The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was policy pushed into legislation on the heels of public outcry over the death of University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias. The basketball star, who two days earlier was drafted 2nd overall in the NBA draft, died of cocaine intoxication. Ten years prior, President Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” in America. He hoped that propaganda and social encouragement would move America to change its perception on drugs. Going so far to ask influential figures like Elvis Presley, who later died of drug overdose, to help create a drug free America (Deborah J. Vagins, 2006). During that time crack cocaine became a budding problem. The trade was notorious for the violence accompanying it and started to get the attention of the American public. Reagen secured his presidency by convincing American voters that he was tougher on drugs than challenger Walter Mondale (Federal Sentencing Reporter, 2011). In this changing America, Len Bias’ scandalous death became national news and frightened parents everywhere. They were told his passing was a result of a one-time experimentation with cocaine. Democrats at the time new it was a big issue and decided to toughen their stance. Eric Sterling, who served as counsel to the House committee that drafted the ’86 law, recalled drug policy becoming “ the sole focus of legislative activity for the remainder of the session on both sides of the aisle.” Len Bias’ tragedy soon became the force behind every policy and press conference (EASLEY, 2011). Bias was a world class athlete with a clean record. There was no evidence that he had ever done cocaine before.
The rhetoric soon became “drugs will kill you even if you only try them one.” Sterling explained further “Usually whe...
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EASLEY, J. (2011, June 19). The day the drug war really started. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/: http://www.salon.com/2011/06/19/len_bias_cocaine_tragedy_still_affecting_us_drug_law/
Federal Sentencing Reporter. (2011, Jun). Analysis of the Impact of Amendment to the Statutory Penalties for Crack Cocaine Offenses Made by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. Law & legislation, pp. Vol. 23 Issue 5, p345-360. 16p.
LARKIN JR., P. J. (2014). CRACK COCAINE, CONGRESSIONAL INACTION, AND EQUAL PROTECTION. Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, pp. Vol. 37 Issue 1, p241-294. 54p.
Stein, D. ((2010)). The War of 1986: Constructing the Prison Regime Consensus and the Abolitionist Demand. Annual Meeting (p. 1). Law & Society.
United States Sentencing Commission. (2009). Report on Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy. Retrieved from http://www.ussc.gov/: http://www.ussc.gov/
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