A history of drugs and alcohol in the united states

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Opium Den- a place where opium smokers gathered to consume their drug. Popular on the West Coast in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The second rase-based campaign used to pass Wright’s legislation centered on African-American use of cocaine, mostly in the southern states and on the east coast. Moral entrepreneurs, like Wright and powerful media institutions, began telling stories about how cocaine made Black men extra strong, defiant, and impervious to a .22 caliber bullet. “Armed” with such traits, Whites feared Black men would resort to all types of crime, but especially those involving violence (Courtwright 2001a; Musto 1999). Consequently, the equation used above to describe the campaign against Chinese Americans had relevance to the second campaign against black Americans. One difference, however, is that cocaine use was not a cultural custom for black Americans. Rather, their consumption of cocaine started via coca-cola (which contained real cocaine in the early 1900s), after concerned states moved to ban alcohol (they became “dry” states– See Musto 1999). There is also evidence that white business owners gave black laborers cocaine in order to increase their work day.

Dry/Wet County or State - a Dry county or state was one that prohibited the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages while a Wet county or state was one that permitted it. Such policies were a way for counties or States to control their liquor policies around the time of Prohibition.

Historians have noted that the association of cocaine and crime among black Americans likely had its origins at this time. As later paragraphs and chapters will show, this association persists today. While some have noted that the roots of early 20th century, White concern about black cocaine use wasn’t about a rise in the crime rate, but rather about fears of their defiance of power and threat of rebellion, today mainstream America constructs the cocaine and crime problem among Black Americans without political-economic motivation. Once again, history shows us that U.S. drug control results from an interconnection of myriad factors (see Table 2).

Provisions of the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914

Using a combination of the above stated public health, social and cultural factors (as depicted in Table 2) to successfully elevate the opiate/cocaine issue to a national-level, Wright and company now faced their final obstacle in securing passage of the reformulated Foster Bill, now being called the Harrison Narcotic Act. Since the U.S. opiate and cocaine addiction problem was viewed largely as an accidental outcome of the consumption of legal goods and patent medicines, the Harrison Act would target the producers and distributors of such goods, not the abuser/addict consumers themselves (Brecher 1972). This included pharmaceutical companies and the medical profession, two increasingly powerful political lobby groups in early 20th century U.S. who were early enemies of the legislation.

Their opposition was politically, economically, and public health-oriented. First, the pharmaceutical industry and medical profession wanted to be able to retain control over the distribution and sale of patent medicines since, they reasoned, they were the qualified experts on medications. Second, they did not want the federal government to jeopardize their profits with taxation and rules for manufacture, distribution and sale. Third, pharmaceutical companies and especially the medical profession had a sincere interest in preserving their patients’ health. They believed in pain management and that any resultant addiction was a disease to be treated medically. They could not foresee accomplishing these tasks with legislative obstacles.

Despite these concerns, the pharmaceutical industry realized the growing momentum of support for federal opiate and cocaine legislation. Consequently, they attempted to secure proper representation in the pending legislation by organizing a National Drug Trade Conference (NDTC) in Washington, DC in 1913. After some struggle, they reached agreement on several revisions and called a meeting with Wright and Representative Harrison, who was supporting the legislation, to discuss their position. Wright was, initially, outraged at the NDTC’s recommendations, but later had to accommodate at Harrison’s request (Musto 1999).

The Harrison Narcotics Act was successfully passed by the 63rd Congress on December 14, 1914 and was signed by President Wilson three days later. It was essentially a revenue act, not a piece of criminal legislation. It laid out rules regarding the production, distribution, and sale of narcotics (e.g., opium and cocaine). Doctors had to register with the Federal government in order to prescribe them and had to also pay a tax on every transaction. The specific provisions of the Harrison Narcotics Act are illustrated below in Figure 1 (see also Brecher 1972). Full text of the act can be found at www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/history/e1910/harrisonact.htm.

Figure 1. Major Provisions of the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914.

1. Registration

Every person who produces, imports, manufactures, compounds, deals in, dispenses, distributes, or gives away opium or coca leaves or any compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, or preparation thereof, shall register with the collector of internal revenue of the district.

2. Taxation

Every person who produces, imports, manufactures, compounds, deals in, dispenses, distributes, or gives away any of the aforesaid drugs shall pay to the said collector a special tax

3. License to “prescribe”

It is unlawful for any person to sell, barter, exchange, or give away any of the aforesaid drugs except in pursuance of a written order of the person to whom such article is sold, bartered, exchanged, or given, on a form to be issued in blank for that purpose by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.

