Were Bigots the Driving Force Behind "The War on Drugs?"
In the Beginning...
When the new world was first "discovered" no drug laws existed either in the Native American communities or in the settlers' communities banning any sort of drug. In fact the white people were pretty insistent on spreading around their own vices. After the Indians helped the first settlers survive the winter the white man repaid them all by giving them small pox and TB. The Indians, never dimwitted, in return gave the settlers tobacco. Of course the white man couldn't leave off here so they in return gave the small handful of surviving Indians hard alcohol. Sometime around here the Native South Americans gave their settlers cocoa leaves (which would later be turned into cocaine.) And so smoking and drinking became as natural as breathing to all the men in the "New World."
By the time the settlers had rid themselves of those pesky Indians they had decided it was time to tell the Mother Land to buzz off. So they wrote the Declaration of Independance, which really says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The pursuit of happiness at this time included the unalienable right to feed your body anything you so pleased. Cannabis, Opium, and all the other happy little drugs were as legal as they possibly could have been. It took quite awhile for people to change their minds on this issue...
Our Love Hate Realtionship with Pot
Back in the day, Cannabis was harvested in America as far back as Jamestown. Hemp, the fiber from the plant, was harvested to make the world's strongest and most durable natural fiber which was used for ropes (sailor's and hangman's finest) and very itchy clothing. By 1619 hemp had become so important that the Virginia assembly decreed that every farmer was to dedicate part of his land to the production of hemp. It was considered legal tender in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. During the 1700's it was our largest export crop.
During all this time the leaves and flowers of the plant were used medicinally to ease pain. Some smoked the plant but weren't given any bother and most ate it. Hashish cookies were particularly popular amongst the pioneers of the West, often feeding it to their children after a backbreaking day of traveling or farming. It stopped the crying and whining with amazing effectiveness. During this time cannabis was an important ingredient in most of the tonics and potions sold over the counter to cure all your ills.
Everyone either loved or ignored pot until the early 1900's when Mexican immigrants began to filter into our country in large numbers. Their preferred method of ingestion was through smoke and before the white people knew what was going on another minority community had found a fondness for the pretty little plant, the jazz community. That was just unacceptable to the white fat cats in government so they took action. First they made it illegal to sell potions and tonics whose ingredients weren't clearly labeled in the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. This didn't stop the housewives from continuing to buy and ingest these intoxicating remedies. They had no better way to pass the time then cleaning house and planning church galas.
When the Pure Food and Drug Act failed to curb many sales the white man returned to the drawing board. Nothing inspires the public quite like fear and they knew this. According to these all-knowing politicians those dirty Mexican immigrants were fleeing into our country, taking our jobs, and then going on killing sprees after smoking the drug! This wasn't to mention the black men who upon finishing a joint knew it was their sole purpose in the life to go out and rape poor innocent white women! Oh the horror! When news of a black ax-murderer came into the news the press went wild. Apparently he hacked his mama to bits after smoking a joint. Of course no one paid any heed to the fact the demonic voices in his head probably predated his wild night of toking.
In 1936 pot panic spread to Hollywood where Reefer Madness was created, providing a good laugh to all the generations who watched it at a later date. By 1937 the fat white men were at a breaking point. They just had to stop the insane Black and Mexican communities! So they instated the Marijuana Tax Act. It said anyone could sell pot so long as they paid a tax and had a license to do so. The catch? No licenses were made. This was the highest evolution of a government think tank there ever was or will be. It was genius! Sort of...
Eventually the Mexicans caught on. Apparently they weren't as stupid as they were crazy. By this time most states had already banned the drug, for the sake of the children and all those innocent white women out there. In 1951 it was decided that insane penalties would be better suited at keeping people away from the alluring little plant. A $20,000 fine and a 2-10 year jail sentence was given to anyone in possession of the drug. That'll teach 'em! Actually, it didn't. When the jails overflowed this particular law had to be repealed in 1956. Another genius plan foiled by common sense and consequence.
