S1: Craig Kupets had one of the most colorful beats in journalism he wrote about the illegal drug trade for high Times magazine
S2: dealers would search me out, asking me to go to Latin America to write adventure stories about them. One guy once opened up a Halliburton little small Halliburton suitcase. He had one point five million in cash in the damn thing. But Jesus, what are you doing with that?
S1: That was in December 1977 in Washington, D.C. It was a big weekend for Drugs, in the nation’s capital.
S2: Everyone was coming to Washington smugglers, adventurers, scientists, musicians, lawyers, farmers, dealers, global leaders and all of them were coming with some of the most written and scientifically produced cavalcade of recreational drugs you could imagine. And they were bringing it down in bulk.
S1: The occasion was a weekend conference put on by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, more commonly known as Normal for Normal and its allies. 1977 was an amazing year. Mississippi, New York and North Carolina all passed decriminalization laws, and the new man in the White House was pushing Congress to do the same thing.
S3: President Carter today came out for an end to all federal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.
S1: Growing, smoking and possessing marijuana were still illegal pretty much everywhere in the United States. But by 1977, more than half of Americans under 30 had tried Pot, Normal’s liberal drug agenda was winning. And now it was time to revel in all that success. The weekend’s most extravagant event was the normal Christmas party in a townhouse near Dupont Circle. There was a rock band, strobe lights and a juggler. Silver trays got passed from guests to guest, some loaded down with caviar and others with joints packed with hand cultivated marijuana.
S2: There was a blue haze of marijuana smoke wafting through the house.
S4: Part of the thrill of being there was it was so goddamn out in the open.
S1: That’s Normal’s founder Keith Stroup. The Christmas party was his big showcase.
S4: We knew that what we were doing was way, way out of the ordinary. For Washington, D.C., we’re a fairly buttoned down town.
S1: Stroup was 33 years old, and he answered to the nickname Mr. Marijuana. He strolled around the room in a blue velvet dinner jacket and burgundy bowtie, chatting up friends, colleagues and potential funders. And then not long after 10 p.m., a guest showed up who demanded his full attention.
S4: Someone comes running up to me and says, Keith, Dr. Bourne is at our door. And I said, Oh, Jesus,
S1: Dr. Bourne was Peter Bourne. He was the president’s top advisor on drug policy. Keith Stroup was surprised and thrilled to see him at the front door. The United States drug czar had turned up for a weed extravaganza and he didn’t come to narc on anyone or to shut the whole thing down. When it came to marijuana, Keith Stroup and Peter Bourne were on the same team. They both believed that America’s drug laws were horribly screwed up and that they were the men to fix them. But that was before the normal Christmas party that night in December 1977 would change everything for Keith Stroup and Peter Bourne for the Carter presidency and for the future of marijuana in America.
S3: Officials at the White House say the medical adviser’s office Bourne headed there may be dismantled.
S5: And I said, I’m a strong Carter supporter. I’m a good, loyal Democrat, but you’re sitting on a powder keg.
S2: It was percolating with trouble from the moment we all arrived in D.C. You could smell it.
S1: I’m Josh Levin, and this is one year, 1977, Mr. Marijuana and the Drugs, on. The first time Keith Stroup took a hit from a joint, he wasn’t sure he’d gotten high, but he did know is that the pizza he ate that night tasted exceptionally good.
S4: I think like all novice smokers, we were introduced to the fact that when you smoke, usually it gives you an enhanced appreciation for food, for liquor, for sex, for music. I mean, those are not bad things.
S1: It was the 1960s and Stroup was at Georgetown Law School in Washington, D.C., his main concern was avoiding the Vietnam War. Stroup had thought about getting a psychiatrist to say that he was gay, which would have disqualified him from the armed forces, but his wife vetoed that idea. In the end, he steered clear of military service by getting a government job. Stroup worked for the National Commission on Product Safety as a lawyer on the commission. He learned to do the kind of consumer advocacy work made famous by Ralph Nader.
S3: One can imagine what would happen if people could see what goes into their processed food products or they could see the enormous price fixing it goes on in the petroleum industry.
S4: He seemed incredibly sincere and committed. It was clear that he was trying to improve the country, improve the world we all live in. By the way, I should make it clear, Ralph Nader, the one thing he’s not is he’s not a stoner. I doubt that Ralph has ever had a marijuana cigarette in his mouth.
