The following is excerpted from, “Parents, Peers and Pot: The Rise of the Drug Culture and the Birth of the Parent Movement, 1976-1980” by Emily Dufton. Text has been edited for brevity.

The push to legalize marijuana in the 1970s failed, thanks to the efforts of concerned parents.

From 1973 to 1978, marijuana was decriminalized or legalized across America in twelve states that together contained a third of the nation’s population. Similar to today, decriminalization was seen as a means to end the prosecution of otherwise law-abiding young adults as well as, through taxes levied on the booming paraphernalia industry, a business-friendly solution to America’s weakening economy.

Prosecuting marijuana cases in the 1970s seemed less vital than fighting heroin addiction. In light of growing social tolerance, government publications, doctors and public schools preached the doctrine of “responsible use,” arguing that marijuana, when used in moderation, was no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.

What makes the period of decriminalization in the 1970s unique, however, was that the nation’s growing acceptance of recreational marijuana use also birthed a counterrevolution of concerned parents. These grassroots groups of committed activists became so powerful and influential in just four years that they were able to change the direction of the national drug debate.

What became a groundswell of national grassroots activism began in one family’s home in Atlanta, Georgia, in the summer of 1976, before it spread across the country with groups blossoming in every state by 1980. The “parent movement,” as these activists became known, consisted of groups of generally white, suburban, middle-class mothers and fathers who were horrified that their nation was legalizing pot and fearful that their children would become a generation of zombies, utterly incapacitated by the drug’s surging use.

Less than a decade after formation, the movement celebrated remarkable success. By the time Ronald Reagan was re-elected in 1984, the tens of thousands of parent activists who joined the movement had, through a series of incredibly effective grassroots campaigns, brought the rate of adolescent marijuana use to an all-time low. Additionally, activists had re-criminalized marijuana in almost every decriminalized state, passed broad anti-paraphernalia laws across the country, and spurred prominent celebrities, politicians and sports stars to join their cause.

Because of the influence and potency of the parents’ message, the movement was able to change the nation’s mind about marijuana: in the span of just a few years, marijuana was transformed from a seemingly benign middle-class high into the most dangerous drug in the United States, a gateway drug that had the potential to endanger the future of the entire nation.

Excerpted from “Parents, Peers and Pot: The Rise of the Drug Culture and the Birth of the Parent Movement, 1976-1980” by Emily Dufton. Text has be edited for brevity. Read original here: