Hemp & History
Robert A. NELSON
(1) Early Prohibition
(2) Conspiracy vs Cannabis
(3) Racist Propaganda
(4) Cannabis & Crime
(5) Anslinger & the FBN
(6) The Marijuana Tax Act
(1) Early Prohibition ~
The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was the first Federal law to concern cannabis. Any quantity of the substance (and several others, such as alcohol, opium, cocaine and chloral hydrate) had to be clearly stated on the label of any food or drug sold to the public.
Social reformers tried to include cannabis in the proscriptions of the Harrison Act of 1914, but at that time the pharmaceutical industry successfully opposed its inclusion since it was an ingredient of corn plasters and several other medicaments, and it was widely used in veterinary medicine. The Harrison Act required importers, producers and dealers in opium and coca products to register and pay an occupational tax. The registered parties had to file detailed reports of their drug transactions, each of which was recorded. The awkward procedures were designed to be unworkable in practice, in order to indirectly discourage any traffic in opiates and cocaine. In a Supreme Court decision upholding the Harrison Act (US vs Doremus, 1919), the dissenting judges argued that, "The statute was a mere attempt by Congress to exert a power not delegated, that is, the reserved police power of the States". Congress used this obtuse approach to regulating drugs by taxation because, as the Supreme Court affirmed in its decision in Linder vs US (125), "Direct control of medical practice in the states is beyond the power of the Federal Government", according to the 10th Amendment.
The first legislations against narcotics were largely ad hoc attempts to "do something" about a problem that arguably did not exist as it was perceived. Cannabis also fell victim to society’s fear of the unfettered human mind, for marijuana is "the stuff that dreams are made of.. the thing that white folks are afraid of", as it was aptly described in a jazz song of the era.
The few informed dissenters who found a public forum for their opinions were largely ignored. For example, during hearings held before the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee in January 1911, the representative of the National Wholesale Druggists’ Association testified that cannabis was not a habit-forming drug. Albert Plaut, representing the pharmaceutical firm of Lehn and Fink, stated that cannabis’ bad reputation could be attributed to fictional literature rather than to informed opinion, and correctly pointed out that the drug was not attractive to opium or cocaine addicts. Other authorities, such as Dr Charles Fauns, testified that cannabis was habit-forming:
"To my mind, it would be inexcusable for a man to say that there is no habit from the use of that drug. There is no drug in Pharmacopoeia today that would produce the pleasurable sensations you would get from cannabis, no not one --- absolutely not a drug in the Pharmacopoeia today, and of all the drugs on earth I would certainly put that on the list". (1)
The Louisiana legislature in 1911 prohibited pharmacists from refilling prescriptions that contained cannabis, opium, or cocaine. The city of El Paso, TX passed an ordinance to ban the sale and possession of marijuana in 1914. Also that year, the city of New York added cannabis to its list of prohibited drugs. The New York Times (30 July 1914) reported this amendment of the Sanitary Code, and ominously editorialized that, "The inclusion of cannabis indica among the drugs to be sold only on prescription is only common sense. Devotees of hashish are now hardly numerous enough here to count, but they are likely to increase as other narcotics become harder to obtain".
By 1915, several New England and Western states had passed laws against cannabis, in anticipation of future problems. By the time the infamous federal marihuana Tax Act was passed in 1937, all but a few states had already outlawed cannabis, usually for arbitrary reasons and without any opposition.
The passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919 and its enforcement legislature, the Volstead Act of 1920, made alcohol more costly, difficult to acquire, and dangerous to use. The market for cannabis, which was uncontrolled, rose accordingly to meet the intractable demand for intoxicants.
(2) Conspiracy vs Cannabis ~
Cannabis was suppressed in America for several reasons. Moral entrepreneurs were wont to claim that marijuana is a heinous, seductive narcotic that causes insanity and crime. That was pure propaganda that has been disproven since then, yet millions of true believers continue to deny the facts. Marijuana also was associated with Mexicans, Negroes, jazz, sex and violence. It quickly became a convenient scapegoat for white Christian Americans who resented the existence and presence of minority races. The media was happy to indulge their fantasies and fears with numerous unsubstantiated accounts of "marijuana madness".
Another reason for the suppression of cannabis in America was that hemp products threatened certain vested financial and industrial interests that conspired to destroy the industry. They supported the zealous moral reformers who sought its prohibition at the federal level. The petro-chemical and pulp paper industries in particular stood to lose billions of dollars if the commercial potential of hemp was fully realized. Hemp researchers Jack Herer and Chris Conrad have shown that much of the blame can be laid on a few individuals, particularly E.I. Du Pont and William R. Hearst. In the 1920s, the DuPont Company developed and patented fuel additives such as tetraethyl lead, and the sulfate and sulfite processes for manufacture of pulp paper, and numerous new synthetic products such as nylon, cellophane and other plastics. At the same time, other companies were developing synthetic products from renewable biomass resources, especially hemp. For example, in the 1930s, Ford Motor Company engineers successfully operated a pilot plant at Iron Mountain (MI), where they produced alcohol, charcoal, tar and other stock chemicals from hemp.
Furthermore, the Schlichten decorticator promised to eliminate much of the need for wood pulp paper, thus threatening to reduce the value of timberland owned by Hearst, Kimberly-Clark, and others. DuPont, Hearst, and their associates lobbied and conspired to crush the competition posed by hemp, and they succeeded. For example, from 1935 to 1937, I.I. DuPont personally lobbied the chief counsel of the Treasury Department, Herman Oliphant, and repeatedly assured him that DuPont’s synthetic petrochemicals (i.e., urethane), could replace hempseed oil in the marketplace. Some large pharmaceutical companies also stood to gain by the criminalization of cannabis, since their patented prescription tranquilizers (barbituates, etc) would replace cannabis to some extent.
(3) Racist Propaganda ~
Public perception of hemp after 1915 was strongly influenced by numerous newspaper and magazine articles that ascribed every evil to the ifluence of marijuana, just as opium and cocaine had been demonized and vilified years before. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst fed the public with a steady diet of "yellow journalism" for which he was famed. Hearst hated minorities, and he used his chain of papers to aggravate racial tensions at every opportunity. Hearst especially hated Mexicans since he had lost some 800,000 acres of prime timberland to the rebel army of Pancho Villa. Hearst constantly portrayed Mexicans as lazy, violent, degenerate, marijuana-smoking job-stealers. Other racists with pretensions to "Keep America American" were happy to ride the bandwagon. The attitude of C. M. Goethe, a prominent member of the American Coalition, was typical:
"Marijuana, perhaps now the most insidious of our narcotics, is a direct by-product of unrestricted Mexican immigration. Easily grown, it has been asserted that it has recently been planted between rows in a California penitentiary garden. Mexican peddlers have been caught distributing sample marihuana cigarets to school children. Bills for our quota against Mexico have been blocked mysteriously in every Congress since the 1924 Quota Act. Our nation has more than enough laborers".
The Missionary Education Movement made the same claim:
"The use of marijuana is not uncommon in the colonies of the lower class of Mexican immigrant. This is a native drug made from what is sometimes called the ‘crazy weed’. The effects are high exhilaration and intoxication, followed by extreme depression and broken nerves. [Police] Officers and Mexicans both ascribe many of the moral irregularities of Mexicans to the effect of marijuana". (2)
The city of Los Angeles arrested many Mexicans for "disturbing the peace" and for possession of marijuana, and deported them by the trainload as a money-saving measure. A single trainload saved an estimated $350,000 of the county’s welfare budget. An article in the Fraternal Order of Police Journal quoted LA’s chief of detectives Joseph L. Taylor as saying:
"Marihuana is possibly the most dangerous of all our narcotic drugs... In the past we have had officers of this department shot and killed by marihuana addicts and have traced the act of murder directly to the influence of marihuana, with no other motive. Numerous assaults have been made upon officers and citizens with intent to kill by marihuana addicts which were directly traceable to the influence of marihuana".
A similar anecdote was reported by a captain of detectives in Texas:
"The reason is that when they are addicted to the use they become very violent, especially when they become angry, and will attack an officer even if a gun is drawn on him. They seem to have no fear. I have also noted that when under the influence of this weed they have abnormal strength and that it will take several men to handle one man where under ordinary circumstances one man could handle him with ease".
