The Vespiary

Site => Harm Reduction Resources => Topic started by: SubliminallyOveranalyzed on November 03, 2015, 03:53:59 PM

Title: Quick prohibition facts & their roots/origins
Post by: SubliminallyOveranalyzed on November 03, 2015, 03:53:59 PM
International background
Following the Spanish–American War the U.S. acquired the Philippines from Spain. At that time, opium addiction constituted a significant problem in the civilian population of the Philippines.

Charles Henry Brent was an American Episcopal bishop who served as Missionary Bishop of the Philippines beginning in 1901. He convened a Commission of Inquiry, known as the Brent Commission, for the purpose of examining alternatives to a licensing system for opium addicts. The Commission recommended that narcotics should be subject to international control. The recommendations of the Brent Commission were endorsed by the United States Department of State and in 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt called for an international conference, the International Opium Commission, which was held in Shanghai in February 1909. A second conference was held at The Hague in May 1911, and out of it came the first international drug control treaty, the International Opium Convention of 1912.

Domestic Background
In the 1800s opiates and cocaine were mostly unregulated drugs. In the 1890s the Sears & Roebuck catalogue, which was distributed to millions of Americans homes, offered a syringe and a small amount of cocaine for $1.50.

At the beginning of the 20th century, cocaine began to be linked to crime. In 1900, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an editorial stating, "Negroes in the South are reported as being addicted to a new form of vice – that of 'cocaine sniffing' or the 'coke habit.'" Some newspapers later claimed cocaine use caused blacks to rape white women and was improving their pistol marksmanship. Chinese immigrants were blamed for importing the opium-smoking habit to the U.S. The 1903 blue-ribbon citizens' panel, the Committee on the Acquirement of the Drug Habit, concluded, "If the Chinaman cannot get along without his dope we can get along without him."

Theodore Roosevelt appointed Dr. Hamilton Wright as the first Opium Commissioner of the United States in 1908. In 1909, Wright attended the International Opium Commission in Shanghai as the American delegates. He was accompanied by Charles Henry Brent, the Episcopal Bishop. On March 12, 1911, Dr. Wright was quoted in as follows in an article in the New York Times: "Of all the nations of the world, the United States consumes most habit-forming drugs per capita. Opium, the most pernicious drug known to humanity, is surrounded, in this country, with far fewer safeguards than any other nation in Europe fences it with." Wright further claimed that "it has been authoritatively stated that cocaine is often the direct incentive to the crime of rape by the negroes of the South and other sections of the country," though he failed to mention specifically which authorities had stated that, and did not provide any evidence for his claim. Wright also stated that "one of the most unfortunate phases of smoking opium in this country is the large number of women who have become involved and were living as common-law wives or cohabitating with Chinese in the Chinatowns of our various cities".

Opium usage had begun to decline by 1914 after rising dramatically in the post Civil War Era, peaking at around one-half million pounds per year in 1896.[11] Demand gradually declined thereafter in response to mounting public concern, local and state regulations, and the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906, which required labeling of patent medicines that contained opiates, cocaine, alcohol, cannabis and other intoxicants. As of 1911, an estimated one U.S. citizen in 400 (0.25%) was addicted to some form of opium. The opium addicts were mostly women who were prescribed and dispensed legal opiates by physicians and pharmacist for “female problems” (probably pain at menstruation) or white men and Chinese at the Opium dens. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of these addicts were women. By 1914, forty-six states had regulations on cocaine and twenty-nine states had laws against opium, morphine, and heroin.

Several authors have argued that the debate was merely to regulate trade and collect a tax. However, the committee report prior to the debate on the house floor and the debate itself, discussed the rise of opiate use in the United States. Harrison stated that "The purpose of this Bill can hardly be said to raise revenue, because it prohibits the importation of something upon which we have hitherto collected revenue." Later Harrison stated, "We are not attempting to collect revenue, but regulate commerce." House representative Thomas Sisson stated, "The purpose of this bill—and we are all in sympathy with it—is to prevent the use of opium in the United States, destructive as it is to human happiness and human life."

The drafters played on fears of “drug-crazed, sex-mad negroes” and made references to Negroes under the influence of drugs murdering whites, degenerate Mexicans smoking marijuana, and “Chinamen” seducing white women with drugs. Dr. Hamilton Wright, testified at a hearing for the Harrison Act. Wright alleged that drugs made blacks uncontrollable, gave them superhuman powers and caused them to rebel against white authority. Dr. Christopher Koch of the State Pharmacy Board of Pennsylvania testified that "Most of the attacks upon the white women of the South are the direct result of a cocaine-crazed Negro brain".

Before the Act was passed, on February 8, 1914, The New York Times published an article entitled "Negro Cocaine 'Fiends' Are New Southern Menace: Murder and Insanity Increasing Among Lower-Class Blacks" by Edward Huntington Williams, which reported that Southern sheriffs had increased the caliber of their weapons from .32 to .38 to bring down Negroes under the effect of cocaine.

Despite the extreme racialization of the issue that took place in the buildup to the Act's passage, the contemporary research on the subject indicated that black Americans were in fact using cocaine and opium at much lower rates than white Americans