4. Record keeping

That such physician, dentist, or veterinary surgeon shall keep a record of all such drugs dispensed or distributed, showing the amount dispensed or distributed, the date, and the name and address of the person to whom such drugs are dispensed or distributed

Unlike its proponents had hoped, abuse and addiction to narcotics did not decrease initially with passage of the new law. Instead, they increased. The law did not disallow consumption of the drugs, but it did dissuade doctors from prescribing them. After the first few Harrison Act arrests of physicians, they began to get out of the business of prescribing opiates, especially to those whose sole condition addiction or dependence. As a result, black markets emerged in major cities, thus causing the unanticipated rise in abuse (Brecher 1972).

Figure 2. Additional Laws Tightening Opiate and Cocaine Control

Narcotics Drugs Import and Export Act 1922

Porter Narcotic Farm Act 1929

Uniform State Narcotics Act of 1932

Opium Poppy Control Act of 1942

Congressional response was swift and certain. Subsequent laws (see Figure 2) for the next ten years after the Harrison Act of 1914 would tighten the landmark legislation even more and would, consequently, send the production, distribution and sale of opiates (e.g., heroin) and cocaine into the black market. Consequently, the criminalization of users and addicts was underway. The laws described above re-defined them as criminals with free will instead of patients needing treatment.

Prohibition”: Alcohol Control in the early to mid 1900s.

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Like many societies, Colonial America had multiple uses for alcohol, ranging from the medical to the recreational (Siegal and Inciardi 1995). Recreational drinking and intoxication from distilled spirits was a common feature of life in the early United States. Few problems with alcohol appeared.

With the revolution and growing industrialization, alcohol’s place in society, especially in the urban landscape where industry was vibrant, changed dramatically. For example, drunkenness mostly occurred behind closed doors in Colonial America but became quite public with the growth of industry and the appearance of taverns and saloons. Concerns about the prevalence of drinking and drunkenness and, especially, its negative consequences (e.g., domestic violence, lost employment, etc) began to cast a very dark shadow on this staple of American culture (Gusfield 1963).

By the early 1900s, the consumption of alcoholic beverages troubled the nation more than opiates and cocaine. The concern was wide-reaching. It spanned from housewives to major political figures, including President Adams. In 1760, President Adams wrote in his diary that taverns were:

becoming the eternal haunt of loose, disorderly people . . ." (Cherrington, 1920: 37). These houses are becoming the nurseries of our legislators. An artful man, who has neither sense nor sentiments, may, by gaining a little sway among the rabble of the town, multiply taverns and dram shops and thereby secure the votes of taverner and retailer and of all; and the multiplication of taverns will make many, who may be induced to flip and rum, to vote for any man whatever (Dobyns, 1940: 215).

However, just as support for both temperance and out-right prohibition was strong, so was opposition to it. The temperance and prohibition movements were long in the making. Both sides had ample resources and support, so that alcohol control policies unraveled slowly over a long period of time. The paragraphs below describe, once again, that control of mood-altering substances, such as alcohol (Prohibition and its repeal), emanates from a myriad of factors like those depicted in Table 2. We begin with cultural influences.

Alcohol and Domestic Culture Wars

Deep-ceded ideologies about morality and the role of alcohol consumption for Christians comprise the major cultural explanations for Prohibition (see Table 2). Groups such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the Anti-Saloon League believed drinking alcohol was amoral, deviant, and counter to Christianity. The power of these beliefs in securing alcohol control cannot be underestimated (Goff and Anderson 1994). Cherrington (1920: 92) has proposed:

Every successful temperance movement of the last century has been merely the instrument-the machinery and equipment through which the fundamental principles of the Christian religion have expressed themselves in terms of life and action.

Women’s Christian Temperance Union- one of the first political groups and outlets for women in the U.S. Was very influential in getting Prohibition passed.

One of the most effective groups to lobby for Prohibition was the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), founded in 1874 in the United States. The WCTU began as a group of housewives in Ohio concerned about their husbands drinking away household income during the Great Depression. Drunkenness was extremely prevalent at this time and taverns and saloons were a routine stop in the average man’s day. Leading the WCTU were Frances Elizabeth Willard, Susan B. Anthony, and Carry Nation. Frances E. Willard, someone who was also committed to the equality of the sexes, headed the group. She often used the alcohol situation to compare the sexes.

Drink and tobacco are the great separatists [sic] between men and women. Once they used these things together, but woman's evolution has carried her beyond them; man will climb to the same level . . . but meanwhile ... the fact that he permits himself fleshly indulgence that he would deprecate in her, makes their planes different, giving her an instinct of revulsion (Furnas, 1968: 281).

Willard was a prominent force in lobbying Congress on Prohibition and various other civil rights issues. She was an extremely adept communicator, one with magnificent power over her audience. She became the leader of the National and then the World’s Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. The WTCU wielded considerable lobbying power in Congress for Prohibition (Chadwick– www.womenshistory.com).

