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1982 US President Reagan proclaims a war on drugs

October 14, 2021

1982 US President Reagan proclaims a war on drugs

On October 14, 1982, U.S. President Ronald Reagan resolved to put an end to rampant drug abuse. He deemed the use of illicit drugs a threat to national security. While he was not the first president to concern himself with the issue of substance abuse (before him, Nixon had also earned a reputation for being tough on drugs), Reagan’s presidency marked an unprecedented growth in anti-substance policies.

Public concern surrounding drug use had been increasing nationally for a while. In particular, Reagan sought to eliminate the smoking of “crack,” which was a specific type of cocaine. This created controversy since Reagan’s legislation carried much harsher punishments for possession of “crack” rather than powder-form cocaine, which was more expensive. Critics argued this legislation disproportionately targeted marginalized communities.

Reagan’s notable drug-related policies included the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, along with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. The Comprehensive Crime Control Act increased punishments for possession of cannabis and introduced federal mandatory minimum sentences. The mandatory minimum sentences created harsher penalties for those found in possession of illicit substances. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act established the Office of National Drug Control Policy, concerned with eradicating illegal drugs.

Ronald Reagan did not work alone in the War on Drugs. Other notable leaders include his wife, Nancy Reagan, who spearheaded the “Just Say No” campaign, and Daryl Gates, the Police Chief in L.A.

The War on Drugs resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of people incarcerated for drug-related offenses. The numbers jumped from approximately 50,000 incarcerated for drugs before Reagan to nearly 400,000 after his presidency.


  1. Larry Ritow

    It’s ironic that Blake doesn’t mention Nixon, or the 1937 Marijuana Tax Stamp Act. I still remember the Movie “Reefer Madness” that the Government made in the 50’s to scare people straight! No one ever took it serious!

  2. Warren

    As we all know now the Reagan administration was not true to its word towards the American people in its policies and actions towards the war on drugs. The Nicaraguan Sandinista war effort and America’s support through the sell of drugs in America proves that the administration spoke out of the side of its mouth.

  3. Frederic Conjour

    You seem to forget who founded the DEA.

  4. spiros

    1982 US President Reagan proclaims a war on drugs Awesome site thank you for writing it!

  5. Tiffany Elder

    It’s the thought that counts….. He is very true about drugs causing all kind vicious problems… Do we really listen NO …mmm

  6. Josiah B

    I love today i


    Reagan was a great President but the war on drugs, (started by Nixon actually), was a huge mistake when classifying Marijuana as a schedule II drug, resulting in serious jail time for a fairly harmless drug.

  8. Lew

    Don’t forget the German forces unconditional surrender in 1945.


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