S1: Keith Stroup had a marijuana cigarette in his mouth all the time. In 1970. He turned that habit into a career he was going to advocate for marijuana smokers just as Ralph Nader took up for consumers.
S3: A group called the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws quickly called a news conference and produced experts
S1: at first strops lobbying group got treated as a curiosity. But he was tireless and charismatic, and he knew what he wanted to achieve. Strops ultimate goal was to make weed legal everywhere in the U.S.. In the meantime, he pushed for a smaller, more practical step decriminalization.
S6: We’re really trying to stop the practice of making criminals out of people who smoke marijuana. Our social policy should be one where we recognize that recreational drugs are going to be used. But we direct our society away from the most harmful drugs like alcohol and tobacco that we know are addictive and towards the Drugs, if they’re going to use drugs at all, which are least harmful.
S1: America’s harsh marijuana laws dated back to the early 20th century when they’d been enacted to target black and Mexican Americans. As the demographics of marijuana users changed, so did the Drugs, reputation. In 1969, Life magazine published photos of white professionals in cocktail attire toking up
S5: if young, otherwise law abiding and essentially white people were going to start using this drug in greater numbers, people felt that they didn’t want to then burden these individuals with a criminal record.
S1: Emily Dufton is the author of Grassroots The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America.
S5: You know, this person is probably going to go on to have a family and a white picket fence. And do we really want to destroy their future for a little bit of harmless fun?
S1: Harmless or not, marijuana was still illegal. And if you got caught in the wrong place doing the wrong thing, the consequences could be extremely severe.
S3: When Don Crow was convicted of selling marijuana to an undercover agent, there seemed reason for hope. It was his first offense, after all, and the amount had been small, less than one ounce. What the jury saw its duty sentence 50 years in prison.
S4: If you could get a sense of outrage that they were locking up some poor young child who had committed some nonviolent marijuana offense, that caused a lot of people to think maybe marijuana prohibition was a policy that needed a review.
S1: Plenty of Americans believe that small time marijuana offenders weren’t really offenders at all. And so under the right circumstances, the country might have been on a path to decriminalization in the late 60s and early 70s. But there was one very important person standing in the way.
S3: America’s public enemy number one is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new all out offensive.
S1: Richard Nixon Czar marijuana as a tool of his enemies liberals, young people, Vietnam protesters. And in Nixon’s America, those enemies needed to be policed. In 1970, he signed the Federal Controlled Substances Act, which put drugs into five different categories or schedules. The most restrictive categories, Schedule one was for drugs that were totally outlawed, even for medical use heroin, LSD and marijuana. Marijuana’s placement in schedule one had to be reviewed by a commission. That commission was stacked with Nixon appointees.
S5: Now, Nixon thinks that this is going to be a slam dunk. It causes untold damage to the population. It’s going to ruin generations of children. It should absolutely be outlawed and banned, schedule one or worse.
S1: But when all those Nixon appointees weighed the evidence, they did something surprising.
S5: They argue that this drug isn’t that bad.
S3: The federal recommendations are as follows. First, possession for personal use is no longer a criminal offense. Second, non profit distribution of small amounts should no longer be a criminal offense.
S1: Richard Nixon heeded those recommendations and so he ignored them. Nixon kept marijuana as a Schedule one drug, which it still is today, and marijuana arrests kept increasing every year. He was in office, but Nixon wasn’t all powerful. Lawmakers around the country read the commission’s report and found it persuasive.
S5: And they began realizing that they had the capacity to change marijuana laws on the local level. And that’s what began to happen.
S3: The state of Oregon has changed its laws on penalties for those caught with small amounts of marijuana.
S1: Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana in 1973. By 1976, six more states had done it and a bunch of others looked like they were moving in that direction. But for American marijuana policy to get remade, the federal government would have to be on board. There would need to be a new voice in Washington, someone with liberal views who is savvy enough to wield real political power, someone like Peter Bourne.
S7: I come out of a public health background, if people die, that’s a bad thing. If they do things and it doesn’t cause them to die. Can’t be that bad. I mean, that’s the summation of my philosophy.
