Ronald Reagan's Presidency

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What was President Reagan's contribution to the war on drugs?

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In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan continued and strengthened the "War on Drugs" pronounced by Richard Nixon in 1971. Specifically, in October 1982, Reagan made waves by declaring drugs to be a threat to national security. President Reagan enacted harsher penalties for drug users and sellers—a policy which retrospectively received much criticism owing to the fact that it resulted in a disproportionate number of minorities being incriminated. President Reagan's wife, First Lady Nancy Reagan, aided her husband's efforts by targeting children in a campaign to end drug use. It was Nancy Reagan's visits to elementary schools that gave us the familiar slogan "Just Say 'No.' " Reagan also created the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), an office which continues its work today. Reagan is credited with successfully garnering a lot of popular support for anti-drug policies, as the nation became increasingly wary of crack cocaine. Reagan also passed the 1986 "Anti-Drug Abuse Act," which stipulated that all countries receiving aid from the US would comply with the zero-tolerance drug policies espoused by the US. If a country did not adopt this anti-drug policy, foreign aid would be withheld.

Though it is always easier to criticize presidential policies retrospectively, Reagan has come under an especial amount of criticism because the incarceration rates were dramatically increased (even for non-violent drug law infractions) during and after his presidency, particularly along racial lines. For this reason, Reagan's policies strike some as targeting non-whites.

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