Although public opinion polls toward the end of the second Clinton administration showed that a majority of Americans had serious doubts about the effectiveness and wisdom of the War on Drugs, prospects for any major policy changes in the foreseeable future appeared to be remote.
When the Clinton administration assumed office, the federal War on Drugs was approximately a decade old. According to the Callahans, "the declared 'war' on drugs . . . actually commenced during the 1968 presidential campaign, when Richard M. Nixon was casting about for election ammunition" (1). The first federal campaign against the sale and use of illegal drugs, which was incorporated in the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 and a federal crime bill that year, subjected trafficking and possession of marijuana, LSD, cocaine and other narcotics to heavier federal criminal penalties. The inclusion of relatively harmless drugs such as marijuana on the proscribed list reflected what the Callahans called "a knee-jerk response to the failing war in Vietnam, social unrest within the United States and the drug use-particularly marijuana among the so-called counterculture" (1).