S1: Peter Bourne served as the doctor in Vietnam where soldiers found solace in heroin. After his tour of duty, the Englishman moved to California and saw the dark aftermath of the summer of love.
S7: I was involved with the setting up of the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic in 1968, and that exposed me to widespread drug use of all kinds.
S1: In the early 70s, Bourne went to Atlanta to run a methadone clinic. He saw it as his chance to make a difference to save lives.
S7: Our goal was to have a situation where no heroin addict could say, I want treatment, but there’s no way I can go to get it.
S1: Bourne in his clinic caught the attention of Georgia’s new governor, Jimmy Carter. Back then, Carter was an obscure figure, but Peter Bourne believed in him. He was the first person to tell Carter that he should run for president.
S7: I mean, this may sound strange to say, but I had from the very beginning a sense of predestination.
S1: Carter and Bourne became extremely close during the 1976 presidential campaign. The governor said that Dr. Peter Bourne was about the closest friend I have in the world. When Bourne talked about Drugs,, Carter listened and Bourne made his views very clear.
S7: More than anything else, people were dying in large numbers from heroin. And, you know, you had 40 million people in the country using marijuana and nobody dying from it.
S1: Bourne believed that every dollar spent enforcing marijuana laws was a dollar taken away from work that really mattered. And in 1976, he convinced Carter that he was right.
S3: But I do favor the decriminalization of marijuana.
S1: Carter was making a big statement. This was the most liberal position on marijuana ever taken by a major party presidential nominee. Carter didn’t personally approve a Pot,, but he was no Richard Nixon. He hung out with weed loving musicians like Willie Nelson and the Allman Brothers, and he didn’t think that everyone under 30 was plotting to destroy America.
S8: And I pray that I could live up to your confidence and never disappointed.
S1: Carter’s victory marked a huge shift in American politics, the end of the Nixon era and a fresh start after Watergate and Vietnam.
S7: One of the most memorable events for me, he was on his way to go into the Oval Office for the very first time. So we went together. And he just walked to the middle of the room and just was sort of in wonderment,
S1: Peter Bourne had lots of ideas about how he could help his closest friend, the president of the United States, Bourne advocated for national health insurance and he put together a plan to end world hunger. He also talked to Carter about sending rockets to Mars. All of that stuff was outside of Bourne purview. What he could do was change American drug policy. Bourne official title was special assistant to the president for drug abuse, one of the people he met with was Keith Stroup.
S4: We had so much to gain by maintaining that relationship with Peter being so close to the president himself and so powerful in terms of drug policy.
S1: Wenstrup found in normal. He struggled to get big players to take him seriously. Now, with Carter in the White House, he became a Washington insider. Stroup smoked weed with the president’s son, Chip, and he bonded with administration officials.
S4: It got to a point where when the Allman Brothers going to play a concert here in D.C., I would actually ride out to the concert with a group of White House people in a bus they had chartered most of the time. We were smoking on the bus, going out and smoking on the bus. Come on.
S1: Keith Stroup and Peter Bourne had very different philosophies. Stroup was a stoner who thought everyone in America should be free to enjoy the benefits of marijuana. Bourne was a doctor who thought the marijuana was trivial and the government should focus its resources on heroin. But from those different starting points, Mr. Marijuana and the Drugs, Czar ended up in the same place.
S3: We will be saving the lives and careers of a lot of young people that would otherwise be destroyed by maintaining criminal penalties and putting people in jail for possession.
S1: At times, it sounded like the White House’s talking points on marijuana had been written by Keith Stroup in 1977. That actually happened one day. Stroup got a phone call from a friend, a junior White House speechwriter,
S4: and he said, I’m calling because I got an interesting assignment. I’m supposed to be drafting a statement that the president could send to Congress. And I’m wondering, would you like to come and help me work on it? And of course, I almost kill myself running to his place.
S1: Strops, most aggressive pro Pot, language got edited out, but a lot of his material remained intact.
S3: In a special message on drug abuse he sent to the Congress, Mr. Carter said the penalties for using a drug should not be worse than the effects of the drug itself.
S4: And I think in our line in the Carter speech, we even followed up with and nowhere is this more evident than in the laws against marijuana possession and use.
S1: The biggest headline coming out of that statement was the Jimmy Carter endorsed decriminalization. It was the first time a sitting president had ever done so.
