California’s long history of drugs and drug reform began when a pervasive environment favored the free and open use of illicit drugs. Over time, the state became one of the most punitive in the nation, effectively ignoring Orange County rehab and other California regions in favor of lengthy stays in correctional institutions.
Although the 1980s is inextricably linked to the national War on Drugs, it actually began more than a century prior and California was the springboard. In the 1880s, California was the go-to for mood-altering substances such as cocaine, marijuana, and China-imported opium. Following the gold rush, California gained an infamous reputation for drug addiction and the state began to crack down. California’s anti-narcotics policies were birthed early in the 20th century with the first bill outlawing opium passed into law in 1907. This bill effectively made California the first state to draw a hard line on illegal drugs, even going so far as employing undercover Board of Pharmacy agents to ensnare suspected dealers.
These public policies set the tone on a national level, spurring to the War on Drugs that dominated the 1970s and 1980s. The far-reaching impact of the drug crisis and its resulting policies are still felt today. As the opioid crisis spirals out of control, the war on drugs gains a new face that is decidedly less punitive than decades prior.
California’s War On Drugs: The Fallout
Launched on a national level in 1971, then president Richard Nixon created a War on Drugs that would linger over the next two decades and have a devastating impact on citizens across America. Under the guise of making the United States into a drug-free nation, the war on drugs did little to make things better. In fact, the War on Drugs era was characterized by astronomical incarceration rates; California, in particular, stood out thanks to the tremendous cost of law enforcement needed to enforce these harsh policies. Nixon’s 1970s era policies were carried into the 1980s and were revived by a heavy political focus during the Reagan administration.
The war on drugs was supposed to target the most highly addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin but the sweeping legislation lumped all drugs together, even marijuana. The result: Absurdly harsh sentences for possession of small amounts of marijuana. In many cases, it only took one instance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time to change the course of one’s life for decades.
Sentences often included years-long prison stints, even for first-time and/or non-violent offenders. Many of the incarcerated were young and economically disadvantaged, which further stacked the deck against them as they were released from prison and attempted to return to a normal life with a fresh felony conviction. Statistically, the War on Drugs did little to curb actual drug use and trafficking but instead resulted in a steep spike from just 50,000 individuals incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses in 1980 to more than 400,000 in 1997.
Orange County Rehab Discusses California’s Drug Policies Today
When it comes to cracking down on drug use, California set the tone in many ways. Though California was one of the first states to institute a marijuana ban, it’s was also the first to legalize marijuana for medical use. Introduced in 1996, Proposition 215 (also known as the Medical Marijuana Initiative or the Compassionate Use Act) effectively gave patients and caregivers the authorization to use marijuana for medical use when proscribed as a treatment by a physician. Another pivotal moment in California’s history was the passage of the Medical Marijuana Program Act (Senate Bill 420) in 2003, which validates the use of marijuana as a form of treatment for a variety of physical and mental conditions.
Once again setting the tone, several states have since followed California’s lead by legalizing marijuana for medical use, personal use, or both. As it now stands, 33 states have medical marijuana laws on the books. Of these, 10 states also permit recreational marijuana use.
California lawmakers realize the tremendously negative impact the War on Drugs had on its citizens and is actively working to right the wrongs that have turned people’s lives upside down. A great example is illustrated in an equity program in the city of Oakland that aims to balance the scales for those who were dealt disproportionately harsh penalties as a direct result of War on Drugs-era policies.
The program is designed to give people with marijuana convictions a chance at owning their own business thanks to no-interest loans and access to specialized expertise. Oakland isn’t the only California city working to erase the damage done by the war on drugs. The city of Sacramento also invested $1million a small business support pilot program that specifically gives incentives to minority-owned businesses and expedited application processing.
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Support for Those Affected By the War on Drugs
While programs like those are definitely a step in the right direction, officials realize that it will take a long time to undo the harm caused by California’s War on Drugs. For those who have been affected by the harsh penalties birthed by the War on Drugs, look to Ocean Hills Recovery, an Orange County rehab facility.
For those struggling with addiction, Ocean Hills Recovery offers a range of evidence-based treatment options including medically supervised detox, cognitive behavioral therapy, group and individual counseling, as well as comprehensive aftercare programs to prevent relapse.
Additionally, Ocean Hills Recovery helps Orange County victims of the War on Drugs policies through counseling services and collaboration with community partners. If you or a loved one needs help dealing with the ramifications of the War on Drugs policies or overcoming addiction, the professionals at Ocean Hills Recovery are here to help.