In the 1960's a terrible thing happened... Pot hit the suburbs. Now it wasn't restricted to musicians and immigrants, white middle and upper class teenagers were running wild through the streets hopped up on it. It wasn't until 1976 that the parents of these kiddies caught on to why little Dick and Jane were acting all funny. They started lobbying with all their might.
In 1986 mandatory sentencing was again instated under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. Hey, if it didn't work last time, maybe it'd work this time! Our jails filled up again but this time our children were being told to "Just say no." Many of them laughed in the establishment's face. In 1996 Medical Marijuana became legal in California, starting a new movement... the return of common sense? Maybe. Only time will tell.
Opium, Morphine, and Heroin! Oh my!
Opium is made from poppies, a kind of flower. It's been used medicinally for thousands of years in Asia and parts of Europe. Roman foot soldiers and gladiators were said to have been given opium to keep them numb enough to ignore all pain and continue on. Such a charming usage... working people to the death like poor little mining ponies.
In the United States the usage of opium was for the same reason, to cure pain and to suppress coughing. It was found in a vast number of elixirs, tonics, potions, and powders, and no one cared. In fact by the 1800's one could obtain opium at your local grocery store, from your friendly pharmacist, from the all-knowing physicians, and even through the mail. In fact the largest population to use it frequently was white women, stuck in their houses with nothing better to do. Some of them were stranded on the prairie. You can see why loneliness would breed bad behavior. Baby crying too loud? A drop of opium extract on their tongue will put them right to sleep! Having a bad day? Feeling kind of angry at your husband for beating on you again? Have some laudanum and it'll all be OK...
By the end of the 1800's opium was silent epidemic, silent because it was the domain of white women and not minorities. That was to change. Our views on the drug turned sour when the Chinese railway workers started to settle in San Francisco. How dare they move in and ruin our melting pot?!
At the time opium was a horrible pandemic in China due to the guiding influence of an evil British empire who was purposely smuggling the drug into the country to fuck up their enemies. It worked. More then half the population became hopelessly addicted and brought opium smoking (rather then ingesting) to the states with them.
The local white population didn't like the Chinese. They posed a risk of taking away some of the twenty or so white woman that lived out there at the time. There was few enough women to go around as it was without competition! No oddly speaking foreigner was going to lure innocent white women into their dens of sin and debauchery! As far as they were concerned the Chinese already built the great transcontinental railroad and did their laundry, now it was time to leave. What? You people have nowhere to go? Fine, then we'll make you live in Chinatown and continue to do our laundry while we pass superfluous laws to harass you. And that's what they did. Within a matter of years it was illegal for men to wear pony tails, for water to be dragged around by the bucket and pole combination, and oh yes, opium was made illegal within the city limits in 1874. Those scary long pipes and opium dens were just too much to handle. If these Chinese wanted to be red-blooded Americans they should carry on the local traditions and vices and become mean drunken alcoholics, not opium fiends!
The sane people at the time saw opium as be a calming drug, something that unlike liquor would keep a person away from you and further into their own little dream world. What was so bad about that?
Of course this isn't to say suburbia had any less a hard time with opium. After alcohol was starting to be seen as a bad thing, physicians started giving alcoholics opium to curb them from their alcoholism. When they became hopelessly addicted to opium they were given morphine to curb them from this. Morphine of course was the same thing as opium, coming from the same plant, just in a stronger form.
In 1874 CR Wright discovered that by boiling morphine he can create heroin, an even stronger pain killer, capable of calming people to the point of being comatose, an admirable thing if a surgeon was standing over you planning to lop off an arm or a leg. Physicians in the states thought heroin would be a fantastic substitute for morphine addiction and alcoholism! They were wrong. Sure, at the time it was being manufactured in a way to lower the risk of addiction but since it was a stronger drug the cruelly potent withdrawal symptoms were worse then anything ever encountered by man before.
