Nancy Reagan will be remembered for two things—The 'Just Say No' anti-drug marijuana, and her 'long goodbye' with husband Ronald Reagan who suffered from Alzheimer's. If there's one thing to admire about the Reagan's it was their 52-year marriage. They often talked about, as many married couples do, spending their golden years together. They looked like they had the perfect marriage all the way to the end. In an interview with NBC, Nancy said she didn't realize the golden years would be so few.
Americans may have a bittersweet memory of Nancy Reagan depending on who you ask. Mainstream media tributes are tugging at the heart strings talking about her class and grace. And her dedication to 'Ronnie' for 52 years of marriage paints her as the ideal American first lady.
But for the thousands of blacks and latinos sitting in prison for minor drug offenses, there's a different sentiment towards Reagan.
Nancy was admittedly against marijuana. She looked into the camera on national television and said, "Say yes to your life. And when it comes to drugs and alcohol just say no."
Perhaps mother nature has a sick sense of humor. For all of the Reagan's efforts to fight the war on drugs, especially marijuana it turns out marijuana could've been one of her biggest allies in the fight against Alzheimer's.
The leading resource on Alzheimer's research, Alzheimers.net had this to say about treating the disease with cannabis:
A preclinical study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease found that very small doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical found in marijuana, can slow the production of beta-amyloid proteins, thought to be a hallmark characteristic and key contributor to the progression of Alzheimer's.
The study, published in August of 2014 is among others to support the effectiveness of THC in prohibiting the growth of toxic amyloid plagues.
CNN's Sanjay Gupta ran a 3-part series in 2015 simply called Weed. In it, he spoke to his views about marijuana and how he was once opposed to it, but now was in favor of legalization. When talking about how marijuana can help treat Alzheimer's, CNN says:
Medical marijuana and some of the plant's chemicals have been used to help Alzheimer's patients gain weight, and research found that it lessens some of the agitated behavior that patients can exhibit. In one cell study, researchers found it slowed the progress of protein deposits in the brain. Scientists think these proteins may be part of what causes Alzheimer's, although no one knows what causes the disease.
Nancy Reagan's ally in the Just Say No campaign is D.A.R.E. who recently softened their stance on marijuana. Research showed just saying no didn't make teens more or less likely to do drugs. The slogan has been reduced to a cultural punchline standing as a symbol for mass incarceration.
Shortly after Nancy Reagan told us to just say no, congress passed a Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act mandating zero tolerance for any drugs or alcohol in schools. That brought police officers into schools and created a school-to-prison pipeline after officers started arrestings students for drug possession and minor school incidents.
While the Reagan Foundation states cocaine use in high school seniors dropped from 6.2 in 1986 to 4.3 percent, $15 billion has been spent on the 'war on drugs' and 1.5 million people alone were arrested in 2014 for minor drug possessions. Many would argue the Reagan's anti drug efforts decimated many black and latino communities.
Nancy Reagan may have set out to empower middle and upper class parents to protect children from marijuana, but now in 2016 those same parents are fighting for the right to give children medical marijuana for chronic illnesses.
In the end, if she took a different approach and was more open to cannabis, she may have been able to prolong those golden years with Ronnie.