Controlled Substances Act at 50
Controlled Substances Act at 50
In February 2020, the Academy for Justice at the Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, together marked a half-century of drug policy under the Controlled Substances Act by co-sponsoring a conference that looked back at how the CSA has helped shape modern American drug laws and policies, and forward at the direction these laws could – and should – take in the next 50 years. The following ideas, documents and videos, are a result of that conference, looking at the CSA in light of our country’s founding commitment to the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
About the Controlled Substances Act 50 Years Later
Roughly a century ago, in response to growing concerns about drug use, the federal government enacted its first drug control law in the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914. Subsequent decades saw Congress continue to pass drug control legislation and criminalize drug abuse, but by the 1960s there was growing interest in more medical approaches to preventing and responding to drug abuse. Upon his election, President Richard Nixon prioritized the reduction of drug use: in rhetoric, he spoke of a so-called “war on drugs”; in policy, he pushed for a new comprehensive federal drug law in the form of The Controlled Substances Act (CSA), enacted as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.
The CSA emerged from a widespread, bipartisan view that comprehensive legislation was needed to clarify federal drug laws, and its centerpiece was a comprehensive scheduling system for assessing and regulating drugs in five schedules defined in terms of substances’ potential for abuse and dependence, and possible medical use and safety. In design, the CSA was intended to prioritize a scientific approach to drug prohibition and regulation by embracing a mixed law-enforcement and public-health approach to drug policy. But in practice, the US Justice Department came to have an outsized role in drug control policy, especially as subsequent “tough-on-crime” sentencing laws made the CSA the backbone of a federal drug war in which punitive approaches to evolving drug problems consistently eclipsed public health responses.
Although the federal drug war has been controversial since its inception, the CSA’s statutory framework defining how the federal government regulates the production, possession, and distribution of controlled substances has endured. As we mark a half-century of drug policy under the CSA, the Academy for Justice at the Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the Drug Enforcement & Policy Center at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law are together sponsoring a conference to look back on how the CSA has helped shape modern American drug laws and policies and to look forward toward the direction these laws could and should take in the next 50 years.
The conference, “The Controlled Substances Act at 50 Years,” will take place on February 20-22, 2020, at Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in Phoenix, Arizona.
This activity may qualify for up to 8.45 hours toward your annual CLE requirement for the State Bar of Arizona, including 0 hour(s) of professional responsibility. The State Bar of Arizona does not approve or accredit CLE activities for the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education requirement.
Reflections on the Controlled Substances Act 50 Years Later
The Controlled Substances Act was passed by Congress 50 years ago. It provides a way to classify drugs based on their medical use, potential for abuse and safety concerns. Drugs are placed in schedules ranging from one to five, with schedule one drugs being the most dangerous and with no safe medical use. Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law recently held a conference titled “Controlled Substances Act at 50 Years,” which provided insight on how the act has helped shape modern American drug laws and policies and what the future might hold. We’ll hear more from ASU law professor Valena Beety, who spearheaded the event, Jeffrey Singer, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, and associate ASU criminal justice professor Jesenia Pizarro-Terrill.
In this segment: ASU law professor Valena Beety; Jeffrey Singer, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute; associate ASU criminal justice professor Jesenia Pizarro-Terrill.
Agenda and Live Recordings
Thursday, February 20, 2022
- Keynote Speaker: Keith Humphreys, Stanford University, Esther Ting Memorial Professor – “Federal Policy and the Dual Nature of Drugs”
- Response to Keynote: Peter Reuter, University of Maryland, Professor of Public Policy and Criminology – “Do Drug Problems have more influence on Drug Policy than vice versa?”
Friday, February 21, 2022
- Speakers: Doug Berman (Moderator), William Vodra, Richard Bonnie, Matthew Pembleton, Dr. John Molina, and Deborah Small
- Speakers: Alex Kreit (Moderator), Kelly Dineen, Aila Hoss, Daniel Satterberg, Neill Franklin, James Hodge, Carmen Best, and Jerry Clayton
- Speakers: Miriam Krinsky (Moderator), Allister Adel, Parisa Tafti, Andrea Harrington, and Wesley Bell
- Speakers: Valena Beety (Moderator), Jennifer Oliva, Jeffrey Singer, Leo Beletsky, Betsy Jividen, Richard Van Wickler, and Annie Ramniceanu
- Speakers: Beau Kilmer, Ethan Nadelmann, and Cat Packer
Saturday, February 22, 2022
- Presenters: Anne Boustead and Lauren M. Ouziel
Reviewers: Zachary Bolitho and Shima Baughman
- Presenters: Oliver Kim, Melanie Reid, and Paul Larkin
Reviewers: Patricia Zettler, Daniel Rodriguez, and Alex Kreit
Additional Responder: David Kramer
- Presenters: Drury Stevenson and Michael Vastine
Reviewers: Jesenia Pizarro-Terrill and Valena Beety
- Presenters: Stephanie Holmes Didwania and Erica Zunkel
Reviewers: Jelani Jefferson Exum and Jonathan Wroblewski
Woman of Color Leading Cannabis Reform (closed session)
- Toi Hutchinson, Director of Cannabis Programs, State of Illinois
Wanda James, CEO, Simple Pure Dispensary
Roz McCarthy, Founder, Minorities for Medical Marijuana
Shanita Penny, CEO, Budding Solutions (former President, Minority Cannabis Business Association)
Maritza Perez, National Affairs Director, Drug Policy Alliance
Marisa Rodriguez, Director, San Francisco Office of Cannabis
Cat Packer, Executive Director, Los Angeles Department of Cannabis Regulation
Controlled Substances Act of 50: A Blueprint for Reform
Recommendations for Reform
In an effort to give attendees a quick glimpse of the various policy priorities of each speaker, we provided an opportunity for each to share their top priorities for reform of the Controlled Substances Act.
Background Materials and Resources
Harm Reduction Responses to Drug Use
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