In 1914 a deputy sheriff from El Paso (TX) convinced the local Food and Drug inspector that Mexican "loco-weed" was a problem requiring federal attention. The inspector advised the chief of the Agriculture Department’s Bureau of Chemistry to do something. Acting under the authority of the Food and Drug Act, which was enforced by the TD’s Bureau of Customs, the Secretary of the Treasury issued Treasury Decision 35719 declaring that Mexicans who brought cannabis across the border were smugglers. In 11917, the chief of the Bureau of Chemistry, Dr Alsberg, sent Reginald Smith to Texas to determine the effect of TD 35719. Smith found that marijuana was used medically by Mexicans "of low birth" to treat asthma, gonorrhea, headaches, and to assist in childbirth, but its main use was for recreation". (3)
Several companies (Parke-Davis in particular) distributed tons of marijuana in Texas and the southwest, where it was sold over the counter in one-ounce packages and in tinctures, and by mail-order. The druggists who were interviewed by Smith for his report stated that marijuana was purchased not only by Mexicans, but also by "Negroes, and chauffeurs, and a low class of whites such as those addicted to the use of habit-forming drugs, and hangers-on of the underworld". Smith declared TD 35719 was ineffectual and recommended that marijuana be included in the Harrison Act.
The Federal government of Mexico also feared that that the use of marijuana by peasants and soldiers would infect and contaminate the aristocracy, and in 1920 published a regulation concerning commerce in marijuana. In 1917, a Spanish language newspaper editorial in a San Antonio newspaper warned its Mexican readers:
"[Marijuana] is terribly noxious when used as a narcotic, from which a dangerous vice is acquired by those who make a bad use of it, as happens among the lower classes in Mexico...
The men who smoke this herb become excited to such an extent that they go through periods of near frenzy, and worse, it is always aggressive as [attested by] the crimes which have been committed in garrisons, armories, barracks, and the humble suburbs of Mexico.
"In the South of the United States, this menacing evil has begun to appear, especially in the army and among the Negroes...
"The authorities... [must] uproot this malicious vice in its incipiency as it is growing even in the army among members of distinguished families and also as it is happening in Mexico among young men of good society; this, of course, is doubly lamentable".
Other federal authorities were quite unconcerned about the non-issue and remained so for another decade or more. The US Bureau of Plant Industry issued a statement to that effect in 1926:
"Recent reports... of the effect of the drug on Mexicans, making them want to ‘clean up the town’, do not jibe very well with the effects of cannabis, which so far as we have reports, simply causes temporary elation followed by depression and heavy sleep.
"Though they have ample opportunity, workers in the hemp fields have never become addicts. The hasheesh-producing varieties of hemp were introduced extensively into American culture a few years ago through the efforts of the Department of Agriculture, for cannabis has a large and legitimate use in veterinary medicine. The cultivation of the drug hemp was carried on mainly in South Carolina. Large numbers of Negro workers were employed in the business, yet no cases of hasheesh addiction were reported". (4)
A major drug study conducted by the US Special narcotic Committee, appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury in 1918, did not find it necessary even to mention cannabis in its report. A study of "The Prevalence and Trend of Drug Addiction in the United States and Factors Influencing It" was made by the US Public Health Service in 1924, but cannabis was not mentioned. The 400-page report issued by the First World Conference on Narcotic Education (July 1926) concerned itself entirely with opium and cocaine and did not give any notice to cannabis. (5,6)
(4) Cannabis & Crime ~
A turning point came when a clique of New Orleans city officials blamed marijuana for creating a crime wave in 1926, then transmuted it into a stack of political hay that eventually moved to Washington DC. The New Orleans Item and the Morning Tribune newspapers were quick to sensationalize the delusion, and focused on its use by "children" who were in fact streetwise youths and anything but innocent victims:
"It was definitely ascertained that school children of 44 schools (only a few of them were high schools) were smoking ‘mootas’. Verifications came in by the hundreds from harassed parents, teachers, neighborhood pastors, priests, welfare workers, and club women... The Waif’s Home, at this time, was reputedly full of children, both white and colored, who had been brought in under the influence of the drug. Marijuana cigarettes could be bought almost as readily as sandwiches. Their cost was two for a quarter. The children solved the problem of cost by pooling pennies among members of a group and then passing the cigarettes from one to another, all the puffs being carefully counted".
"The New Orleans coroner. Dr George Roeling, offered a pseudo-scientific explanation for the supposed link between marijuana and crime:
"This marihuana drug stimulates the cortical cerebral centers and inhibits the controlling sub-cortical centers of our mechanism which is responsible for... bolstering up their courage and the various phenomena which will eventually... lead them into the most crime-producing individuals that we have".
As could be expected, soon afterwards in 1927, the Louisiana legislature passed a law imposing a maximum penalty of six months in jail or a $500 fine for the possession or sale of marijuana. Highly publicized roundups resulted, but the effort was utterly futile. Frank Gomila, the city Commissioner of Public Safety, reported a few years later that New Orleans had experienced a crime wave that was aggravated by marihuana:
"Payroll and bank guards were doubled, but this did not prevent some of the most spectacular holdups in the history of the city. Youngsters known to be ‘muggle-heads’ fortified themselves with the narcotic and proceeded to shoot down police, bank clerks and casual bystanders".
Mr Eugene Stanley, the District Attorney, announced that many of the crimes in New Orleans and the South were committed by criminals who relied on marijuana to give them a false courage and freedom from restraint. Dr George Roeling, Coroner, reported that of 450 prisoners investigated, 125 were confirmed users of marijuana. Mr W. B. Graham, State Narcotic Officer, made this declaration in 1936:
"60 per cent of the crimes committed in New Orleans were by marihuana users... Practically every negro in the city can give a recognizable description of the drug’s effects... Cigarettes are hard to get and are selling at 30 to 40 cents apiece, which is a relatively high price and a particularly good indication of the effectiveness of the present control".
In other words, a decade of law enforcement has merely double the price of marijuana without reducing consumption.
The crusading demagogue Dr A. E. Fosser resuscitated the myth of the hashish-Assassins in the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal (1931), wherein he made these claims:
"The underworld was quick to realize that marihuana was an ideal drug to quickly cut off the inhibition, especially in the light of inadequate personality. Under the influence of cannabis indica, these human derelicts are quickly subjugated by the will of the master mind. The moral principles or training initiated in the mind from infancy may deter from committing willful theft, murder or rape, but this inhibition from crime may be destroyed by the addiction to marihuana...
"The debasing and baneful influence of hashish and opium is not restricted to individuals but has manifested itself in nations and races as well. The dominant race and most enlightened countries are alcoholic, whilst the races and nations addicted to hemp and opium, some of which once attained to heights of culture and civilization have deteriorated both mentally and physically.
"While it is most unfortunate for humanity to be subjugated by intoxicants or narcotics of any kind, which at this state of our civilization seems to be a necessary evil, the possible substitution of alcohol for a greater evil should be considered the greatest possible calamity that can befall a nation. It is not confined to the criminal class". (7)
Writing for the American Journal of Police Science, Eugene Stanley reiterated Fossier’s opinions without offering any empirical evidence to support his assertions:
"[Marihuana] is an ideal drugs to cut off inhibitions quickly... At the present time the underworld has been quick to realize the value of this drug in subjugating the will of human derelicts to that of a mastermind. Its use sweeps away all restraint, and to its influence may be attributed many of our present-day crimes, It has been the experience of Police and Prosecuting officials in the South, that immediately before the commission of many crimes the use of marihuana cigarettes has been indulged in by criminals, so as to relieve themselves from the natural restraint which might deter them from the commission of criminal acts, and to give them the fake courage necessary to commit the contemplated crimes.
"Inasmuch as the harmful effects of the use of marihuana are daily becoming more widely known, and since it has been classified as a narcotic by the statutory laws of seventeen American States, England and Mexico, and since persons addicted to its use have been made eligible for treatment in the United States Narcotic Farms, the United States Government will unquestioningly be compelled to adopt a consistent attitude towards it, and include it in the Harrison Anti-narcotic Law, so as to give Federal aid to the States in their effort to suppress a traffic as deadly and as destructive to society as that in the other forms of narcotics now prohibited by this act". (8)
The bibliography of Stanley’s article was drawn entirely from the references listed by Fossier. Neither writer actually read the documents they cited since the Indian hemp Commission Report (1893-94), for example, in fact drew conclusions opposite to the summary opinions of Fossier and Stanley. Their publications, however, had a strong influence on the perception of cannabis by law enforcement officials, and the two articles were cited in several subsequent court cases and during the congressional hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937.
