The War On…

The War on Drugs


This one has been going on for a long time. I started with this one, not because of personal preferences of any kind, but because this is the basis for so much federal intervention into the everyday lives of the citizens and it is the one I am most familiar with. The model to enact federal drug laws is still in use today and is the round about way the federal government actually criminalizes behavior. Until the drug war started, it was a generally held belief that the states, not the federal government, had the power to criminalize behavior. You would be hard pressed to find criminal laws from the federal government until after the Harrison Act.


The first state law against marijuana was in 1913 in California. California had previously passed laws against opium dens in1875, the first anti-drug laws in the US. The law against opium dens was aimed primarily at Chinese immigrants. When they got around to passing the law against marijuana, it was primarily aimed at Mexican immigrants. In 1910, Utah outlawed polygamy. Lots of Mormon polygamists moved to Mexico and when they returned a few years later, they brought marijuana with them. As part of cleaning up vices in the Mormon Church, the state outlawed marijuana use.


The Harrison Tax Act was the first federal law to regulate drug use. It was aimed at three drugs; opium, morphine and its derivatives and the coca leaf and its derivatives. The purpose of the act was made clear from the beginning. First, they wanted to regulate the medical use of these drugs. What they did is pass a tax and require doctors to get a stamp to prove that they were in the medical practice and that they paid this tax. Second, they placed a tax of $1000 for any every non-medical exchange of any of these drugs. You have to remember this is in 1915 and a tax of $1000 was obviously a way to prohibit the transfer of what probably amounted to less than $1. I remember my grandfather talking about the benches in the front of drug stores we used to see a lot when I was a kid. He said those benches were for people that had purchased a .5c bag of morphine in the drug store. They would go and “nod out” on the benches. Of course, failure to pay this “tax” led to breaking a federal crime, tax evasion.


Between 1915 and 1937, 30 states outlawed the use of marijuana. The reason for the majority of this is best summed up by the words of one Texas legislator, “All Mexicans are crazy and this stuff (marijuana) is what makes them crazy.” Some states outlawed marijuana because they were afraid that heroin addiction would lead to marijuana use. I think that is pretty funny.


In 1937 the congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act. In the 20’s and 30’s there were two federal law enforcement agencies created. One was the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN). The testimony of congress, before passing this act, lasted a grand total of two hours. The first to testify was the head of the FBN and his entire testimony was, “Marihuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality and death.” Another person to testify was a pharmacologist who said he injected the active ingredient (even though THC wasn’t synthesized until after World War II) into the brain of 300 dogs and two of them had died.


The last to testify is the most important though. You have to remember that this was during the time of FDR and his socialization programs. A group that disagreed often with FDR and his programs was the American Medical Association (AMA). Dr. William Woodward was a doctor and lawyer and the chief counsel for the AMA. He told congress, “The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marihuana is a dangerous drug.” So what did these “progressive” activists in congress reply to him? “Doctor, if you can’t say something good about what we are trying to do here, why don’t you just go home.” The government had already made up its mind what it was going to do.


As during alcohol prohibition, drug prohibition has led to a huge black market for the prohibited drugs. Cost of enforcement, likewise, has also risen. The number of people in prison hasn’t shrunk due to more enforcement; the market for the drugs hasn’t only increased, but it has soared. People involved in the drug underground can’t go to the police when a crime is committed against them. If they are robbed, raped or murdered, they are treated different in the eyes of the law than other citizens.


And the cost of the drug war can’t be overstated. Even by the federal governments own conservative estimates, the war on drugs cost the taxpayers $37 billion dollars a year.


The War On…


There have been other things that we have declared war on. We have declared war on poverty, cancer, terrorism, all with some of the same effects as the war on drugs. The growth of government programs, out of control spending, private contractor abuses and on and on and on. Regardless of any good intentions on the part of the people declaring these wars, the end results are fairly the same. We lose something every time the government takes up a cause. I am sure that depending on ones perspective, these wars could have some merit, but they all lack the results that show the costs are worthwhile. In the case of the war on terror, the loss of civil liberties may be the most expensive costs.


Battle lines are drawing up again. Who knows what the next “war on” is going to be. Probably immigration. If the government holds true to form, the estimated costs of illegal immigration on the US economy now, will be dwarfed in comparison to how much money and civil liberties the government can take from us.


The No Name Group Project 

Published Sun, Jan 13 2008 6:16 AM by IrishOutlaw