The History of the War on Drugs in America. At the turn of the 20th century, there was little to no regulation on drugs. People bought and sold cocaine, heroin, cannabis, and other drugs freely and legally. It was possible to go into a drugstore and buy a medicinal syrup mixed with cocaine. This is obviously not the way things are today, and the road from near total deregulation to draconian federal restrictions was paved more with racist politics than with actual concern for people’s health. The first step toward the war on drugs was one that clearly needed to be taken, for public safety. There were no laws regulating what could and could not be sold, how drugs could be advertised, how pure the drugs had to be, or even if they had to be proven to treat the diseases they claimed to cure. Therefore there was very much a “let the buyer beware” culture regarding drugs and medicine, and it was an actual possibility that a customer would buy a remedy which would actually prove to be harmful or fake.