Analysis: Did Nancy Reagan's War on Drugs Backfire? - NBC Bay Area
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Analysis: Did Nancy Reagan's War on Drugs Backfire?

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    Analysis: Did Nancy Reagan's War on Drugs Backfire?
    Focus on Sport/Getty Images
    File image of former first lady Nancy Reagan during a baseball game between the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Dodgers on October 15, 1988.

    It's one of the risks of a long and busy life: the threat that society will change its mind about your most important work. That happened to Nancy Reagan, the former first lady who died on Sunday at 94, NBC News reported.

    President Ronald Reagan's wife and closest adviser defined the drug panic of the 1980s, coining the phrase "Just Say No" and supporting her husband's rampaging war on drugs. She often singled out marijuana as a special scourge, accusing dealers of taking "the dream from every child's heart."

    But such positions have since slipped into disrepute in recent years, rejected even by many fellow Republicans. Nearly half the country has tried marijuana, meanwhile, and legal sales are booming in four states and counting. Criminal justice reform, including reducing sentences for nonviolent drug convictions, has been a point of discussion on both sides of the 2016 presidential campaign.

    Nancy Reagan never publicly recanted or so much as commented on her starring role in the drug war. But with a look back at the origins of her and her husband's hardline policies, it's possible to trace the arc of one of America's most famous failures.