William Hearst used his chain of newspapers to continuously publish hate-mongering racist articles that fueled America’s xenophobia with terrifying headlines such as: "Marihuana Makes Fiends of Boys in 30 Days: Hashish Goads Users to Blood-Lust!", "New Dope Lure, Marihuana, Has Many Victims", "Hotel Clerk Identifies Marihuana Smoker as ‘Wild Gunman’ Arrested for Shootings". A spate of articles that appeared in popular magazines featured titles such as "Marihuana: Assassin of Youth" (American Magazine), "Sex Crazing Drug Menace" (Physical Culture), and "Youth Gone Loco" (Christian Century). Amongst the dreadful effects attributed to "The Menace of Marihuana" in the International Medical Digest, there was a particularly tragic case: "A boy and a girl who had lost their sense so completely after smoking marihuana eloped and were married". (9)
An unqualified article linking marihuana, crime and insanity, written by M.A. Hayes and L. E. Bowery (a policeman from Wichita KS) was published in The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1932), and thereafter it was often cited as a definitive study. Hayes and Bowery asserted that the marihuana user is capable of "great feats of strength and endurance, during which no fatigue is felt... sexual desires are stimulated and may lead to unnatural acts, such as indecent exposure and rape". The authors supported their claims with an unrelated newspaper account drawn from the Chicago Herald-Examiner (1926):
"A Kansas hasheesh eater thinks he is a white elephant. Six months ago they found him strolling along a road, a few miles out of Topeka. He was naked, his clothing strewn along the highway for a mile. He was not violently insane, but crazy --- he said he was an elephant and acted as much like one as his limited physique would let him. Marihuana did it".
The authors offered further support for their fantasies with a single "case history":
"F, age 22, with a long police record, states that at one time he was a user, but that upon becoming acquainted with the evil, ceased its use. He said further that it caused him to suffer weird hallucination, and to commit acts he would not normally have considered. F reported several instances of which he claimed to have positive knowledge, where boys had induced girls to use the weed for the purpose of seducing them. He reports that its use is prevalent among members of the National Guard.
"Investigators’ note: While he claims to have ceased its use, this young man has all the appearances of a weed-head with the symptoms given by medical authorities...
"It is impossible to fix a definite time in which one becomes an addict... After the chronic use of marihuana ‘cannibomania’ develops, which in many persons, especially if psychotic, leads to a loss of mental activity. Each experience ends in the destruction of brain tissues and nerve centers, and does irreparable damage. If continued, the inevitable result is insanity, which those familiar with it describe as absolutely incurable, and without exception ending in death. Statistics show that from 17 to 20 per cent of all males admitted to mental hospitals and asylums in India have become insane through the use of this drug".
The Wickersham Commission (the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement), appointed by President Hoover in 1929, published a "Report on Crime and the Foreign Born" that again focused attention on the alleged association of marihuana, Mexicans, and crime:
"There are two other factors which no doubt play no unimportant role in bringing about the arrest of many Mexicans. The first is drunkenness... A second factor is marihuana. In the Southwestern states and in Mexico, marihuana is known as "loco weed" -- that is, "crazy" -- because of the effects it produces. It is used for making cigarettes, and is not only a powerful drug, but to all appearances renders the user either drunk or crazy. The South Chicago police told me of one Mexican who needed four officers to subdue him. It is especially insidious because it causes the brain and nervous system to deteriorate. To what extent it is being used it is impossible to learn, because those using it, like morphine and cocaine addicts, are secretive. Its use is not confined to Mexicans only, for within the past year four youths of other nationalities charged with a series of robberies admitted that they had to get ‘loaded’ with marihuana before they could stage their nightly forays". (10)
In a Tulsa newspaper article of 1931, headlined "Marihuana, Deadly Drug, As Yet Unregulated by United States Law", a county prosecutor assured the readers thus:
"The general use of the drug among young people is making it imperative that the state or the government of the United States take immediate steps to cope with this deadly drug, the dope which is used by murderers...
"In some eastern cities, it has been learned, the gunman has discovered that the weed offers him something new, in the way of courage -- courage to kill.
"It is notoriously a fact, authorities point out, that gunmen, who occupy the lowest levels in the ranks of crime, are usually cowards. To undertake murder, they need something to ‘pep them up’. A few whiffs of a marihuana cigarette, mixed with tobacco and he loses all sense of fear".
(5) Anslinger and the FBN ~
On October 30, 1929, Senator Sheppard (TX) introduced bill S. 2075 to amend The Narcotics Drugs Import and Export Act of 1922 to include cannabis. Other Congressmen urged the Bureau of Prohibition to amend the Harrison Act. The Bureau of Prohibition opposed both proposals because cannabis was a domestic crop. As such, it could not be controlled by federal legislature unless it involved interstate or international commerce, according to the prevailing court interpretations of the constitutional separation of state and federal powers. Therefore, the Bureau of Prohibition promoted the Uniform Act, which made the states responsible for enforcing the law. The bureau also tried to promote international control of cannabis by the League of Nations, but the American proposals were rebuffed as the Second Geneva Opium Conference in 1925.
A. Tennyson, the legal advisor of the bureau, drafted a letter to Phipps (January 25, 1929), explaining the Bureau’s opposition to S. 2075:
"[The] evils represented by the abuse of cannabis indica... do not appear to be nearly as widespread as those connected with the possession of opium, coca leaves or their derivatives, the former being confined to the southwest and midwest states and possibly in some of the larger cities. It is thought that this evil may more properly be met by state and municipal legislation, for which there is more ample fundamental authority. I respectively venture the suggestion that if the abuse of cannabis indica... exists to an appreciable extent in Colorado, the matter be referred to the state legislature for appropriate attention."
In preparing the bureau’s position paper on S. 2075, secretary Harry Anslinger of the Federal Narcotics Control Board asked the American Medical Association and the American Drug Manufacturers Association to submit responses to several questions about the use of cannabis in medicine. The AMA in particular resented any increase in governmental control of physicians and pharmacists. Dr. William Woodward, who directed the AMA Bureau of Legal Medicine (and later testified against the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937), wrote a caustic reply to Anslinger (28 April 1930):
"Before your letter was referred to this bureau, it was referred to our Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry, and when it was referred to me, I was informed that the Council had never had occasion to give consideration to the questions you raise. The same might said to be generally true with reference to this bureau; it has never had occasion to give consideration to most of the questions raised by your letter, and I doubt whether any other agency, public or private, has ever had occasion to do so, unless it be the US Dept. of Agriculture and several analogous departments of the state governments. I presume that you have, of course, communicated with the US Dept of Agriculture, and if you have not communicated with the several analogous state departments, it might be worth your while to do so.
"Undertaking to answer so far as practicable your specific questions, the following information is offered in response to the particular questions propounded by you: I. What is the quantity of Indian hemp produced in the United States? Ans. --- The American Medical Association has no knowledge with respect to this matter; II. What is the geographical distribution of the areas where Indian hemp is grown within the United States? Ans. --- The AMA has no information with respect to this matter except as may be found in books and journals, with which information, it is presumed, you are already familiar; III. What are the medical needs and uses of the drug or drugs produced from Indian Hemp? Ans. --- The answer to this question can be found in standard books on pharmacology and therapeutics, which are available in large numbers in the Surgeon General’s library in Washington; IV. What is the comparative medical value of Indian Hemp as domestically produced and as produced in foreign countries? Ans. -- [ditto]"
Since 1922, Dr Woodward had worked with the AMA to test the feasibility of including cannabis in the Uniform Act, and he had conducted an independent survey to gather pharmacists’ opinions on the matter. He was amazed to learn that all but one respondent refuted the popular view that cannabis was addictive or even "habit-forming", and none knew of any abuse of its pharmaceutical preparations.
On June 28, 1930, Anslinger informed Senator Smoot, the chairman of the Finance Committee, the "There would be no objection to the enactment of a separate measure prohibiting the importation and exportation of this particular drug". The bill died in committee.
On August 12, 1930, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) was established under the aegis of the Treasury Department. Harry J. Anslinger was chosen by Andrew Mellon and appointed as the first commissioner of the FBN. He held the post until President John F Kennedy ousted him in 1962, after Anslinger tried to censor Professor Alfred Lindsmith’s landmark book, The Addict and the law. Anslinger went so far as to harass Lindsmith’s employer, Indiana University, with threats of blackmail. Anslinger also was a rabid racist who drew criticism from Senator Joseph Guffey in 1934, after Anslinger used terms such as "ginger-colored nigger" and the like in his official FBN letters.
In the first few years after its inception, the FBN minimized the marihuana issue and argued that the individual states should control the problem. The Bureau of Narcotics was hard-pressed to survive in the Depression economy, and initially limited its efforts to enforcing the Harrison Act against opium and cocaine and promoting the passage of the Uniform Act. Except for bill S. 2075, which died in committee, cannabis was not yet a federal issue of any significance.