During and after the Civil War soldiers were fed opium to ease their pain. It was no surprise when a whole generation of white men came home hopelessly addicted. In 1890, with this memory still fresh in their minds, politicians were beginning to get worried about the constant unnatural docility of their wives and veterans and instated a tax on opium and morphine. Fifteen years later Congress finally got around to banning opium outright on a federal level. Morphine was allowed to be prescribed by physicians for "due medical use," a phrase so vague that it was no surprise when many physicians found themselves arrested for trafficking narcotics.
There's Something in the CocaCola...
Cocoa leaves were known to be chewed by South American Peoples to invigorate them while they were climbing to high altitudes. The leaves quickened the heart rate and increased oxygen intake. In this form it was not addictive. White man wasn't satisfied with that and soon set out tinkering with the plant. In 1859 Albert Niemann extracted a synthetic chemical named cocaine from the leaves and the gates of cocaine Hell opened.
Cocaine was a cough suppressant and the leading diseases of the day often involved vast amounts of uncontrollable coughing. In all their wisdom our American ancestors thought that if you could stop the coughing the patient would live. Because of this cocaine soon became the main ingredient in just about every form of cough syrup and elixir. White women again loved it. It pepped them enough to raise the kids, clean the house, cook three meals, and satisfy their husbands without breaking a sweat! It was all good. This was the first, and often never noted, cocaine epidemic in the United States.
Blue collar workers found favor in the drug for the same reason white women did. Coca-Cola, a soda sold in pharmacies, was named after its two main ingredients cocaine and cola. Workers would often slog into the pharmacy and request a "shot in the arm." Cocaine was so invigorating that Freud toted it around like a gift from God. Even Sherlock Holmes liked to have it injected in his stories to help him solve crimes. Later versions of this literary classic edited this little gem out.
Cocaine didn't start to have a negative public opinion until more scare campaigns came out, written by white men, who claimed cocaine was responsible for yet another slew of insane overly energetic black men kidnapping and raping yet more innocent white women! In 1903 Coca-Cola, sensing a legislation was coming, voluntarily replaced the cocaine in its lovable soft drink with caffeine. In 1914 the Harrison Tax Act was instated that made opiates and cocaine illegal except for medical usage.
In the meantime illegal drug lords thought cocaine was too expensive and not addictive enough so they invented crack and let it loose on the streets during the 1980's, an act we're still trying to clean up after.
Ah, sweet Methamphetamine, how hypocrital you make us! Various forms of Methamphetamine are used in large quantities, legally, in the US by prescription. We use it to banish obesity, clear the minds of children with ADHD, chemically poke awake those with narcolepsy, and tell alcoholism to shove it. And that is just scratching the surface.
Meth came into our lives in 1887 when German chemist L. Edeleano first synthesized it. Other methods were invented soon afterward to obtain the chemical by easier and cheaper means. It first showed up in the States under the unassuming title Benzedrine, sold exclusively in pharmacies as an inhaled decongestant. If that's all it did then this would probably be the end of the story. Unfortunately methamphetamine had a lot of other interesting effects... like another shot in the arm!
It was soon picked up by Ivy Legue college students who took it to stay awake for days on end with the mental capacity to finish all their studies. Need for this usage fell with the dumbing down of academia. Now all college students need to do is drink copious amounts of beer and stumble into class burping once or so a week. Bravo for the American way!
Other then busy bodies meth was also picked up by a more alarming population... The Germans and Japanese during World War II. Soldiers were given chocolate laced with the drug or the drug in pill form to keep them attentive and awake for far longer then is humanely possible otherwise. Hitler himself had "vitamins" injected in his arm on a daily basis to "combat fatigue" during the war.
