A Comprehensive History of U.S. Drug Testing Part II

The Slippery Slope

Around this time, Nixon began secretly recording conversations in the Oval Office, providing access to prosecutors and historians alike with unwise personal access to his most private comments. In the ensuing years as more and more tapes have been released, President Nixon’s repeated animosity towards Jews and other minorities has been well documented. Nixon always maintained that he was not prejudiced. “I’ve just recognized that, you know, all people have certain traits,” he shrugged years later adding,  “The Jews are just a very aggressive and abrasive and obnoxious personality.” (sic)

But the first public hint of Nixon’s anti-Semitism came from a recording made on May 26, 1971, while the President was discussing plans with his chief-of-staff to essentially create a position for first White House drug czar. The highly visible heroin crisis was the subject and the staff thought marijuana was relatively unimportant, but the president disagreed.

“Can I get a goddamn strong statement on marijuana… one that that just tears the ass out of them!” he demanded before he taking a pivot: “I see another thing in the news summary this morning about it,” the President noted. “You know, it’s a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob? What is the matter with them? I suppose it’s because most of them are psychiatrists, you know, there’s so many. All the greatest psychiatrists are Jewish…” Nixon reeled in after a moment and returned to his immediate concern. “By God, we are going to hit the marijuana thing, and I want to hit it right square in the puss!”

The comment is notorious because of the Jew-baiting it revealed, but a close second reading iwill be rewarded. Clues as to who and what Nixon was babbling about are framed around his words.

“I see another thing in the news summary this morning about it…”  means that he saw something about marijuana legalization in the presidential news summary on the morning of May 26, 1971. There was a lot going in the world of weed during the Spring of 1971, but there was only one significant news item that week involving a Jewish psychiatrist trying to legalize marijuana. That was the week Harvard University Press published the seminal Marihuana Reconsidered by Dr. Lester Grinspoon, and review copies were distributed to friend and foe alike at the end of May. Grinspoon’s Marihuana Reconsidered would go on to become the most influential book in the history of cannabis law reform and would directly lead to the widespread legalization movement that is currently succeeding so well. But the book’s first impact on American history was apparently to coax a little boorish anti-Semitism out of the 36th President of the United States, not just on the record but also on the recording, loud enough for all the future to hear.

On June 10, Bud Krogh brought a “miracle worker” to the White House and introduced Dr. Jerome Jaffe to the President of the United States. Jaffe was a cutting-edge pharmacologist and psychiatrist from Chicago who had recently reduced crime in the Windy City by a whopping 40 percent through a clever combination of methadone maintenance and other treatment services for addicts. When the President asked Jaffe what he would need to repeat his achievement nationwide, Dr. Jaffe’s wish list included more treatment on demand, more therapeutic communities, methadone detox, methadone maintenance, a pinch of psychiatry and increased urinalysis.

“It’s easier for men than women to get urine into a bottle,” the researcher wound up saying as Nixon scrunched up his face liked he smelled something bad.

The man who would become the first drug czar assured the Quaker Commander in Chief that research was moving forward at a rapid clip and that a saliva test that would soon replace Operation Golden Flow, the urine test program that was on current duty at the time in Vietnam. It won’t be long, Jaffe seemed to imply. It’s right around the corner.

One week later, amid a flurry of domestic protests, Richard Nixon declared narcotics “Public Enemy Number One” and established the Special Office on Drug Abuse Prevention (SAODAP, pronounced say-oh-dap) naming Chicago-based psychiatrist Dr. Jerome Jaffe (known to posterity as “The Methadone King”) as its first director. They didn’t call him a drug czar but that’s what he was. Nixon characterized addiction as a “cancerous growth” that “comes quietly into homes and destroys children.” But this first modern drug war initiative was not about children or even marijuana (as much as Nixon may have wished otherwise); it was about soldiers and heroin and an increasingly unpopular war in Southeast Asia. Nixon announced the U.S. military would immediately begin urinalysis of all service personnel returning from South Vietnam, and Congress appropriated over $50 million dollars for the task.  He called for enhanced law enforcement at home against drugs. with increased criminal penalties, enhanced international cooperation, more money for Customs and increased funds for training. Not least, Nixon portentously amended existing legislation to permit American assistance in foreign lands to help tackle illegal drug production and trafficking at the source. After that, illegal drugs morphed into something more than a gold mine. Heroin to the east and cocaine to the south became coins of great currency in the realm of U.S. foreign policy.

Nixon’s drug war was the only time rehabilitation took precedence over punishment. Methadone maintenance, despite its many flaws and limitations, was a sincere attempt to reduce consumption. It was not meant to last.  As the White House announced its Vietnam drug test initiative, the New York Times began to publish the Pentagon Papers – the Defense Department’s Secret History of the Vietnam War. Two weeks after the military drug test announcement, Krogh co-authored another secret memo for Ehrlichman in which the original idea of a White House secret police squad was now repurposed for political needs. Krogh recommended the formation of a clandestine White House Special Investigations Unit to be led in the field by that same over-zealous Justice Department attorney who came up with the screwy idea in the first place. Among other things, he was a former ghostwriter to J. Edgar Hoover and the former Duchess County assistant  D.A. who busted Tim Leary at Millbrook. A mid-level, mean-spirited wiretap tech who fancied himself the real James Bond (which he clearly was not); he was the thoroughly bizarre G. Gordon Liddy, America’s spook, He called his team “The Plumbers” as in “We stop leaks”.

Bud Krogh personally authorized the first illegal break-in to the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. Two and a half years later he pled guilty to federal charges of conspiring to violate the psychiatrist’s civil rights and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. From the White House to the Big House, Krogh was sentenced to two-to-six years in prison and served four-and-a-half months for his crime. In a related note, Liddy served 52 months and Ehrlichman served a year and a half for their subsequent shenanigans at the Watergate Hotel.

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