S8: I support a change in law to end federal criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, leaving the states free to adopt whatever laws they wish concerning marijuana. And the Bourne is my personal adviser on the subject.
S9: We don’t feel that law enforcement agencies, whose resources may be very limited, should devote their time predominantly to dealing with a drug that may not cause that much of a hazard.
S1: Keith Stroup saw this as a huge win. In some ways it was just symbolic because Carter wasn’t proposing a specific bill. But coming from the president and his drug czar, that symbolism was important. A fundamental shift in American marijuana policy felt tantalizingly close.
S7: We’re going to get legislation passed to the Congress. It’ll be very progressive.
S4: We fully thought within three or four or five years we would have decriminalization passed in all states across the country.
S1: But there was another movement getting started around the same time when that Bourne and Stroup did not see coming. It was led by two moms from Georgia.
S5: We have a big backyard here in Atlanta, and my husband loves to barbecue.
S1: In 1976, Marsha Keith Shuard hosted her daughter’s 13th birthday party. There were about 20 kids and her big backyard.
S5: They wanted to put on some music. We have a big deck. They were going to dance. They asked if we could go upstairs, which we did. And then my husband started seeing light like cigarette lights going on all over Keith right there, smoking cigarettes down there. And he went down to see what was happening and was a cigarette. And it was joints. It was booze. And it was quite a shock.
S1: Shuhada doesn’t fit the stereotype of a drug warrior. She has a doctorate in English and she identifies as a liberal Democrat living in Atlanta. In the 60s and 70s, she fought for voting rights and school desegregation. But when Shuard caught her daughter smoking pot, she found a new cause and she went door to door to ask her neighbors to join her.
S5: Some of the parents in total denial, very hostile. I trust my kids. Obviously, you can’t trust your kids. But one mother, when I knocked on the door, she looked me straight in the eye and said, Do you really want to know what’s going on? Well, her son had had a cannabis psychotic episode, so she had found out much more about everything. But she was really important to me because she gave me a lot of information and some backbone.
S1: Shuard called herself a do it yourself drug abuse professional. She believed the parents could fight back against drug culture by sharing tips and resources and creating a supportive and safe community.
S5: Emily Dufton again, they set uniform rules for all of their kids. They weren’t allowed to read High Times magazine. They had a curfew and worked. All of a sudden, these parents had, as they said, we had our children back.
S1: The neighborhood kids called them the Nosy Parents Association. By nineteen seventy seven, Shujaat had brought her nosiness nationwide cofounding the Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education.
S5: Pride, which she heard was tapping into, was that these were legitimate fears that a lot of people were having about their kids, but no one was speaking to it.
S1: Adolescent marijuana usage was on the rise in the mid 1970s, and pro Pot, messages were everywhere in magazines like High Times, Head and Stone Age on Saturday Night Live and in movies like The Groove, Tube and Car Wash in Peter Tosh’s, Legalize It and Neil Young’s home grown. And it was getting easier every day to find a shop that carried pipes and rolling papers.
S5: The two hundred and fifty million dollars in sales of paraphernalia in nineteen seventy seven meant that paraphernalia sales outgrossed the first Star Wars movie that year in Atlanta.
S1: Seward’s friend Surachai had promised her kids she’d buy them a Star Wars record.
S10: As we walked into the record store, there was a big, beautiful glass case. And all of these little boys just it. It was like a group of bees heading for the same flower, just lush. They went straight to that glass container of all those Star Wars like bongs and and other kinds of goodies that were in that case. And we didn’t get the Star Wars record that we got out of there.
S1: Instead, Rucci went to more stores and found more kid friendly products, a Frisbee. There was also a hash pipe and a book called Tot’s Newtok.
S10: I know the power of advertising. I learned it in graphic design school and to think that people would target children was just inexplicable and abhorrent.
S1: Rucci and Shuard had found the weak spot of the pro marijuana movement.
S5: The whole point of normal was to normalize marijuana use that made no distinction between adults and juveniles.
S1: The idea that part was endangering impressionable, vulnerable children. That was a potent political message. And in 1977, Shuard and Rucci were starting to spread it in newsletters, speeches and meetings with government officials. Wherever they went, they’d bring along what they called the Bong Show
S10: when we would travel to other communities to help local folks get a parent group started. The first thing we did was show them what the paraphernalia looked like and suggest that they try to find it in their community and they always did.