It was probably due to the aforementioned use that America stopped to say, "Wait a minute... we're better then Germans. We best stop relying on this shit." and for awhile the usage was curbed. It wasn't until those pesky college students were discovered reveling in the stuff that America took real action. We didn't want our best and brightest to grow up to be little Nazis after all! So in 1970 the U.S. Drug Abuse Regulation and Control Act made the drug illegal... sort of. We still for some reason find the need to give it to people through prescriptions for whatever ails you.
Meanwhile crystal meth was created and dispensed among our youths and white housewives after it was figured out that over the counter cough drops could be slightly and cheaply tweaked to form the drug in homemade "labs." When people started to go nuts, loose all their teeth, and die in meth lab explosions, then the media took notice. People demanded cough drops be hidden behind the counter to curb this epidemic. So far, this has done little.. People wishing to obtain these delectable little drops will travel from store to store buying a box at a time under fake names. Another not-so-successful strike for the War on Drugs.
All this goes on while physicians are dispensing Ritalin to children in large quantities. Is it really a surprise when the kids catch on and start selling their Ritalin to be snorted? Is it an even bigger surprise when we figure out that it actually has side effects on young kids such as suicidal tendencies during their teenage years (even after being taken off the drug?) It wasn't to me but Americans seem to lack common sense and so the struggle continues... and DARE programs continue to tell kids to "just say no" while their parents feed them the same drug in prescription form...
Those Happy Little Hallucinogens...
Hallucinogens are a fascinating topic in the sense the vast majority of them have no real nasty well-documented side effects (such as addiction or meth mouth.) Hallucinogens have been used in various forms for millennia by shamans and religious leaders to bring spiritual experiences to the masses. In this way they are unique to the drug world. No one in their right mind takes crack or meth for a religious experience but they might try a hallucinogen!
Although I know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of types of hallucinogens I will be concentrating just on LSD during this chapter because as far as American history goes, it has the most suspicious background. LSD came into our world when Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann synthesized the chemical from ergot fungus in 1938. Why? Well to see if ergot had any medicinal value (of any kind) of course! A vague explanation but I guess admirable in the sense it does take on the spirit of discovery.
Ergot had poisoned huge populations of peasants and farmers in the past, causing mass hysteria and vibrant hallucinations. Never were these accounts shed in a positive light... until Albert Hofmann's accidental contamination with the drug which he was unaware of until he found himself riding home on a bicycle amidst thousands of pretty swirling colors. What does this have to do with the States? Nothing for awhile... until the CIA took an interest in the strange drug.
The CIA has always amazed me with its history of bizarre and often profoundly stupid ploys... all of which it somehow manages to keep under wraps from the general public. At the time the CIA though it'd be a splendid idea to make a "truth serum" to feed to political prisoners and whatnot. Why spend all that time doing backbreaking spy work when a simple kidnapping and drugging would suffice?
The CIA was perplexed when monkeys fed the drug went nuts and drug addicts cursed it as the work of the devil. So monkeys and drug addicts weren't the best guinea pigs, so the CIA started taking it's experiments to unsuspecting civilians. Most were not pleased, to say the least. The CIA never got it's truth serum, though it did note that in some subjects the drug caused short-term or permanent schizophrenia. No biggie for them, they were conscienceless anyway.
It's at this time a few of their test subjects found the experience to be... interesting and before anyone knew what was going on LSD had filtered it's way into the civilian population and started warping philosophies and young minds. It was still legal until the youth counterculture really started to use it en masse. The authorities at the time shook in their boots. These damn kids kept fucking with their plans to send more of them off to the deaths without asking questions. Could it be America was growing a spine? Could this be blamed on LSD? According to the US government the answer was a definitive YES. In 1967 it was labeled as a Schedule I drug and made illegal. The Schedule I category lets you know just how much government officials feared the drug as Schedule I is saved for drugs with "no medicinal use, with a high potential of abuse" which bans any laboratory study on said drug. Since it's not known to be addictive this seems an overly harsh ruling.. then again, there is nothing quite so dangerous as a public that's rapidly turning against the status quo.
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