DeltaGate: Richard Nixon’s Sneaky Fight Against Delta-8 THC

Nixon-era research connects a rare form of THC to boost in cancer immunity and brain power.
DeltaGate: Richard Nixon’s Sneaky Fight Against Delta-8 THC
Courtesy of dr.delights

It sounds like a wacky conspiracy theory: The government found a promising treatment for cancer, then banned further research. Yet it happened in the Nixon era!

Decades ago, a government-sponsored report linked THC to smaller lung tumors. It also found that a rare form of THC called delta-8 didn’t cause dopeyness.

Nixon didn’t like the data. He was waging war on cannabis and hippies… and his war needed alternative facts! It’s because of Nixon that medical research about delta-8 and delta-9 is restricted today. Here’s how it all went down.

DeltaGate: Richard Nixon’s Sneaky Fight Against Delta-8 THC
Demonstrators for Nixon’s impeachment in Washington, D.C., 1973

An Anti-Hippie Strategy

When Nixon took office in January 1969, the hippie counterculture was in full swing against his party’s war in Vietnam. With teach-ins, sit-ins, marches, and other forms of activism, peaceniks were a powerful political force.

Tricky Dick noticed that wherever hippies gathered, pot clouds tended to follow. He reasoned that if he kept cannabis criminalized, he could criminalize the left. And so he did.

His former adviser admitted the strategy in 1994. John Ehrlichman told Harper’s Magazine:

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people.

You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Addressing Congress in 1969, Nixon shared scary statistics about heroin and health. He didn’t actually have stats about cannabis, but deft speechwriting managed to muddle cannabis with heroin in lawmakers’ minds.

Soon Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

The Controlled Substances Act

The Controlled Substances Act lists cannabis as a Schedule I drug. This means that officially the substance lacks any medical value and is considered highly addictive. Federal law prohibits prescriptions.

The Commission

Along with hippie youth, doctors in the early 1970s opposed marijuana’s Schedule I status. Nixon consented to a study by the Schafer Commission. This group was led by the Republican lawmaker Raymond Schafer. It included other politicians, medical leaders, and, with kids in mind, the producer of Sesame Workshop.

In 1972 they concluded that cannabis shouldn’t be a Schedule I drug. Furthermore, they advised that it shouldn’t be restricted at all.

“Responsible behavior, through individual choice, is both the guarantor and the objective of a free society,” they wrote.

Nixon sought a second opinion.

The Government Study of Cannabis

For awhile at least, Nixon truly believed that cannabis was harmful to health. In 1972 he set out to prove it. Under his direction, the National Institute on Drug Abuse offered a research grant. This led to a scientific study of cannabinoids at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

  • Basic question: “Does cannabis damage immune systems?”
  • Research setup: Mice were given different cancers, then treated with cannabis extracts: CBD, CBN, delta-8 and delta-9 THC.
  • Results: In both THC groups, treatment seemed to inhibit tumor growth by 40 to 60 percent.

Delta-8 THC emerged as an apparent cancer-fighting star. Besides boosting immunity and extending lives, it seemed to improve mental function. In comparison, delta-9 mice seemed to show confusion when observed in a maze.

Around this time, Nixon resigned from office. The Washington Post publicized the study in 1974 under the headline “Cancer Curb Is Studied.”

America’s new leader, President Ford, soon passed a law preventing public cannabis research. It remains in effect. Meanwhile, researchers overseas consistently confirm that delta-8 brings benefits without making mice lose track of their cheese.

The Situation Today

In early 2019 the US government still categorizes cannabis as Schedule I. Still, most states and Washington, DC recognize its medical value. State by state ‒ and molecule by molecule ‒ the plant may soon attain the federal status it deserves.

Last year the DEA changed CBD’s status. It had been grouped as more addictive than cocaine… yet CBD is now classified in the lowest-risk category along with Robitussin.

In a logical democracy, delta-8-THC should be close behind.

DeltaGate: Richard Nixon’s Sneaky Fight Against Delta-8 THC
Courtesy of dr.delights

dr.delights Checks In

Who makes delta-8 THC oil? California’s dr.delights laboratory is among the few specializing in delta-8 distillation. Their process yields oil for the Delta 8 disposable vape pen… and it has a kick.

“Our Delta 8 vape is about 70 percent delta-8 THC,” explains brand co-founder Rose Burnett, “And the distillate retains some delta-9. The pen caters to people who want some psychoactivity along with potential body benefits.”

Further research about delta-8 THC is posted at

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