Anti-Saloon League- founded in 1895 also wielded significant political power in the Prohibition debate. It used moral appeals for moderation and abstinence to rally support for government control of liquor

The Anti-Saloon League took issue with alcohol’s “deviant” side, claiming it ran counter to fundamental principles of Christianity and Democracy. The Anti-Saloon League (founded in 1895 and now known as the American Council on Alcohol Problems) also wielded significant political power in the Prohibition debate. It used moral appeals for moderation and abstinence to rally support for government control of liquor (see Gusfield 1963 for more on this point). Both the WCTU and the Anti-Saloon League influenced the passage of many liquor laws and eventually succeeded in securing federal prohibition (1919-33).

The Great Depression, Decline of the family, and Rising crime

Pro-Prohibition groups, especially labor unions and some industrialists, also were concerned about alcohol’s impact on fundamental social institutions, such as the family and the work place. The early 1900s saw the devastation of the Great Depression. Alcohol was believed to exacerbate the impact of this sordid economic time by crippling industry’s productivity, fostering unemployment, and threatening family stability. For example, businesses believed the saloon was often responsible for industrial injuries and absenteeism. Furthermore, union locals tended to congregate in saloon meeting halls maintained for that purpose and, it was sometimes suspected, for anarchy plots (Furnas, 1968: 310).

Prejudice and racism also reared their heads in the debate. Two groups were signaled out: black Americans and non-English immigrants, especially German Americans. Prohibition supporters used rhetorical strategies claiming liquor caused black Americans to commit “unnatural” crimes. This tactic had made its debut among proponents of opiate and cocaine control (see above and Table 2).

Negative sentiment about non-English immigrants was slightly more complex, tied both to an outright prejudice against Western-Europeans and fears that German Americans would threaten the democratic and Capitalist principles of the U.S. As cities expanded, the distrust of the immigrant population became more pronounced. Prohibition was given a strong impetus by the anti-German tremors which shook the country anticipating World War 1. Literature depicted brewers and licensed retailers as stabbing American soldiers in the back. "Liquor is a menace to patriotism because it puts beer before country," preached Prohibitionist Wayne Wheeler (Odegard, 1928: 72). When companies such as Pabst, Schlitz, and Blatz broadcast their national origin, it only further injured their interests.

The Political Economy of Alcohol Sales.

The link between politics and economics was very close in conjuring up support for Prohibition, making it difficult to ascertain which factors were more important or had greater influence. A useful way to understand this landmark policy is to discuss the various political lobby groups active in the debate and the substance of their support or opposition. Supporters of Prohibition included grass-root, citizen organizations (Women’s Christian Temperance Union), religious groups (Evangelical Church and the Anti-Saloon League), labor unions, political parties (Prohibition party), and state and federal government agencies. On the other hand, opponents of the Prohibition lobby included the alcohol industry, immigrant groups (e.g., the German-American Alliance), and local saloons.

Above, we noted the political influence of citizen organizations and religious groups, such as the WTCU and the Anti-Saloon League, whose concerns about alcohol were cultural in nature. Other groups had more political and economic interests in Prohibition. For example, prior to Federal legislation, many states had were able to control alcohol via the Webb-Kenyon Act of 1913, which permitted them to ban (i.e., become a “dry” state) or retain (i.e., become a “wet” state) legal alcohol sales. Unlike the Harrison Narcotics Act, the movement for Prohibition began as a state-level concern, not a Federal government one.

Herein lies an important political-economic issue regarding Prohibition. At the Federal level, alcohol sales furnished considerable tax revenue. Some have noted that between 1870 and 1915, alcohol sales and taxes provided anywhere from half to two-thirds of the entire IRS budget (Hu 1950). The U.S. Government constructed these taxes as a way to curtail alcohol sales. However, it is also easy to see the irony here, given the extent to which legal alcohol sales fund its operation as well.

Of course, organizations, such as the U.S. Brewer’s Association, and establishments, such as saloons and taverns, had a direct financial interest in alcohol sales and were against Prohibition. Organization among these pro-alcohol groups was lacking, however, making them unable to launch an effective opponent on the alcohol issue. Add to this the growing tide of support for Prohibition among the general public, and alcohol would soon find itself banned at the federal level.

National Prohibition (1919-1933) and its Repeal.

The 18th or “Prohibition” Amendment, otherwise known as the Volsted Act, passed both houses of Congress in December of 1917 and was subsequently signed by President Wilson. Within a year, most states had ratified it. For 13 years, the manufacture, sale, and consumption of alcohol was prohibited in the United States. By 1933, however, President Roosevelt would repeal Prohibition via the 21st Amendment.

