Passed in 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Act, was the first federal law
to regulate the use and sale of narcotics. It was intended as an opium marketing
tool and tax revenue bill. It was enforced by the Treasury Department and
was not a matter of public health or crime. Opium use was not considered
a problem to society, but an untapped source of revenue.
The politics behind its evolution into prohibition is based in racism
and in the morality of the temperance movement. There was an influx of Chinese
immigrats. Many of whom smoked opium while working very hard and productively.
Opium dens were prohibited in San Francisco, as far back as 1875. Prohibitory
laws only applied to the smoking of opium, not its importation or consumption
in any other manner. This was quite obviously directed at the Chinese immigrants
and carefully avoided offending White Americans who used opium.
States began deliberate efforts to prohibit drug use before the federal
government did. The laws were expanded in stages until opium was finally
completely outlawed. A strong and growing sense of moral righteousness prompted
the political action. Temperance was the political force aiming to legislate
morality. Even if we are someday able to seal our national borders and prevent
all drugs from entering our country, (we cannot do it now) there would still
be illegal drugs on our streets. Chemicals will be developed to substitute
heroin and cocaine that will be more dangerous than the original drugs were
~ as long as the demand exists. Marijuana grows almost anywhere, indoors
or out (it is, after all, a weed).
Underground, controlled by criminals, drugs will always be available.
Legally controlled by the medical profession, we would make it possible
to improve public health, save billions of tax dollars, and effectively
educate children with the truth.
The drug war takes our attention away from the root causes of drug abuse.
One of the primary causes of drug abuse is the demonization and dishonesty
about marijuana. Another is the hypocrisy about commercialization of tobacco
and alcohol. Another is that we do not clearly differentiate between use
and abuse. We do not educate about the real dangers of certain substances
when we just say no.
Prior to the war on cocaine, users sometimes made free-base coke. It
was not very popular, as there was a reasonable fear factor. With the war
on cocaine, it became a highly marketed product, now called crack cocaine.
Prostitution became part of the drug scene. Young women were (and are)
deliberately addicted and trapped into the trade.
On the other side of the coin, dealing drugs became more entrenched as
a way to make money fast. Drug dealers are respected in certain levels of
society. As said by a heroin drug gang leader in the award-winning film,
Fresh,Its like the banking business, but more secure.
History Lesson #2: Outlawing opium resulted in the creation of the heroin pusher.