John C. Lawn

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John Lawn, speaking at the swearing in of Administrator Karen Tandy on 7 September 2003.

John C. "Jack" Lawn served as Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) between 26 July 1985 and 23 March 1990. On 1 March 1985, Lawn, who had served as Deputy Administrator since 1982, was designated Acting Administrator following the retirement of Francis M. Mullen. On 4 April 1985, he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to be the next Administrator of the DEA.[1] Mr. Lawn was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on 16 July 1985, and sworn in on 26 July 1985. Although Reagan had pledged to crack down on the crack epidemic, when Lawn requested an additional $44 million and 200 more agents to focus solely on the drug, he was rejected.[2]

Before coming to the DEA, Mr. Lawn had served for 15 years as a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). As Special Agent in Charge of the San Antonio field office from 1980 to 1982, he had directed the successful investigation into the assassination of U.S. District Judge John H. Wood, Jr. Before this historic case, Lawn had supervised all FBI civil rights cases, including allegations of police brutality and color of law complaints. In addition, he was responsible for background investigations of White House officials, federal judges, and US attorney nominees. He also served in the Criminal Division of FBI headquarters where he supervised Congressional review of the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and President John F. Kennedy.

From 1990-1994, Mr. Lawn served as vice-president and chief of operations of the New York Yankees. In 1998, he was serving as the chairman and CEO of The Century Council, a national organization dedicated to fighting alcohol abuse. On Thursday, September 30, 2010, in Washington, DC at the JW Marriott Hotel, the DEA Educational Foundation honored Mr. Lawn, presenting him with the 2010 DEA Educational Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. This award was presented in recognition of his decades of leadership and commitment to drug law enforcement, drug abuse prevention, and drug treatment.

Role in the Criminalisation of MDMA[edit]

In January 1984, worried about increasing recreational use of MDMA, the DEA prepared a document for scheduling MDMA as a Schedule I substance,[3] a classification for drugs seen as having a high potential for abuse and having no accepted medical medical use. Because MDMA was already in widespread use by psychiatrists, a group of psychiatrists and their lawyer filed a request for a hearing. The request was granted, although MDMA was scheduled on an emergency basis by the DEA before the hearings were heard anyway.[4] On the basis of multiple witnesses testifying that there medically accepted uses of MDMA in treatment, the administrative law judge in charge of the hearing, Francis L. Young recommended that MDMA be classified as Schedule III, a scheduling that many researchers, including Alexander Shulgin were willing to accept. However Lawn disagreed with the recommendation and ultimately MDMA was scheduled as Schedule I. The events were later echoed in 1988 when Lawn again overruled Justice Young who recommended for the reclassification of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III.

However, in 1987 the Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Lester Grinspoon sued the DEA, and the federal court sided with Grinspoon, calling Lawn's argument "strained" and "unpersuasive",[5] and MDMA was unscheduled. However, less than a month later Lawn claimed that he had reconsidered the evidence and again classified MDMA as Schedule I. In his ruling Lawn claimed that evidence psychiatrists gave that they had administered MDMA to approximately 200 patients with positive effects should be dismissed as "merely anecdotal" as they were not published in medical journals.


  1. ^ "Nomination of John C. Lawn To Be Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration". Public Papers of Ronald Reagan, April 1985. Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. 1985-04-04. Retrieved 2008-02-07. 
  2. ^ Webb, Gary (1999). Dark Alliance. Seven Stories Press. p. 285. ISBN 978-1-888363-93-7. 
  3. ^,_Donald_00.html?sequence=2
  4. ^ Ecstasy : The Complete Guide : A Comprehensive Look at the Risks and Benefits of MDMA by Julie Holland
  5. ^

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Francis M. Mullen
Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration
Succeeded by
Robert C. Bonner