Why did this happen? If alcohol was such a grave social problem at the time, a problem more serious than opiates and cocaine, why were laws against it repealed while those against other substances upheld? Did the effects of Prohibition wreak unique consequences for American society that other drug legislation did not?

Answers to these questions remain complex, even with the luxury of hindsight. The experience of Prohibition is, in many ways, similar to that of other drug laws reviewed in this chapter. Table 2 illustrates this common ground. However, it differs dramatically in at least one critical respect; it was completely abolished after only a few short years. To date, alcohol is the only mind-altering substance to have been fully legalized by Federal and State governments after a period of prohibition. In fact, the 18th amendment to the Constitution remains the only one to have been repealed.

The paragraphs below briefly review the leading reasons experts have proposed explain this major legislative change. In forthcoming paragraphs and chapters, however, we reveal that other major drug laws have had similar effects yet they have not warranted governmental repeal, although activists have repeatedly called for them.

A main reason for Prohibition’s failure was it inability to quell American’s taste for alcohol. Groups such as the WCTU, the Anti-Saloon League and others hoped Prohibition would spur renewed adoption of temperance values, Christian living, and a solid work ethic. But at the time of the Great Depression, alcohol proved too great a comfort for those experiencing dire economic times.

Data for the era show that alcohol consumption during the period of Prohibition may have actually increased instead of decreasing as the moral entrepreneurs had hoped. For example, Tillit (1932) noted the per capita rate for the Prohibition years a 1.63 proof gallons, which was 11.64% higher than the Pre-Prohibition rate. Data from the Bureau of Prohibition paints a contrary picture. In terms of pure alcohol, the Bureau concluded that per capita consumption in 1930 was 35% of the 1914 the legal rate. Tillit (1932: 35) has criticized these estimates as being too low or a very conservative.

Speakeasies- bars or taverns where alcohol is served illegally, especially common during Prohibition.

With demand like this, it’s no surprise that a bootleg trade emerged shortly after passage of the Volstead Act. When legal enterprises could no longer supply the demand, an illicit traffic developed, from the point of manufacture to consumption. Speakeasies replaced saloons and taverns. Historians estimate the number of speakeasies in the United States from 200,000 to 500,000 (Lee, 1963: 68). This widespread illegal production and sale would eventually lead to increased crime, centered on the accumulation of profit.

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Distillery- a factory where alcohol is distilled or made.

Enter Al Capone and organized crime. Centered in Chicago, Al Capone rose to power, fame and fortune by gaining control of the bootleg alcohol industry via an indiscriminate use of force. Cities experienced dramatic escalation in organized crime and violence. Prohibition agents were routinely injured or killed; 30 agents killed in the line of duty. The public became extremely fearful of crime and violence.

Still- apparatus using heat and condensation to produce alcohol.

Fermenter- a machine that converts carbohydrates to alcohol.

The factors leading to the repeal of Prohibition did not, however, center solely on public demand and the consequences of illegal supply. Prohibition enforcement overwhelmed Federal agencies and the court system. For example, in 1921, 95,933 illicit distilleries, stills, and fermentors were seized. By 1930, the total number jumped to 282,122. In connection with these seizures, 34,175 persons were arrested in 1921 and 75,307 by 1928 (Internal Revenue, Service, 1921, 1966, 1970). Concurrently, convictions for liquor offenses in federal courts rose from 35,000 in 1923 to 61,383 in 1932. Courtroom efficiency was evasive. Conviction rates averaged a mere seven percent (Sinclair, 1962: 193-195; Dobyns, 1940: 292).

Contributing to these procedural problems was the prevalence of corruption and scandal among law enforcement. Monies from illegal alcohol sales were too tempting for some to deny. Still other agents feared for their lives if they did not acquiesce to black market pressure. Most agents at the Bureau of Prohibition were dismissed for corrupt acts or were arrested and jailed.

Law enforcement was not the only conventional institution hindered by corruption and abuse. So too was the medical industry, which saw the opportunity for great profit in Prohibition. Although there may have been legitimate, medicinal purposes for whiskey, the practice of obtaining a medical prescription for the illegal substance was abused. It is estimated that doctors earned $40 million in 1928 by writing prescriptions for whiskey (get cite for this).

When taken together, these factors motivated state and federal governments to change course. Congress officially adopted the 21st Amendment to the Constitution on December 5, 1933. Within three weeks of taking office, President Roosevelt witnessed the first sales of 3.2 beer, following a redefinition by statute of the terms "intoxicating liquors." Sale of beer became legal on April 7, 1933, in the District of Columbia and the 20 states where state laws did not prohibit its sale. During the next four years the remaining states changed their laws to permit its sale, with Alabama and Kansas in 1937, as the last to join the legal sale ranks. Today, there remain a few “dry” counties in the U.S.

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