S1: Keith Stroup not accounted for any of this when he made his push for decriminalization and when the parents from Atlanta started to get traction, he still didn’t think they were a real threat.
S4: Their philosophy was, if it’s unsafe for kids, then you shouldn’t legalize it. And of course, that’s a stupid standard. If that was the standard, adults couldn’t drive or fly airplanes or have sex. So I thought because that premise was so wrong headed that we didn’t have to worry about them.
S1: It was always unlikely that Mr. Marijuana and the nosy parents would find common ground. But she thought she might have a chance to win over the Drugs, Czar. She got an audience with Peter Bourne in December 1977 at a conference on drug abuse. She told them about middle schoolers smoking pot, and she pulled out a bag of marijuana publications that she bought at a suburban shopping mall. Bourne, listen to what she had to say and looked at what she brought. And the Drugs, Czar was totally unmoved.
S7: It’s absurd to play up the threat of marijuana.
S5: He was very indifferent, rude, dismissive.
S7: I mean, they didn’t know anything about drug abuse. For one thing, they couldn’t explain their position in any sort of public health terms.
S1: And did you feel that it was legitimate to be concerned about 13 year olds smoking marijuana?
S7: I didn’t bother me that much. I think when you compare it to more than a thousand dying each month from heroin, it’s a misplacement of priorities.
S1: So that’s where Keith Stroup and Peter Bourne were in December 1977, entrenched in their positions, confident in their success and unafraid to make enemies. Normal’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., featured seminars on marijuana and the law, marijuana and science and marijuana and women, there were also plenty of opportunities to get a more practical education on the American drug scene. Craig Iapetus, who wrote for High Times magazine,
S2: wherever we went that weekend, people were coming up to us and offering us Drugs,. It was like backstage at a Rolling Stones concert.
S1: That weekend, Peter shared a hotel suite with his friend, Hunter S. Thompson, according to one account, a conference goer sidled up to Thompson during the luncheon attended by roughly 300 people and passed the rider. Some cocaine copilots then held up a copy of The New York Times, which they used to shield themselves as they enjoyed the gift they just received.
S2: Oh, dear, the things we did in our youth. I will plead the Fifth Amendment on that, although I will say I did hold up a New York Times.
S1: The big normal Christmas party was later that same night, December 10th, 1977,
S2: Hunter and I get in the cab, we go over to the house. It is a sea of people out front trying to get in. We push ourselves to the front. And the guy on the door who we know, he says, get in here and the place was jam packed, champagne was pop and people everywhere, you know, it’s an easy expression. It’s right. All of Washington was there. Well, it certainly seemed that way that night.
S1: The 600 people stuffed into that townhouse were typical Washington creatures, political staffers, journalists, do gooder non-profit types. They saw the rock band and the strobe lights and the juggler and the silver trays full of caviar and joints. They saw Keith Stroup Mr. Marijuana presiding over it all and they saw Peter Bourne the White House Drugs, Czar walk through the front door. Bourne got a hero’s welcome, hugs and handshakes from marijuana lovers who appreciated everything he’d done for their cause for Stroup Bourne was his guy on the inside and it was important to keep him happy. So he paid close attention when a friend passed along a message,
S4: Peter says he wouldn’t mind doing a line of Coke. My first reaction was, what did I hear? I hear you right.
S1: Stroup second reaction was to go looking for cocaine. The way Stroup tells it, he tracked down some Coke, then asked Bourne to go upstairs to a private room.
S2: Everyone in the house could see who was going up that stair. It was like a stage.
S4: Oh, I wonder what they’re going to do that private room for. It was kind of almost incriminating to be seen walking up there.
S2: And lo and behold, there’s Peter. And I’m not going to tell you what happened next because that was a private interlude as far as I’m concerned and always will be.
S4: So we go up and we sit around and I’ll bet a few lines of coke and then say, OK, I better get back down and say hello to some more people. And Peter said, yeah, I need to get going to.
S2: And we left. After I went back to sit down, Hunter looked at me and said, Jesus Christ, Craig, we’re all going to be indicted now.
