
Jun 2004
Citation:   Erowid F. "U.S. Drug Control Timeline". Erowid Extracts. Jun 2004;6:4-5.
The legal control of psychoactives in the United States began soon after the country was formed. Within a few years of the ratification of the Constitution, the first drug control measure was approved by Congress in the form of a tax on the production of whiskey.

Over the next 200 years, the federal government continued to increase these controls, growing increasingly bold in the interpretation of its powers. Restrictions were put in place out of a combination of legitimate health concerns, puritan ethics, corporate goals, and xenophobic attitudes.

A look at the order of major drug control measures that were passed gives a sense of how a culture can go from no such laws to the outlawing of any unapproved intoxicant. Agencies were created, merged, and destroyed in succession as the federal government worked to effectively impose control on the use of psychoactives. The process moved from taxes, to limitations and restrictions, to full control and prohibition. And in that same period of time, use has continued to increase.

Perhaps something can be learned by reviewing the steps (forward and back) that drug control has taken throughout the history of the United States.

[Key: Underlined entries indicate the formation of a new government agency.]

1791 -- Whiskey Excise Tax
Imposed a federal tax on the production of whiskey and required all stills to be registered. Led to the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794.1

1848 -- Drug Importation Act
Required all medications (as defined by the newly established pharmacopeia) entering U.S. ports to be inspected and analyzed for "quality, purity, and fitness for medical purposes".2

1862 -- Office of Internal Revenue
Created by an act of Congress to collect federal taxes. Responsible for enforcing taxes on distilled spirits. Organized under the Dept of Treasury and renamed the Internal Revenue Service in 1953.

1868 -- Pharmacy Act of 1868
Required testing and registration by those who dispensed drugs including morphine, cocaine, and barbiturates. Did not regulate patent medicines (proprietary mixtures sold to consumers).

1875 -- Opium Dens Targeted
San Francisco passed the first U.S. ordinance against smoking opium in opium dens. Other cities and states followed in the next few years.3

1882–1901 -- Temperance Education Laws
Pushed by the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), during this period every U.S. state enacted laws requiring that students be taught the harmful effects of alcohol and narcotics.4

1897 -- Tea Importation Act
Established a board of tea experts to create standards of tea quality. Allowed customs inspections of all tea entering U.S. ports with the power to refuse entry to sub-standard tea. First law regulating food products.5 This act was not repealed until 1996.

1906 -- Pure Food and Drug Act
Prohibited the manufacture and sale of "adulterated or misbranded" foods, drugs, and medications. Specifically required labelling of products containing alcohol, morphine, opium, cocaine, heroin, and cannabis among a few others. This led to the decline of patent medication sales.

1906 -- Bureau of Chemistry
Organized under the U.S. Department of Agriculture and responsible for enforcing the requirements of the Pure Food and Drug Act. Later became the Food and Drug Administration.

1909 -- Smoking Opium Exclusion Act
Banned the importation, possession and use of "smoking opium". Did not regulate opium-based "medications". Prompted by U.S. participation in the international Shanghai Opium Commission the same year.6 This is the first federal law banning the non-medical use of a substance.

1914 -- Harrison Narcotics Act
Required those who dispensed "opium or coca leaves, their salts, derivatives, or preparations" to register, pay a small tax, and keep records of the drugs they dispensed. Allowed physicians to prescribe these "narcotics", but only in the course of treatment and not to addicts. Made it illegal to possess narcotics without a presciption. This is the first federal law requiring a license or prescription for legal possession.

1914–1927 -- Bureau of Internal Revenue
Responsible during this time for registration and collection of taxes under the Harrison Narcotics Act.

1920 -- The 18th Amendment & the Volstead Act
The passage of the 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act effectively outlawed the production, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the U.S. Allowed for the use of legally acquired alcohol only in private homes.

1922 -- Narcotic Drug Import and Export Act
Also called the Jones-Miller Act. Increased penalties and further restricted the import and export of opium and coca.

1922–1930 -- Federal Narcotics Control Board
Established by the Narcotic Drugs Import and Export Act to make regulations regarding the import and export of opium and coca.

1924 -- Heroin Act
Made the manufacture and possession of heroin illegal.6

1927–1930 -- Bureau of Prohibition
Created by an act of the same name. Replaced the Bureau of Internal Revenue with a new bureau under the Dept. of Treasury. This is the first organization responsible solely for the enforcement of drug and alcohol laws.

1930–1968 -- Federal Bureau of Narcotics
Replaced the Bureau of Prohibition and moved the enforcement of drug laws from the Dept. of Treasury to the Dept. of Justice. Its first commissioner, the infamous Harry Anslinger, began actions to control cannabis in addition to opium and coca.

1932 -- Uniform State Narcotic Act
Encouraged states to pass uniform state laws matching the federal Narcotic Drug Import and Export Act. Suggested prohibiting cannabis use at the state level. By 1937 every state had passed laws prohibiting cannabis use.

1933 -- 21st Amendment Repeals Prohibition
Removed the federal ban on production and sales of alcohol and gave control of alcohol laws to the states.

1937 -- Marihuana Tax Act
Made it federally illegal to buy, sell, barter, or give away cannabis without paying a transfer tax. This is the first federal law regulating the possession and sale of cannabis. Declared unconstitutional in 1969 in U.S. vs Timothy Leary.

1938 -- Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act
Revised and expanded the Pure Food and Drug Act to require more extensive labelling and safety testing of food products. Introduced safety standards and required that new drugs be shown to be safe before marketing.

1951 -- Boggs Act
Imposed mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of violating the Narcotic Drug Import and Export Act or the Marihuana Tax Act. These minimums were mostly repealed in 1970.

1956 -- Narcotics Control Act
Also known as the Daniels Act. Further increased penalties and mandatory minimums for violations of existing drug laws.

1965 -- Drug Abuse Control Amendment
Modified the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic act, regulating, for the first time, the sale and possession of stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens. Restricted research into psychoactives such as LSD by requiring FDA approval.

1965–1968 -- Bureau of Drug Abuse Control
Formed under the Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare. Responsible for enforcing the Drug Abuse Control Amendment.

1968–1973 -- Bureau of Narcotics & Dangerous Drugs
Created by executive order, under the Dept. of Justice, by merging the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control.

1968 -- Staggers-Dodd Bill (Public Law 90-639)
Amended the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act making it illegal to possess LSD and other "depressant or stimulant drugs", and increased the penalties for trafficking in such drugs.

1970 -- Controlled Substance Act
Replaced the Drug Abuse Control Amendment. Organized federally regulated drugs (including opiates, coca, cannabis, stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens) into five schedules with varying restrictions and penalties.

1973 -- Drug Enforcement Administration
Created by executive order under the Dept. of Justice. Combined the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and several other law enforcement organizations.

1984 -- Uniform Drinking Age Act
Withheld sizeable federal transportation funds from states that refused to raise their drinking age to 21.

1986 -- Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986
Increased sentences and re-imposed mandatory minimums. Judges are required to impose minimum sentences based on the type and quantity of drug involved.

1986 -- Federal Analogue Act
Created a new legal definition of "analog" and placed analogs of a controlled substance into the same schedule as that substance.

1988 -- Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988
Replaced the term "recreational use" with "abuse" in the federal vocabulary. Strengthened ability to confiscate property in drug-related crimes. Re-instated the death penalty for traffickers.

1988 -- Office of National Drug Control Policy
Created by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. The head of the ONDCP is the "drug czar", a cabinet level position.

1994 -- Dietary Supplements Act
Broadened the definition of "dietary supplements" (as distinguished from "foods" and "drugs") and significantly lessened FDA control over them.7