President Lyndon B. Johnson Signs the Act That Made LSD Illegal, and Limited the Use of Barbiturates and Amphetamines

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The 1960s in the United States were a time of social and political unrest and upheaval. The 1960s were characterized by the Vietnam War, flower children, rock and pop music, the counterculture movement, the trial of the Chicago Seven, the fight for civil rights, Woodstock, and a significant increase in the use...

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President Lyndon B. Johnson Signs the Act That Made LSD Illegal, and Limited the Use of Barbiturates and Amphetamines

The 1960s in the United States were a time of social and political unrest and upheaval. The 1960s were characterized by the Vietnam War, flower children, rock and pop music, the counterculture movement, the trial of the Chicago Seven, the fight for civil rights, Woodstock, and a significant increase in the use of recreational drugs. Some health, political, and law enforcement leaders and authorities were concerned about the increase in the use of not only illegal drugs, but also the abuse of what were otherwise legal drugs or drugs that had not yet been officially declared illegal (such as LSD, which was legal back then). Then there were those who outright opposed the counterculture and eagerly sought to punish its activities. The Food and Drug Administration went so far as to take the position that the traffic in heroin and other narcotics was being overshadowed by these types of drugs.

In response to this, Congress passed the Drug Abuse Control Amendments of 1965, and the law was signed by President Johnson. These amendments were aimed specifically at controlling or outlawing three classes of products: 1. Depressants, known as barbiturates (these are addictive tranquilizers); 2. Stimulants, known as amphetamines (commonly called “speed”); and 3. Hallucinogens, such as LSD. The act allowed the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to designate certain “stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic” drugs as controlled, requiring licensing for sales and distribution. The law went into effect in February 1966. Hallucinogens were essentially banned, and the sales of amphetamines and barbiturates were restricted.

In signing the bill, Johnson said: “The Drug Abuse Control Act of 1965 is designed to prevent both the misuse and the illicit traffic of potentially dangerous drugs, especially the sedatives and the stimulants…I cannot express too strongly my determination that this good and decent and law-abiding society shall not be corrupted, undermined, or mocked by any criminal elements, whether they are organized or not. I believe that most Americans share this hope and share this determination.”

This is a copy of the Drug Abuse Control Amendments of 1965 Act, signed and dated by Johnson on July 15, 1965. Its is countersigned by Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey as President of the Senate and House Speaker John McCormick. This is the first signed copy of this act that we have seen.

In response, Sandoz, which had manufactured LSD, ceased its production in August 1965.

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