Anslinger worked hard, however, to build a case against the plant. Some analysts have suggested that he took on the issue of cannabis in order to increase the power of the tiny FBN. Jack Herer, author of The Emperor Wears No Cloths, has shown that Anslinger acted as a front man, having been groomed for the task and appointed by his uncle-in-law Andrew Mellon, the corrupt banker who financed the DuPonts and who self-served as Secretary of the Treasury. In short, Andrew Mellon, Herman Oliphant,I.E. DuPont, William Hearst, and Harry Anslinger conspired to effect a petrochemical coup for the oiligarchists, to the detriment of the American ecology, economy, and citizenry.
Immediately after its inception, Anslinger tried to get the FBN involved in the drafting process of the AMA Bill, the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act. His belated interference was resented by some of the parties involved, and welcomed by others. Unidentified vested interests were stirring up trouble among the physicians and pharmacists. Some persons went on record with unqualified complaints. In particular, the prominent AMA member Dr William White asked AMA president Dr Olin West to hold a conference with all the leaders of the pharmaceutical industry and a "high official" of the AMA --- but not Dr Woodward:
"The reason for suggesting someone other than Dr Woodward is to relieve the situation of a condition which has arisen because of his hard labor and intimate association with this problem from the beginning". (1 July 1932)
Dr West replied (8 July 1932): "Frankly I am somewhat surprised at some of the statements offered in your letter with respect to the attitude of Dr Woodward concerning some phases of the proposed legislation for control of narcotics...
"I happen to know that Dr Woodward has done a great deal of arduous work in an effort to be helpful in drafting ‘A Uniform State Law’ and I feel very sure that it has not been his intention to antagonize other organizations that are actively interested in this matter. In a spirit fo fairness to Dr Woodward, I shall as soon as possible discuss with him the matters referred to in your letter and I shall be glad to write to you again".
Dr Woodward was appalled by the accusations and wrote to Dr White (12 July 1932): "In the first place, I resent your charge of ignorance and intolerance in respect to the cooperation of manufacturing chemists, pharmacists, pharmaceutical houses, and other groups. You suggest the importance of consulting such groups as if it were a bright and new idea of your own. As a matter of fact, they have been frequently consulted not only by me, but by the Council on Health and Public Instruction before I assumed my presnet duties with the AMA".
In a letter to Anslinger (28 July 1932), E. Brookmeyer (general counsel for the National Association Retail Druggists) claimed that Woodward was trying "to limit the consideration of the fifth tentative draft of the AMA Bill to his Association and Judge Deering and his subcommittee". In truth, as Drs West and Woodward detailed in their responses, the pharmaceutical associations had declined every opportunity in the past several years to become involved in the drafting process of the AMA Bill. They even suggested that the Association actually was trying to block the passage of the Bill, which was to be presented to Congress in only two months.
Smelling a conspiracy, Dr Woodward complained about the situation in a letter to Anslinger (30 July 1932):
"In any event, the criticism of my course is so widespread and has reached such high places that I have no doubt whatsoever that it has been deliberately promoted to serve the ulterior purpose of some interest that is unwilling to be known in connection with the matter".
Assistant Surgeon General Treadway saw the "need to remedy a situation which was getting somewhat out of hand". He advised Dr West of the FBN’s views, which were neutral in this instance, and invited the bureau to participate in the meeting proposed by Dr White. A conference was held with representatives from the Deering Committee, Department of State, AMA, Public Health Service, FBN, and pharmaceutical and health professions and industries. The final draft of the AMA Bill was agreed upon for presentation to the National Conference of State Commissioners on October 8. The industrial interests considered the prohibition of cannabis to be untenable, and E. Brookmeyer, the counsel of the National Association of Retail Druggists, said so in no uncertain terms:
"Strike the cannabis section. Section 12. This section should not be incorporated in this draft at all as the abuse complained of is altogether local and limited to extremely narrow territory".
Section 12 was eventually eliminated from the Act.
The national Conference of Commissioners on the Uniform Drug Act met in October 1932 and adopted the fifth draft of the AMA Bill, but the optional provision for cannabis defined the plant as a "narcotic" in all states, technically equivalent to opium, and subject to the same draconian penalties.
Anslinger immediately directed his 300 FBN agents to assist the sponsors of the Uniform Act by lobbying the state legislatures to enact the proposed law. They also conducted a relentless campaign to enlist public support. But the objections to the Act proved to be a formidable obstacle that could not be overcome. The potential costs and paperwork were excessive, and there were many misunderstandings of the Act’s requirements.
In a speech about "The Need for Narcotic Education" made over NBC radio (24 February 1933), Anslinger declared:
"Another urgent reason for the early enactment of the Uniform State Narcotic Act is to be found in the fact that it is the only uniform legislation yet devised to effectively deal with Marihuana"
"There is no Federal law against the prohibition and use of Marihuana in this country. The legal fight against its abuse is largely a problem of state and municipal legislation and law enforcement.
"All public-spirited citizens should enlist in the campaign to demand and to get adequate state laws and efficient state enforcement on Marihuana".
The annual FBN report for 1932 stated:
"This abuse of the drug is noted among the Latin-American or Spanish-speaking population. The sale of cannabis cigarettes occurs to a considerable degree in the States along the Mexican border and in cities of the Southwest and West, as well as in New York City, and, in fact, wherever there are settlements of Latin Americans.
A great deal of public interest has been aroused by newspaper articles appearing from time to time on the evils of the abuse of marijuana or Indian hemp, and more attention has been focused upon specific cases reported of the abuse of the drug than would otherwise have been the case. This publicity tends to magnify the extent of the evil and lends color to an influence that there is an alarming spread of the improper use of the drug, whereas the actual increase in such use may not have been inordinately large".(11)
In the Bureau’s report for 1933, Anslinger modestly praised the success of his publicity campaign against cannabis on behalf of the Uniform Act:
"Articles were prepared in the FBN, at the request of a number of organizations dealing with this general subject for publication by such organizations in magazines and newspapers. An intelligent an sympathetic public interest, helpful to the administration of the narcotic laws has been aroused and maintained".
The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was most sympathetic and cooperative with the FBN, and dutifully published everything said or written about marijuana by Anslinger and others in their organ, the Union Signal. I October 1934, for example, the Signal printed this tidbit:
"Marihuana-smoking at women’s bridge parties has become frequent, the parties usually ending up in wild carousels, sometimes with men joining the orgies.
The appalling effects on both body and mind seem no hindrance to its increase of consumption, particularly in the states where there is a large Spanish-American population, says a recent item in the New York Times. In Western and Southwestern states, it is being sold more or less openly in pool halls and beer gardens and, according to some authorities, is being peddled to school children".
By 1935, however, the Uniform Act had been passed by only ten states. Being frustrated in his attmepts to convince legislators and citizens of the need for the ugly new law, Anslinger decided to intensify his propaganda campaign to arouse public fear of the "marijuana menace", thus pressuring lawmakers to take action. Dozens of newspapers participated in the FBN’s educational campaign to describe the weed and tell of its horrible effects. The Hearst newspaper chain reiterated its support of the Uniform Act and emphasized the marijuana issue in an editorial that appeared in several papers on September 11, 1935:
"Much of the opposition to the Uniform State Narcotic Law must be imputed to the selfish and often unscrupulous opposition of racketeering interests.
"But more than half the states have not acted favorably and Commissioner Anslinger has announced that an intensified drive will be made to bring the rest into line.
"One thing that the indolent legislatures should be made to understand is that the dope traffic does not stand still.
"In recent years, the insidious and insanity-producing marijuana has become among the worst of all the narcotic banes, invading even the school houses of the country, and the Uniform State Narcotic Law is THE ONLY LEGISLATION yet devised to deal effectively with this horrid menace".
In his comments on marijuana for the 1935 FBN annual report, Anslinger wrote:
"A problem which has proved most disquieting to the Bureau during the year is the rapid development of a widespread traffic in Indian hemp, or marihuana, throughout the country...
"In the absence of Federal legislature on the subject, the States and cities should rightfully assume the responsibility for providing vigorous measures for the extinction of this lethal weed, and it is therefore hoped that all public-spirited citizens will earnestly enlist in movement urged by the Treasury Department to adjure intensified enforcement of marihuana laws".
In the FBN report for 1936, Anslinger made these assertions:
"The rapid development during the past several years, particularly during 1935 and 1936, of a widespread traffic in cannabis, or marihuana, as it is more commonly known in the United States, is regarded with much concern by the Bureau of narcotics. Ten years ago there was little traffic in this drug except in parts of the Southwest. The weed now grows wild in almost every state in the Union, is easily obtainable, and has come into wide abuse..
