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Friday, August 2, 2013

6 Shocking (But True) Facts About the History of Illegal Drugs in America

1. There were no illegal drugs before 1906

Every American alive today takes drug laws for granted, but the first law regulating drugs, the Pure Food & Drug Act of 1906, was written a little over a hundred years ago. Even that law was focused on protecting people from patent medicines containing poisonous chemicals, not on banning drugs because of addiction. For most of America's history, recreational drug use was perfectly legal. The first federal law which banned the non-medical use of a drug was the Smoking Opium Exclusion Act of 1909.
A History of Opiate Laws in the United States

Prior to 1890, laws concerning opiates were strictly imposed on a local city or state-by-state basis. One of the first was in San Francisco in 1875 where it became illegal to smoke opium only in opium dens. It did not ban the sale, import or use otherwise. In the next 25 years different states enacted opium laws ranging from outlawing opium dens altogether to making possession of opium, morphine and heroin without a physician’s prescription illegal.

The first Congressional Act took place in 1890 that levied taxes on morphine and opium. From that time on the Federal Government has had a series of laws and acts directly aimed at opiate use, abuse and control. These are outlined below:

1906 – Pure Food and Drug Act
Preventing the manufacture, sale, or transportation of adulterated or misbranded or poisonous or deleterious foods, drugs, medicines, and liquors, and for regulating traffic therein, and for other purposes. Punishment included fines and prison time.

1909 – Smoking Opium Exclusion Act
Banned the importation, possession and use of "smoking opium". Did not regulate opium-based "medications". First Federal law banning the non-medical use of a substance.

2. Opium, heroin, and cocaine were once available in over-the-counter medicines

Heroin and cocaine are often used as examples of drugs so dangerous they must be banned. But for decades beginning in the late 19th century, both were freely available in over-the-counter medicines. And yet somehow, society did not self-destruct.
The use of opiates became widespread in the US in the latter part of the 19th Century. Morphine became widely available with its use during the Civil War and heroin became available in 1894. Opiates were sold widely in the form of patent medicines, and were freely available to anyone who wanted to buy them, children included. Many patent medicines were fifty percent morphine, and morphine, cocaine, and heroin were even included in things such as baby colic remedies and toothache drops.

3. Opium was banned because of anti-Chinese prejudice

Opium was freely available and widely used by many Americans during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was later banned, but not because it was destroying society, but because of prejudice against Chinese immigrants. Many Americans feared Chinese labor would drive down wages and so the anti-opium laws were written as an excuse to deport the Chinese and discourage immigration.
The ordinance was aimed specifically at Chinese smoking opium, not at the medicinal opium regularly consumed by whites. The Chinese had brought smoking opium with them in the earliest days of the gold rush. The habit caused little offense at first, until anti-Chinese sentiment swept the state in the mid-1870s.
The roots of this ordinance were racist rather than health-oriented, and were concerned with what today is known as "life-style." Opium smoking was introduced into the United States by tens of thousands of Chinese men and boys imported during the l850s and 1880s to build the great Western railroads.* The Chinese laborers then drifted into San Francisco and other cities, and accepted employment of various kinds at low wages --- giving rise to waves of anti-Chinese hostility. Soon white men and even women were smoking opium side by side with the Chinese, a life-style which was widely disapproved. The San Francisco authorities, we are told learned upon investigation that "many women and young girls, as well as young men of respectable family, were being induced to visit the [Chinese] opium-smoking dens, where they were ruined morally and otherwise ** 4 The 1875 ordinance followed, "forbidding the practice under penalty of a heavy fine or imprisonment or both. Many arrests were made, and the punishment was prompt and thorough. 6

4. Marijuana was banned because of anti-Mexican prejudice

The first state to ban marijuana was Utah in 1914. This was because Mormon polygamists who had been living in Mexico brought marijuana back with them and the Mormon Church wanted to ban this practice in accordance with Mormon principles. By 1930, 30 more states had banned marijuana, and in 1937, the first federal law against marijuana was enacted. Included in the congressional are many revealing gems like:

-Two weeks ago a sex-mad degenerate, named Lee Fernandez, brutally attacked a young Alamosa girl. He was convicted of assault with intent to rape and sentenced to 10 to 14 years in the state penitentiary. Police officers here know definitely that Fernandez was under the influence of marihuana. But this case is one in hundreds of murders, rapes, petty crimes, insanity that has occurred in southern Colorado in recent years.

-I wish I could show you what a small marihuana cigaret can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents. That's why our problem is so great; the greatest percentage of our population is composed of Spanish-speaking persons, most of who are low mentally, because of social and racial conditions.

-Did you read of the Drain murder case in Pueblo recently? Marihuana is believed to have been used by one of the bloody murderers.