S4: Ship snorting a line with President Drugs, Czar. You know, this is not a bad thing in that it means that we have some secrets we’re now sharing. We have some intimate moments that we haven’t had before.
S1: Word spread quickly inside the townhouse Peter Bourne. The Drugs, Czar had snorted cocaine. OK, so what do you remember about the party?
S7: Very little. I was so busy, I went to something every night, sometimes several things a night. When I got there, it was just some of the usual crowd, you know, the strong Carter supporters.
S1: And so the way the story has been reported is that when you got to the party, you made it known that you wanted to do a line of cocaine.
S7: That is such so untrue. I may have been stupid enough to go to the party, but I had no interest in doing cocaine. I would have gone somewhere else if I’d wanted to do that. There may have been cocaine there at some point, but I was not a participant.
S1: Did you use cocaine at all, like outside of that party?
S7: I’ve never used cocaine away. I don’t think so. Because I was very careful never to use. Marijuana will go anywhere where I would smoke marijuana, so, you know, being that cautious, I don’t know why in the world I would use cocaine.
S1: Party ended around 4:00 a.m. with something like a dozen people passed out around the townhouse, the political staffers, the journalists, the DOGOOD or non-profit types, they all went back home and back to work for the next few months. Life in Washington carried on as usual. And then in 1978, everything blew up. The undoing of Peter Bourne began on a Friday afternoon in July 1978,
S7: this young woman came to me and said. She is having trouble sleeping, could I write her a prescription for sleeping pills?
S1: That woman worked for Bourne at the White House and he could prescribe her medication since he was a licensed doctor.
S7: So I wrote a prescription. For Quaalude,
S1: Quaalude were extremely popular in the 70s as sleeping pills, but also as an aphrodisiac, Bourne told the woman that he’d give her a pseudonym for the Quaalude prescription so it wouldn’t show up if she ever tried to get a security clearance.
S7: Will it regular practice? If you have somebody who wants to keep their use of Drugs, confidential,
S1: Bourne aide asked a friend to pick up her prescription. When that friend went to the drugstore, a pharmacy inspector happened to be there doing routine rounds.
S7: So, you know, it was just total chance. Otherwise, I don’t think anybody would have known or cared.
S3: Dr. Peter Peter Bourne, a White House staff member, is a physician legally entitled to write prescriptions. But in a very strange case, he apparently wrote one for Quaalude. Then a Washington woman trying to get the prescription filled was arrested. The White House promised an explanation, but there is none yet.
S7: Well, I suppose, you know, initially I thought it would just blow over.
S1: It did not blow over. The day after the Quaalude story came out, the investigative reporter Jack Anderson went on Good Morning America to deliver some breaking news. Three witnesses had seen the Drugs, Czar Peter Bourne snort cocaine at the normal Christmas party. Anderson’s report didn’t name any of the three witnesses, but it did say they had provided complete and convincing details. So who spilled all the details
S4: like an idiot, I somehow managed to take what was a confined scandal and find a way to put myself in the middle of it.
S1: Why did Keith Stroup tell a reporter that Peter Bourne had done Coke? Bourne was the best ally he’d ever had together. They’d been spreading the gospel of decriminalisation across America. But Stroup had become convinced that American marijuana smokers were in danger of being killed and he thought the Carter administration and Peter Bourne were complicit.
S4: We literally thought we were being poisoned by the government and that we were going to have our own constituents dropping dead.
S1: The issue was an herbicide called Paraquat. The Mexican government was spraying Paraquat and poppy and marijuana fields using helicopters provided by the United States. And so the theory went, anyone who smoked pot imported from Mexico might be inhaling Paraquat.
S4: I remember at the time there were articles saying that even a teaspoon of Paraquat on your tongue, you’d have an agonizing death except strong.
S3: A US government report indicated that marijuana users could suffer lung damage by smoking grass laced with Paraquat.
S4: So I said Peter, that’s got to stop. You’re going to be killing people.
S1: Peter Bourne did not buy strops argument.
S7: I thought it was all bullshit. We pay thousands of dollars to have it analyzed and tests being done on it. I mean, the Paraquat thing was totally scientifically wrong.