"In the absence of additional Federal legislature the FBN can therefore carry no war of its own against this traffic... The drug has come into wide and increasing abuse in many states, and the FBN has therefore been endeavoring to impress upon the various States the urgent need for vigorous enforcement of local cannabis laws".
In February 1936, the Union Signal faithfully reported Anslinger’s estimate that fully "50% of the violent crimes committed in districts occupied by Mexicans, Greeks, Turks. Filipinos, Spaniards, Latin Americans, and Negroes may be traced to the use of marijuana".
Attorney Rex Stewart wrote an article, printed in the Union Signal issue of September 19, 1936, that stated:
"A man is dangerous after a whiff or two of marihuana. He doesn’t need to smoke an entire cigarette. A few sucking puffs are enough to give him the heart of a lion and make him as resilient to punishment as a rubber ball. He will commit any crime if he is mentally so inclined, and he will take chances he would not dare normally".
The prestigious and extremist World Narcotic Defense Association was duly impressed and enlisted in the service of Anslinger’s cause. In 1936 the WNDA and its sister organization, the International Narcotic Education Association, published a pamphlet about "Marihuana or Indian Hemp and Its Preparation", in which their gross exaggeration of the situation was raised to new heights of absurdity:
"The narcotic content in Marihuana decreases the rate of heart beat and causes irregularity of the pulse. Death may result from the effect on the heart.
Prolonged use of Marihuana frequently develops a delirious rage which sometimes leads to high crimes, such as assault and murder. Hence Marihuana has been called the ‘killer drug’. The habitual use of this narcotic poison always caused a very marked mental deterioration and sometimes produces insanity. Hence Marihuana is frequently called ‘loco weed’ (loco is the Spanish word for crazy).
"While the Marihuana habit leads to physical wreckage and mental decay, its effects upon character and morality are even more devastating. The victim frequently undergoes such moral degeneracy that he will lie and steal without scruple; he becomes utterly untrustworthy and often drifts into the underworld where, with his degenerate companions, he commits high crimes and misdemeanors. Marihuana sometimes gives man the lust to kill, unreasonably and without motive. Many cases of assault, rape, robbery, and murder are traced to the use of Marihuana."
The Hearst newspapers also endorsed the WNDA, and urged readers to "Protect Youth Against Dope":
"The Hearst newspapers, which have crusaded unceasingly against the NARCOTIC EVIL in all its vicious forms, are gratified to know that Narcotic Education Week is centering its attention upon the MARIHUANA PROBLEM.
"Legal authorities, while increasingly vigilant against other habit-forming drugs, have permitted the marihuana cigarette to become a NATIONAL MENACE.
"One of the consequences, according to Ethel Chiller, sociologist of the Chicago Womens’ Court, is that SIXTY PER CENT of all juvenile delinquents are victims of the drug.
"Admiral Richard P. Hobson, President of the World Narcotic Defense Association, says:
"The warfare on the dope ring has made much progress. At the same time the enemy has developed a very dangerous new field, the exploitation of marihuana cigarettes, which is especially menacing and destructive for our youth.
"The marihuana cigarette is one of the most INSIDIOUS of all forms of dope, largely because of the failure of the public to understand its fatal qualities.
"The nation is almost defenseless against it, having no Federal laws to cope with it and virtually no organized campaign for combating it.
The result is tragic.
"High school boys and girls buy the destructive weed without knowledge of its capacity for harm, and conscienceless dealers sell it with impunity.
"This is a NATIONAL PROBLEM, and it must have national attention.
"The fatal marihuana cigarette must recognized as a DEADLY DRUG and American children must be PROTECTED AGAINST IT."
Anslinger’s army included other groups such as the Federation of Women’s Clubs, the National Parent Teachers Association, the Young Women’s Christian Association, and the National Council of Catholic Men and Women. The following excerpt from Anslinger’s letter of March 1, 1935 to Rev. John Burke, the general secretary of the National Catholic Welfare Council, is typical of his attempts to enlist the support of such organizations:
"The Act has been and is being opposed in some of the legislatures in session this year by certain ‘groups’ who wage their campaigns under cover. These cliques think that their interest may be negatived by passage of this legislation. Many of the legislatures in session this year will not convene again until 1937. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance to concentrate activities in these commonwealths now. There is no more important or far-reaching problem affecting health and morals before the world today that that of narcotic drug control.
"Within the past three years there has been an alarming an almost unbelievable spread of the use of Marihuana, known botanically as cannabis. A cigaret is compounded from the dried, flowering pistillate tops of Marihuana or Indian hemp, and sold illicitly and insidiously by peddlers to adolescent youths, children in high and grammar school grades. This statement is not exaggerated but is unfortunately true, as the Bureau has legal proof of such malpractice.
"When an opium or cocaine habitue has been made, it is extremely difficult to effect a cure, although this has been done by scientific medical hospitalization. The case of Marihuana addicts is well nigh hopeless as the Hasheesh or Marihuana smoker becomes insane. Favorable action must be taken to prevent the spread of this pernicious weed because its evil consequences are irremediable.
"In behalf of the intensive campaign which we are waging for the adoption of the Uniform Narcotic Drug Act in the 35 state legislatures, I respectfully request the endorsement of the National Catholic Welfare Councils of Men and Women for this necessary and vital legislation".
As the FBN media campaign reached a peak of frenzy, no statement was too ridiculous to be printed or said. The situation is exemplified by Anslinger’s comment published in Hearst’s Washington Herald (12 April 1937):
"If the hideous monster Frankenstein came face to face with the monster Marihuana, he would drop dead of fright."
William Hearst provided many of the fantastic stories that Anslinger used to enhance the articles he authored. The classic "Marihuana: Assassin of Youth" that appeared in American Magazine (July 1937), began with a grisly scene that never occurred:
"The sprawled body of a young girl lay crushed on the sidewalk the other day after a plunge from the fifth story of a Chicago apartment house. Everyone called it a suicide but actually it was murder. The killer was a narcotic known to America as marihuana, and history as hashish. It is a narcotic used in the form of cigarettes, comparatively new to the United States and as dangerous as a coiled rattlesnake!
"An entire family was murdered by a youthful addict in Florida. When officers arrived at the home they found the youth staggering about in a human slaughterhouse. With an ax he had killed his father, mother, two brothers, and a sister. He seemed to be in a daze. He had no recollection of having committed the multiple crimes. The officers knew him ordinarily as a sane, rather quiet young man; now he was pitifully crazed. They sought the reason. The boy said he had been in the habit of smoking something which youthful friends called 'muggles', a childish name for marihuana.
"That youth has been selected by the peddlers of this poison as an especially fertile field makes it a problem of serious concern to every man and woman in America!
"Addicts may often develop a delirious rage during which they are temporarily and violently insane. This insanity may take the form of a desire for self-destruction or a persecution complex to be satisfied only by the commission of some heinous crime." (12)
The FBN received over 50 letters addressed to Anslinger stating that "Your article was the first time I ever heard of marihuana", and similar edified comments. Courtney Cooper, who was Anslinger's co-author, elaborated on the theme in his book, Here's to Crime:
"There is only one end for the confirmed marihuana smoker, and that is insanity. Therefore, it might be of interest to know that one of the main selling places of marihuana in the United States is in the vicinity of high schools!
"The use of marihuana has spread within the last few years so rapidly as to constitute a menace that should receive the attention of every thinking parent in America!
"Apartments are run by ghoul-minded women; in such apartments high school students gather on the promise that reefer-smoking will put music in their souls and a release from all moral restraints; nothing is said about eventual insanity.
"Then suddenly a girl wanted to dance. Immediately everyone wanted to dance. The movements were of sinuosity. After a time, girls began to pull off their clothes. Men weaved naked over them; soon the entire room was one of the wildest sexuality. Ordinary intercourse and several forms of perversion were going on all at once, girl to girl, man to man, woman to woman.
"This is one of the great reasons why girls who are little more than children are now being placed in whorehouses by members of prostitution syndicates, why young boys of otherwise straight habits suddenly join up with dangerous gangs, why there are constantly more murders committed by youth." (13)
In his book The Murderers (1961), Anslinger gave a belated description of a 1930s "tea-pad":
"One adolescent gave a picture to an agent of a typical 'smoker' in an apartment or 'pad':
"The room was crowded. There were fifty people but it seemed like five hundred. It was like crazy, couples lying all over the place, a woman was screaming out in the hall, two fellows were trying to make love to the same girl and this girl was screaming and crying and not making any sense. Her clothes were mostly pulled off and she was snickering and blubbering and trying to push these two guys away... The place was nothing but smoke and stink and these funny little noises I could hear but they were way out, so far that I could hardly hear them and they were right there in the room, that laughing and crying and the music and all that stuff. It was crazy wild. But I didn't want to do anything, I didn't want to sleep with those women or like that. I just wanted to lie down because the room seemed so big and like a great tremendous crowd like at a ball game or something.
