Lesson 2: Heroin

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.

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