The War On Drugs In California


The History Channel is running a very interesting Docuseries about the War on Drugs. Many viewers of the series may be shocked to learn how one arm of the government has been prosecuting the War on Drugs while the other arm is actually facilitating the entry of drugs into the United States. The documentation leaves no question that the history of drugs in this country is a history of the United States government, and in particular the military/security agencies, as the drug kingpin. Does that sound outrageous? Unfortunately, it is documented truth.

Many readers will recall the Iran-Contra affair, if not the details, at least the name. The Iran-Contra affair was a complicated conspiracy to bring weapons to the Contra rebels fighting the nascent “Communist” government in Nicaragua in the 1980’s. The United States Congress had passed a law forbidding weapons sales to the Contras, but those in the Regan Administration, zealous to wipe out the perceived communist threat, were determined to support the Contras anyway. An illicit scheme was devised by the National Security Council. Weapons to the Contras were supplied by a clandestine operation run by the National Security Council with Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North in charge. The weapons were flown into Nicaragua and the planes returned to the United States loaded with cocaine, which was sold to drug dealers mostly in Los Angeles. The proceeds from the cocaine sales were used to buy more weapons for the Contras. It is made clear in the documentary—and anecdotal first-hand accounts support the claim—that this affair was known to, and approved by, then Vice President George H.W. Bush. Hard to believe, but it is well-documented and the facts are not disputed.

Now Iran-Contra is only the tip of the iceberg and the History Channel’s documentary explores many of the U.S. government’s illicit dealings in drugs. But the results of the Iran-Contra affair had a major impact on the War on Drugs. The secret operatives who were responsible for getting the cocaine into the hands of drug dealers found their way to “Freeway Rick [Ross].” In the 1980’s, when the Iran-Contra affair took place. Freeway Rick was one of the largest cocaine dealers in Los Angeles. It was Freeway Rick who introduced crack cocaine into the market. That crack cocaine…. It was made with the cocaine supplied by the Iran-Contra operatives.

Crack cocaine was a cheap high. Cocaine rapidly went from being a fairly expensive drug primarily used by those who had money to a destructive fog that enveloped the inner cities. Those of you who can remember this time, remember the terrible toll crack cocaine was taking the nation’s black population. By the mid-90’s, crack cocaine was so pervasive and had such perverse effects that when Bill Clinton signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the Act’s inequitable treatment of crack cocaine vis-à-vis powder cocaine went mostly unnoticed.

Ignoring for a moment the irony that crack cocaine’s roots can be traced directly back to the United States government, the 1994 law provided for far more severe punishments for possession of small amounts of crack than it did for the same amounts of powder cocaine. The end result was a huge increase in poor black, mostly young men, landing in prison with long sentences. It was not until 2010 that the sentencing disparity was addressed in the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, although the disparity was not entirely addressed by this Act.

It is probably hard for the reader to believe that the government could be dealing the drugs that they then prosecute and incarcerate individuals for possessing in its aggressive War on Drugs, but that is exactly what has occurred—and it’s not just the 1980’s Iran-Contra cocaine. The history goes back at least to the 1950’s and the History Channel’s exploration of the many ways the US government has actually been the entity responsible for drugs in this country is fascinating.

William Weinberg has been practicing criminal defense in Orange Country for almost 25 years. You can contact him for a free consultation regarding your criminal matter at )949) 474-8008 or