"Much of the most irrational juvenile violence and killing that has written a new chapter of shame and tragedy is traceable directly to this hemp intoxification. A gang of boys tear the clothes from two schoolgirls and rape the screaming girls, one boy after another. A sixteen-year-old kills his entire family of five in Florida, a man in Minnesota puts a bullet through the head of a stranger on the road; in Colorado a husband tries to shoot his wife, kills her grandmother instead and then kills himself. Every one of these crimes had been proceeded [sic] by the smoking of one or more marijuana reefer.
"As the marijuana situation grew worse, I knew action had to be taken to get proper control legislation passed. By 1937, under my direction, the Bureau launched two important steps: First, a legislative plan to seek from Congress a new law that would place marijuana and its distribution directly under federal control. Second, on radio and at major forums, such as that presented annually by the New York Herald Tribune, I told the story of this evil weed of the fields and riverbeds and roadsides. I wrote articles for magazines; our agents gave hundreds of lectures to parents, educators, social and civic leaders. In network broadcasts I reported on the growing list of crimes, including murder and rape. I described the nature of marihuana and its close kinship to hashish. I continued to hammer at the facts.
"I believe we did a thorough, for the public was alerted, and the laws to protect them were passed, both nationally and at the state level. We also brought under control the wild-growing marijuana in this country. Working with local authorities, we cleaned up hundreds of acres of marijuana weed and uprooted plants sprouting along the roadsides.
"There were still some WPA gangs working in those days and we put them to good use. Just outside the nation's capital, for some sixty miles along the Potomac River, on both banks, marijuana was growing in profusion; it had been planted there originally by early settlers who made their own hemp and cloth. The workers cleaned out tremendous riverbank crops, destroying plants, seeds and roots. All through the Midwest also, WPA workers were used for this clean-up job. The wild hemp was rooted out o America." (14)
In The Traffic in Narcotics, co-authored with William Tompkins, Anslinger persisted in making absurd declarations:
"A further distinction between the opiates and marihuana has been touched on before but bears repeating. While opium can be a blessing or a curse, depending on its use, marihuana is only and always a scourge which undermines its victims and degrades them mentally, morally, and physically.
"Medical experts agree on the complete unpredictability of the effect of marihuana on different individuals. A small dose taken by one subject may bring about intense intoxification, raving fits, criminal assaults. Another subject can consume large amounts without experiencing any reaction except stupefaction. It is this unpredictable effect which makes marihuana one of the most dangerous drugs known.
"Marihuana sharpens the sensibilities, and in this stage the addict is prone to suggestion, violent or otherwise. The intense overexcitement of the nerves and emotions leads to uncontrollable irritability and violent and irresponsible acts due to irresistible impulses of suggestive origin. The last stage might include hallucinations, varied and often terrifying. Restless, accompanied by bizarre phantasmagoria, then overcomes the victim.
"In the earliest stages of intoxification the will power is destroyed and inhibitions and restraints are released; the moral barricades are broken down and often debauchery and sexuality results. Where mental instability is inherent, the behavior is generally violent. An egotist will enjoy delusions of grandeur, the timid individual will suffer anxiety, and the aggressive one often will resort to acts of violence of crime. Dormant tendencies are released and while the subject may know what is happening, he has become powerless to prevent it. Constant use produces an incapacity for work and a disorientation of purpose. The drug has a corroding effect on the body and on the mind, weakening the entire physical system and often leading to insanity after prolonged use."
One case cited by Anslinger concerned "O.J.", who confessed to the murder of a friend "while under the influence of marihuana". Dr Walter Bromberg of the New York County Court of General Sessions' Psychiatric Clinic reported on the case in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1939, and confirmed that O.J. had indeed murdered his friend and stuffed the corpse into a trunk. According to Dr Bromberg's report, "O.J was examined in this clinic…Although he was a psychopathic liar and possibly homosexual, there was no indication in the examination or history of any use of any drug. The investigation by the probation department failed to indicate the use of the drug marijuana". In 1966, Dr James Munch, who was a member of the Advisory Committee of the Bureau of Narcotics, resurrected the lie in an article published in the United Nations Bulletin on narcotics, and embellished it with a quotation attributed to O.J.:
"I was fearless after smoking marijuana cigarettes but would not have done this without marijuana."
Researchers who have carefully investigated Anslinger's collection of gore stories have determined that few if any were in fact true. (15)
According to crusader Earle Rowell, author of the hysterical diatribe On The Trail of Marihuana, The Weed of Madness (1939), dope pushers used this cheap trick to seduce innocent youths into smoking marijuana:
"One of the methods used in making marihuana users is for the peddler, with an unlighted marihuana cigarette in his hand, to step up to a high school boy or girl who is smoking a tobacco cigarette and say, 'Give me a light, I haven't a match'. Forthwith the peddler extends a hand filled with marihuanas, and says persuasively; 'Try one of my cigarettes. They are a new special kind; got a real kick in 'em. You'll like 'em. Take two or three'!
"The baleful effects of marihuana begin soon after the first reefer is smoked. We know that marihuana:
1. Destroys will power, making a jellyfish of the user. He cannot say no.
2. Eliminates the line between right and wrong, and substitutes one's own warped desires or base suggestions of others as the standard of right.
3. Above all, causes crime; fills the victim with an irrepressible urge to violence.
4. Incites to revolting immoralities, including rape and murder.
5. Causes many accidents both industrial and automobile.
6. Ruins careers forever.
7. Causes insanity as its specialty.
8. Either in self-defense or as a means of revenue, users make smokers of others, thus perpetuating evil."
(6) The Marihuana Tax Act ~
By 1936, public concern over marijuana had been increased and agitated to the extent that state officials were asking for federal assistance. A letter to the FBN from the editor of the Daily Courier (Alamosa, CO) was typical of the fear, ignorance and racism surrounding the situation:
"Is there any assistance your Bureau can give us in handling this drug? Can you suggest something? Can you enlarge your Department to deal with marijuana? Can you do anything to help us?
"I wish you could see what a small cigarette can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking residents. That's why our problem is so great: the greatest percentage of our population is composed of Spanish-speaking persons, most of whom are low mentally, because of social and racial conditions.
"While marijuana has figured in the greatest number of crimes in the past few years, officials fear it, not for what it has done, but for what it is capable of doing. They want to check it before an outbreak does occur.
"Through representatives of civic leaders and law officers of the San Luis Valley, I have been asked to write to you for help."
Local law enforcement agencies also appealed to their state governors, who pressured Henry Morgenthau Jr, the Secretary of the Treasury, to take action. He in turn assigned the Treasury's General Counsel, Herman Oliphant, to draft appropriate legislation. Oliphant was unable to find a suitable constitutional basis for the prohibition of hemp. Eventually he chose to use the models of the Harrison Narcotics Act and the national Firearms Act, which imposed a prohibitive "transfer tax" on the sale of machine guns. The Firearms Act was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court in March 1937. Oliphant then decided that a transfer tax could be applied successfully to marijuana. At first, Commissioner Anslinger thought the idea was absurd and doubted that Congress would accept it. In January 1937 he met with several experts to draft a bill, but had to conclude in a confidential report to Stephen Gibbons, the Assistant Secretary of the treasury, that "under the taxing power and regulation of interstate commerce it would be almost hopeless to expect any kind of adequate control". He suggested instead that an international treaty be made to control the alleged problem:
"The State Department has tentatively agreed to this proposition, but before action is taken we shall have to dispose of certain phases of legitimate traffic: for instance, the drug trade still has a small medical need for marijuana, but has agreed to eliminate entirely. The only place it is used extensively is by veterinarians, and we can satisfy them by importing their medical needs.
"We must also satisfy the canary bird seed trade, and the Sherwin Williams Paint
Company, which uses hemp seed oil for drying purposes. We are now working with the Department of Commerce in finding substitutes for the legitimate trade, and after that is accomplished, the path will be cleared for the treaties and for federal law."
Harry Anslinger and Stuart Fuller of the State Department were permitted to present the idea of a treaty to control cannabis at the Conference for the Suppression of Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs, held in Geneva in June 1936. But their proposal was rejected by the 26 other nations at the conference, so Oliphant and Anslinger continued to prepare the Marihuana Tax Act in secret for presentation to Congress. They gathered scientific and medical opinions, but studiously ignored any information that did not concur with their bias against hemp.