Other revealing comments include a Texas state legislator who remarked that "All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff is what makes them crazy" during a debate to ban marijuana and a Montana state legislator who said "Give one of these Mexican beet field workers a couple of puffs on a marijuana cigarette and he thinks he is in the bullring at Barcelona."

It makes sense- marijuana was virtually unknown in the US until Mexican migrant workers introduced it in the early 20th century. Like many immigrant groups, the Mexicans were distrusted and the marijuana laws were an indirect attempt to control them.
The idea of prohibition first took hold around the time of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, which drove waves of poor immigrants north into the Western United States. Along with their willingness to pick beets and cotton for pitifully low wages, the newcomers brought a penchant for smoking a peculiar sort of cigarette. At the time, cannabis was virtually unknown as an intoxicant among the Anglo-American population, writes Dale Gieringer, the California state director of the National Campaign for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Aside from a few accounts of hash houses in New York and travelers who had visited the hashish-loving regions of the Middle East, there is next to no record of pot's recreational use in America before the 20th century.

Criminalizing marijuana, then, was a way of criminalizing Mexicans: a kind of stoner's Jim Crow. And state lawmakers who favored the policy weren't exactly shy about their agenda. "All Mexicans are crazy," said one Texas legislator during the floor debate over marijuana criminalization in his state, "and this stuff is what makes them crazy." Or as an advocate of Montana's first anti-marijuana law said in his state legislature: "Give one of these Mexican beet field workers a couple of puffs on a marijuana cigarette and he thinks he is in the bullring at Barcelona." California's 1913 law against pot—one of the first such statutes in the nation—banned "preparations of hemp, or loco-weed."

5. Cocaine was banned because of anti-black prejudice

Cocaine was a common ingredient in many patent medicines in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Another thing that was common in that era was racism. When the New York Times published an article in 1914 about "Negro Cocaine Fiends", Congress was swift to act and later that year banned cocaine.

link to original NYT article
The advertisements went away. By 1903, there was no more cocaine in Coca-Cola. By 1914, the drug was often seen as something for undesirables -- and often, mixed up in ugly stereotypes.

An infamous article in The New York Times, by the physician Edward Huntington Williams, warned of a new danger: "Negro cocaine 'fiends.' " Williams described a North Carolina police chief who claimed his regular ammunition had little effect on these drug users, and had switched to larger bullets.

Later in 1914, Congress passed the Harrison Narcotics Act, banning the nonmedical use of cocaine, as well as other drugs, like marijuana. Cocaine's long career as an outlaw had begun.

6. The CIA tested LSD on unsuspecting Americans during the Cold War

During the 1950s and 1960s, the CIA ran a program called MK-ULTRA, whose goal was to explore the mind-control properties of LSD. Basically, it was a real-life version of The Manchurian Candidate. No one knows how many Americans were tested because most of the files on the program were destroyed in the early 70s. When a congressional investigation was launched in 1975, the only remaining information concerned the exploits of Dr. Sidney Gottlieb & his associates, who had given LSD to hundreds Americans without their knowledge.
The CIA was fascinated by LSD, and thought it a wonder drug that could be used not only to create zombie-like armies, but to drive enemy leaders like Fidel Castro insane. There were few willing subjects in the research — often, LSD was secretly given to a range of people, from CIA employees to prostitutes and the mentally ill. Sometimes, agents even posed as prostitutes and secretly drugged their clients, while fellow agents watched in two-way mirrors.

The goals of MK-ULTRA included investigating the following:
•Materials which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness.
•Substances which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so-called "brain-washing".
•Materials and physical methods which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use.
•Physical methods of producing shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use.
•A knockout pill which could surreptitiously be administered in drinks, food, cigarettes, as an aerosol, etc., which will be safe to use, provide a maximum of amnesia, and be suitable for use by agent types on an ad hoc basis.
At first it was White who carried out Gottlieb's tests. White and his ostensibly informed wife held parties at their New York apartment wherein White furnished his guests with LSD-laced martinis. As the drug took hold, he observed its effects on the unwitting participants, making notes on their reactions. In some instances, the effects included giddiness and euphoria; others were darker, with the subjects realizing something was terribly wrong and reacting badly. White noted this type of reaction as "the horrors" [source: Valentine].

Eventually, the experiments were moved from White's apartment in New York to a CIA-funded safe house in San Francisco dubbed "the pad" [source: Stratton]. It was here that White recruited Ike Feldman. In his guise as pimp, the cop collected prostitutes and paid them to bring back customers to the pad and surreptitiously administer LSD into their drinks. Throughout, George White sat quietly behind a two-way mirror, drinking martinis, watching the ignorant test subjects trip and taking notes on their reactions.

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