S1: There’s not much clear evidence that Paraquat ever harmed American marijuana smokers, but the chemical is extremely toxic and Stroup was disgusted that Peter Bourne thought that was no big deal. Stroup and Bourne had found common ground on decriminalization, but they were now on opposite sides of what Stroup considered an existential issue. Stroup had been able to look past that tension in 1977. But in the first few months of 1978, he began to see Born’s actions as unforgivable.
S4: I was at that point, it was like Jesus Christ, Peter if you’re going to play life and death, don’t forget I got something over here to
S1: the something that Stroup had was the story about the normal Christmas party. A bunch of reporters had seen Peter Bourne at the party and plenty of them had heard the whispers about the drug czar doing coke. One of those journalists worked for the investigative reporter Jack Anderson. In the weeks after the party, he pestered Strub to confirm the cocaine rumors.
S4: He called me at least two times to try to get me to serve as a basis for him to break that story. And I kept saying, no, I can’t do it. I can’t do it now.
S1: Stroup changed his mind. He was ready to talk and he gave the journalist the names of two other witnesses. Stroup said that all of this was off the record for now. But five months later, after the Quaalude news broke, Stroup gave his blessing for the cocaine story to get aired so long as his name was not attached. July 21st, 1978 on Good Morning America. That’s when the bomb Keith Stroup planted finally went off. Peter Bourne told his colleagues at the White House that he’d seen cocaine at the party, but that he hadn’t used it. That explanation was not enough to save the drug czar’s job.
S8: Dr. Peter Bourne, out of consideration for my administration, has submitted his resignation this afternoon, which I have accepted with regret.
S7: I was embarrassed with Carter that it came to that. But he was very understanding, very good to me,
S8: Dr. Bourne, as a close friend of mine and my family is an able and dedicated public servant.
S1: What does it feel like to be the top story in America?
S7: Oh, it’s it’s bad. It’s bad. You have, you know, everybody camped outside your house. Not what I would recommend to people.
S1: Peter Bourne didn’t leave the White House quietly after he resigned, he told The New York Times that marijuana use was commonplace at the White House. He also said that a few of his colleagues did cocaine. A couple of days later, Jimmy Carter sent a memo to the White House staff. I expect everyone to obey the law. The president said you will obey it or you will seek employment elsewhere. Keith Stroup hadn’t been named. And the Good Morning America story that took down Peter Bourne. But Stroup did give a quote to The Washington Post and basically outed himself as the original source. After that, Stroup got out of town going to Las Vegas to hang out with his friend Willie Nelson and clear his head.
S4: And I think by the time I got back to D.C., I realized two things that Peter had ended up being hurt more than he deserved. And of course, I realized that my career with normal almost certainly was coming to an end.
S1: Stroup had severed his connection to the White House and he’d done it recklessly.
S4: Any idiot should have recognized that even if I felt threatened about Paraquat spraying or even if I was angry about something else that didn’t justify destroying that point of access to power.
S1: The founder of NORML had also violated the drug users code. You don’t snort until
S4: I realized really quickly that when I tried to call a friend or two over on the hill, they wouldn’t even take my calls. Or if they did take them, they were angry.
S1: Stroup issued an apology, but too much damage had been done. In December 1978 and Normal’s annual conference, he delivered his farewell speech as the group’s executive director. A year earlier, that conference had been a non-stop celebration and Keith Stroup and Peter Bourne had seemed indestructible. Now they’ve both been disgraced. Their downfall. It had profound consequences for the pro marijuana movement they’ve been working to build. Before the Bourne scandal, a relaxed approach to marijuana fit in perfectly with the Carter administration’s priorities. Afterward, the White House pulled back from anything that might be perceived as soft on Drugs,. Bourne successor as drug czar said the decriminalization was a four letter word. For the parent activist from Atlanta, Peter Bourne Czar Foster was the opening they needed to influence federal drug policy in the early days of the Carter administration, Marsha Keith Suhad had gotten aced out. Now she scored an invitation to the newly anti marijuana White House, where she made her pitch about how weed was damaging kids. She had brought a visual aid with her to Washington, a big pile of bongs.
S5: When we got to the security gate, the guards opened and said, well, there’s going to be a party up there today.
S1: In 1979, the National Institute on Drug Abuse published a booklet researched and written by Suhad. It was called Parents, Peers and Pot,. It told the story of her daughter, smoke filled 13th birthday party. And everything that came after the booklet was full of alarming claims like that. Marijuana might cause enlarged breasts and adolescent boys. Government scientists found Seward’s prose hyperbolic, but the public ate it up.
S5: You know, after a million copies were ordered. They stop printing it because they said we have too many orders. This is how the government can work.
S1: When Ronald and Nancy Reagan moved into the White House in 1981, the parent activists became even more influential.
S5: I said, Mrs. Reagan, you know, I have to be frank with you. I’m a Democrat now, even the L word. And she looked at me, said, What do you mean? I said, a liberal. She just burst out laughing, said, we’re all in this together. It’s a non-partisan movement. I had to give her credit for that.
S1: Marijuana usage peaked in America in 1979, then fell in every age category in the 1980s and decriminalization. It stopped cold a few months before Peter Bourne resigned as the White House drug czar, Nebraska became the 11th state to decriminalize marijuana. No other states followed suit in the next two decades. Peter Bourne is 81 years old now. He splits his time between Northern Virginia and a farm in Wales where he and his wife raise llamas
S7: early in the Carter administration. I thought, you know, everything’s going in the right way with marijuana. And then, you know, it all took a complete turn and I would have never guessed that.
S1: Were you the most progressive Drugs, Czar out of all of them? Yes, by far. Seventeen years after he resigned, Keith Stroup got rehired as Normal’s executive director. He’s now the group’s legal counsel. At 77 years old, Stroup now sees the world he always imagined beginning to take shape. In Virginia, where he lives, it’s legal for adults 21 and older to possess, consume and grow small amounts of marijuana at the end of our interview. He invited me to come over and light one up some time. Stroup has said that ratting out Peter Bourne was the stupidest decision he ever made. He says the last time they ran into each other was eight or 10 years ago at a cocktail party.
S4: I think we might have chatted for a minute. You know, I mean, I could tell he was a little uncomfortable, didn’t know quite how he should respond to me. I was certainly trying to be civil to him. And, you know, neither of us tried to make a move to say, you want to get a beer sometime or you want to, you know, no, no, there was none of that. I think we both recognized that we had passed that point of no return a long time ago.
S1: How much do you blame Keith Stroup for your downfall?
S7: Well, that’s a good question. I suppose quite a lot
S1: Bourne told me that back then he didn’t understand what Stroup was doing, why he’d been so outraged and paranoid and hell bent on destroying what had been a productive partnership. But now Bourne says he thinks he gets what was going on.
S7: I mean, I don’t think I’m betraying confidences, but what I was unaware of then was that he had a serious cocaine problem. I can see that he was wielding good judgment.
S4: I don’t doubt that cocaine had something to do with it. You’re one of the things you get very ragged when you’re doing cocaine. You get irritable. Sometimes you get angry on things that wouldn’t make you angry. Otherwise, the cocaine use was not helpful. I don’t think I can use it as an excuse, but it probably did cause my responses to be exaggerated at times.
S1: Keith Stroup and Peter Bourne will never agree about what happened in that private room at the normal Christmas party. But here there’s something approaching consensus. Mr Marijuana dropped a dime on the Drugs, Czar for doing cocaine because he himself was doing too much cocaine. And that is how the pro Pot, movement of the 1970s went up in smoke. Next time on one year 1977, a rookie announcer gets a chance to make history and has to fight to be taken seriously.
S5: They want her to pose holding a bat, wearing a baseball cap and a cutesy manner. And she was like, I’m not the mascot, so I’m not going to do that.
S1: One year is produced by me and Evan Chung with editorial direction by and Lou and Gabriel Roth. Madeline Ducharme is one year’s assistant producer. You can send us feedback and ideas and 1977 memories. And one year at Slate Dotcom, we would love to hear from you. Our mix engineer is Merritt Jakov. The artwork for One Year is by Jim Cook. The book High and America by Patrick Anderson was a valuable resource for this episode, as was Emily Dufton, Czar grassroots special thanks to Robert Dupont and Zill Aaron K. Dana Beal, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum and the University of Massachusetts Amherst Special Collections and University Archives. And thank you to Jared Holt, June Thomas Son Park, Katie Raeford, Asha Solutia, Amber Smith, Seth Brown, Rachel Strahm and Chouteau. Thanks for listening. We’ll be back with more from 1977 next week.