For example, Assistant US Surgeon General Dr Walter Treadway was asked: "What are the proofs that the use of marihuana in any of its forms is habit-forming or addictive, and what are the indications and positive proofs that such addiction develops socially undesirable characteristics in the user?"
He replied: "Cannabis indica does not produce dependence as in opium addiction. In opium addiction there is a complete dependence and when it is withdrawn there is actual physical pain which is not the case with cannabis. Alcohol more nearly produces the same effect as cannabis in that there is an excitement or a general feeling of lifting of personality, followed by a delirious stage, and subsequent narcosis. There is no dependence or increased tolerance such as in opium addiction. As to the social and moral degradation associated with cannabis, it probably belongs in the same category as alcohol. As with alcohol, it may be taken a relatively long time without social or emotional breakdown. Marijuana is habit-forming although not addicting in the same sense as alcohol might be with some people, or sugar, or coffee. Marijuana produces a delirium with a frenzy which might result in violence: but this is also true of alcohol."
Dr Treadway was not called upon to testify in the Congressional hearings. The Treasury Department was not interested in educated opinions. Rather, Treasury attorney S.G. Tipton asked Commissioner Anslinger:
"Have you got lots of cases on this? Horror stories --- that's what we want."
Tipton got the stories, and he presented them with the case for H.R. 6385 to the House Ways and Means Committee in April 1937. It is thought that Herman Oliphant introduce the bill to that committee because it is the only one that sends bills directly to the House of Representatives without debate from other committees. Furthermore, Committee Chairman Robert Doughton (NC) was an ally of the DuPont dynasty, which stood to reap enormous profits from the suppression of cannabis. The bill was voted on without a roll call and passed on the Senate Committee on Finance, which was controlled by another ally of DuPont, Prentice Brown (MI). (17)
Chairman Doughton called the committee to order on May 11, 1937 "for the purpose of considering HR 6385, a bill to impose an occupational excise tax upon certain dealers in marijuana, to impose a transfer tax upon certain dealing in marijuana, and to safeguard the revenue therefrom by registry and recording."
Clinton Hester, the Treasury Department's assistant general counsel, was sworn in and said:
"Mr Chairman and members of the Ways and Means Committee, for the past two years the treasury Department has been making a study of the subject of marihuana, a drug which is found in the flowering tops, seeds, and leaves of Indian hemp, and is now being used extensively by high-school children in cigarettes. Its effect is deadly.
"The leading newspapers of the United States have recognized the seriousness of this problem and many of them have advocated federal legislation to control the traffic in marihuana. In fact, several newspapers in the city of Washington have advocated such legislation. In a recent editorial, the Washington Times stated:
"The nation is almost defenseless against it, having no Federal laws to cope what it and virtually no organized campaign for combating it. The result is tragic. School children are the prey of peddlers who infest school neighborhoods. High-school boys and girls buy the destructive weed without knowledge of its capacity for harm, and conscienceless dealers sell it with impunity. This is a national problem, and it must have national attention. The fatal marihuana cigarette must be recognized as a deadly drug and American children must be protected against it.
"The purpose of HR 6385 is to employ the federal taxing power not only to raise revenue from the marihuana traffic, but also to discourage the current and widespread undesirable use of marihuana by smokers and drug addicts and thus drive the traffic into channels where the plant will be put to valuable industrial, medical and scientific uses.
"Although the $100 transfer tax in this bill is intended to be prohibitive, as is the $200 transfer tax in the National Firearms Act, it is submitted that it is constitutional as a revenue measure." (18)
Harry Anslinger also testified, and surpassed himself when he said:
"This traffic in marihuana is increasing to such extent that it has become the cause for the greatest national concern. In medical schools the physician-to-be is taught that without opium medicine would be like a one-armed man. That is true, because you cannot get along without opium. But here is a drug that is not like opium. Opium has all the good of Dr Jekyll and all the evil of Mr Hyde. This drug is entirely the monster Hyde, the harmful effect of which cannot be measured!"
The committee then briefly interviewed Raymond Scarlett of the Scarlett Corporation (Baltimore). He said:
"Mr Chairman, our company handles a considerable quantity of hempseed annually for use in pigeon feeds. That is a necessary ingredient in pigeon feed because it contains an oily substance that is a valuable ingredient in pigeon feed, and we have not been able to find any seed that will take its place. If you substitute anything for the hemp, it has a tendency to change the character of the squabs produced, and if we were deprived of the use of hempseed, it would affect all of the pigeon producers in the United States, of which there are upwards of 40,000."
Chairman: "Does that seed have the same effect on pigeons as the drug has on individuals?"
Mr Snell: "I have never noticed it. It has a tendency to bring back the feathers and improve the birds. We are not interested in spreading marijuana, or anything like that. We do not want to be drug peddlers."
The committee also heard the testimony of Dr William Woodward, legislative counsel of the American Medical Association. He opined that the proposed law was contrived, and he criticized every aspect of the bill, beginning with the general nature of the testimony offered by the FBN:
"There is a certain amount of narcotic addiction of an objectionable character no one will deny. The newspapers have called attention to it so prominently that there must be some grounds for their statements. It has surprised me, however, that the facts on which these statements have been based have not been brought before this committee by competent primary evidence. We are referred to newspaper publications concerning the prevalence of marihuana addiction. We are told that the use of marihuana causes crime.
"But as yet no one has been produced from the Bureau of Prisons to show the number of prisoners who have been found addicted to the marihuana habit. An informal inquiry shows that the Bureau of Prisons has no evidence on that point.
"You have been told that school children are great users of marihuana cigarettes. No one has been summoned from the Children's Bureau to show the nature and extent of the habit among children.
"Inquiry to the Children's Bureau shows that they have had no occasion to investigate it and know nothing particularly of it.
"Inquiry to the Office of Education --- and they certainly should know something of the prevalence of the habit among the school children of the country, if it is a prevalent habit ¾ indicates that they have had no occasion to investigate and know nothing of it.
"Moreover, there is in the Treasury Department itself, the Public Health Service, with its Division of Mental Hygiene. The Division of Mental Hygiene was, in the first place, the Division of Narcotics. It was converted into the Division of mental Hygiene, I think, about 1930. That particular Bureau has control at the present time of the narcotics farms that were created about 1929 and 1930 and came into operation a few years later. No one has been summoned from that Bureau to give evidence on that point.
"Informal inquiry by me indicates that they have no record of any marihuana or Cannabis addicts who have ever been committed to those farms.
"The Bureau of the Public Health Service has also a division of pharmacology. If you desire evidence as to the pharmacology of cannabis, that obviously is the place where you can get direct and primary evidence, rather than the indirect hearsay evidence...
"There is nothing in the medical use of Cannabis that has any relation to Cannabis addiction. I use the word 'Cannabis' in preference to 'marijuana', because cannabis is the correct term for describing the plant and its products. The term 'marijuana' is a mongrel word that has crept into the country over the Mexican border and has no general meaning, except as it relates to the use of Cannabis preparations for smoking. It is not recognized in medicine, and hardly recognized even in the Treasury Department. Marijuana is not the correct term. It was the use of the word 'marijuana' rather than the use of the term 'Cannabis' or the use of the term 'Indian hemp' that was responsible, as you realized, probably, a day or two ago, for the failure of the dealers in Indian hempseed to connect up this bill with their business until rather late in the day. So I shall use the word 'Cannabis', and I should certainly suggest that if any legislation is enacted, the term used be 'Cannabis' and not the mongrel word 'marijuana'.
"I say the medical use of Cannabis had nothing to do with Cannabis or marijuana addiction. In all that you have heard here thus far, no mention has been made of any excessive use of the drug by any doctor or excessive distribution by any pharmacist. And yet the burden of this bill is placed heavily on the doctors and pharmacists of the country; and I may say very heavily, most heavily, possibly of all, on the farmers of the country. "My interest is primarily, of course, in the medical aspects. We object to the imposing of an additional tax on physicians, pharmacists, and others, catering to the sick; to require that they register and reregister; that they have special order forms to be used for this particular drug, when the matter can just as well be covered by an amendment of the Harrison Narcotic Act.
"If you are referring to the particular problem, I object to the act because it is utterly unsusceptible of execution, and an act that is not susceptible of execution is a bad thing on the statute books."
Chairman: "If marihuana's use as a medicine has fallen off to a point where it is practically negligible, and if its use as a dope has increased until it has become serious and a menace to the public, as has been testified here --- and the testimony here has been that it causes some people to lose their mental balance, causes them to become criminals so that they do not seem to realize right from wrong after they become addicts of this drug --- taking into consideration the growth of its injurious effects and its diminuation in its use so far as any beneficial effect is concerned, you realize, do you not, that some good may be accomplished by this proposed legislation?"
Dr Woodward: "Some legislation, yes, Mr Chairman."
Chairman: "If that is admitted, let us get down to a few concrete facts. With the experience in the Bureau of Narcotics and with the State governments trying to enforce the laws that are on the State statute books against the use of this deleterious drug, and the Federal government has realized that the State laws are ineffective, don't you think some Federal legislation necessary?"
Dr Woodward: "I do not."
Chairman: "You do not?"
Dr Woodward: "No. I think it is the usual tendency to ---"
Chairman: "I believe you did say in response to Mr Cooper that you believed some legislation or some change in the present law would be helpful. If that be true, why have you not been here before this bill was introduced proposing some remedy for this evil?"
Dr Woodward: "Mr Chairman, I have visited the Commissioner of Narcotics on various occasions ---"
Chairman: "That is not an answer to my question at all."
Dr Woodward: "I have not been here because ---"
Chairman: "You are here representing the medical association. If your association has realized the necessity, the importance of some legislation ¾ which you now admit --- why did you wait until this bill was introduced to come here and make mention of it? Why did you not come here voluntarily and suggest to this committee some legislation?"
Dr Woodward: "I have talked these matters over many times with the --- "
Chairman: "That does not do us any good, to talk this matter over. I have talked over a lot of things. The states do not seem to be able to deal with it effectively, nor is the Federal government dealing with it at all. Why do you wait until now and then come in here and oppose something that is presented to us. You propose nothing whatever to correct the evil that exists. Now, I do not like to have a round-about answer to that question."
Dr Woodward: "We do not propose legislation directly to Congress when the same end can be reached through one of the executive departments of the government."
Chairman: "You admit that it has not been done. You said that you thought some legislation would be helpful. That is why I am trying to hold you down to. Now, why have you not proposed any legislation? That is what I want a definite, clear-cut answer to."
Dr Woodward: "In the first place, it is not a medical addiction that is involved and the data do not come before the medical society. You may absolutely forbid the use of Cannabis by any physician, disposition of Cannabis by any pharmacist in the country, and you would not have touched your Cannabis addiction as it stands today, because there is no relation between it and the practice of medicine or pharmacy. It is entirely outside of the practice of those two branches."
Chairman: "If the statement that you have just made has any relation to the question that I asked, I just do not have the mind to understand it; I am sorry."
Dr Woodward: "I say that we do not ordinarily come directly to Congress if a department can take care of the matter. I have talked with the Commissioner, with Commissioner Anslinger."
Chairman: "If you want to advise us on legislation, you ought to come here with some constructive proposals, rather than criticism, rather than trying to throw obstacles in the way of something that the Federal government is trying to do. It has not only an unselfish motive in this, but they have a serious responsibility."
Dr Woodward: "We cannot understand yet, Mr Chairman, why this bill should have been prepared in secret for two years without any limitation, even to the profession, that it was being prepared."
Chairman: "Is not the fact that you were not consulted your real objection to this bill?"
Dr Woodward: "Not at all."
Chairman: "Just because you were not consulted?"
Dr Woodward: "Not at all."
Chairman: "No matter how much good there was in the proposal?"
Dr Woodward: "Not at all."
Chairman: "That is not it?"
Dr Woodward: "Not at all. We always try to be helpful."
Mr Vinson: "The fact that they took that length of time in the preparation of the bill, what has that to do with the merits of the legislation?"
Dr Woodward: "The legislation is impracticable so far as enforcement is concerned, and the same study devoted to state legislation with 44 state legislatures in session this year would have produced much better results."
The committee continued to harass and harangue Dr Woodward, interrupting his statements, diverting the issue to inconsequential minor points and indulging in ad hominem insults until they dismissed him and took a recess.
Commissioner Anslinger brought with him his close friend Dr James Munch, a pharmacologist from Temple University whose expertise consisted of limited experiments with cannabis and dogs, and hearsay about its effects upon humans:
Dr Munch: "Continuous use will tend to cause the degeneration of one part of the brain, that part that is useful for higher or physic [sic] reasoning, or the memory. Functions of that type are localized in the cerebral cortex of the brain. Those are the disturbing and harmful effects that follow continued exposure to marihuana."
Mr McCormack: "Can you give us any idea as to the period of continued use that occurs before this disintegration takes place?"
Dr Munch: "I can only speak from my knowledge of animals. In some animals we see the effect after about three months, while in others it requires more than a year, when they are given the same dose."
Mr McCormack: "Are there not some animals on which it reacted, as I understand it, in a manner similar to its reaction on human beings? Is that right?
Dr Munch: "Yes, sir."
Mr McCormack: "Have you experimented upon any animals whose reaction to this drug closely resembles the reaction of human beings?"
Dr Munch: "The reason we use dogs is because the reaction of dogs to this drug closely resembles the reaction of human beings."
Mr McCormack: "And the continued use of it, as you have observed the reaction on dogs, has resulted in the disintegration of personality?"
Dr Munch: "Yes. So far as I can tell, not being a dog psychologist, the effects will develop in from three months to a year."
The FBN did not see fit to present any other "scientific" information about cannabis. Instead, the Bureau dismissed all such considerations in a sweeping written statement that focused on the mythical dangers of hemp:
"Despite the fact that medical men and scientists have disagreed upon the harmfulness of this drug, the records offer ample evidence that it has a disastrous effect upon many of its users. Recently we have received many reports showing crimes of violence committed by persons while under the influence of marihuana.
"The deleterious, even vicious, qualities of the drug render it highly dangerous to the mind and body upon which it operates to destroy the will, cause one to lose the power of connected thought, producing imaginary delectable situations and gradually weakening the physical powers. Its use frequently leads to insanity."
Ralph Loziers, the general counsel of the National Oil Seed Institute, was one of the few dissenting voices at the House hearings:
"Respectable authorities tell us that in the Orient, at least 200 million people use this drug --- and when we take into consideration that for hundreds, yes, thousands of years, practically that number of people have been using this drug --- it is significant that in Asia and elsewhere in the Orient, where poverty stalks abroad on every hand and where thye draw on all the plant resources which a bountiful nature has given that domain, it is significant that none of these 200 million people has ever, since the dawn of civilization, has been found using the seed of this plant or using the oil as a drug.
"Now, if there were any deleterious properties or principles in the seed or oil, it is reasonable to suppose that these Orientals, who have been reaching out in their poverty for something that would satisfy their morbid appetite, would have discovered it...
"If the committee please, the hemp seed, or seed of the cannabis sativa l., is used in all the Oriental nations and also in a part of Russia as food. It is grown in their fields and used as oatmeal. Millions of people every day are using hemp seed in the Orient as food. They have been doing that for many generations, especially in periods of famine...
"The point I make is this: that this bill is too all-inclusive. This bill is a world-encircling measure. This bill brings the activities ¾ the crushing of this great industry --- under the supervision of a bureau, which may mean its supervision. Last year, there was imported into the U.S. 62,813,000 pounds of hemp seeds. In 1935 there was imported 116 million pounds..."
The report of the Ways and means Committee affirmed all the charges in the case against cannabis:
"Under the influence of this drug the will is destroyed and all power o directing and controlling thought is lost. Inhibitions are released. As a result of these effects, it appeared from testimony produced at the hearing that many violent crimes have been and are being committed by persons under the influence of this drug. Not only is marihuana used by hardened criminals to steel them to commit violent crimes, but it is also being placed in the hands of high-school children in the form of marihuana cigarettes by unscrupulous peddlers. Cases were cited at the hearing of school children who have been driven to crime and insanity through the use of this drug. Its continued use results many times in impotence and insanity."
Meanwhile, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a strong editorial in belated response against the proposed federal law in the issue for May 1, 1937:
"The medical profession today seldom dispenses the drug. Many physicians will, however, probably feel it necessary to preserve their right to use it if and when circumstances make it advisable to do so and accordingly will feel compelled to pay the tax. Pharmacists presumably will seldom have calls for cannabis, but they must nevertheless be prepared to dispense it when a call does come, so they will have to pay the tax. The million dollars to be collected annually by the federal government will no doubt be charged as a part of practicing medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy. So also will the expense of record keeping and reporting, called for under the bill. All this will be in the end paid for by the patient and thus will go to swell the cost of sickness. Thus the sick and injured must contribute toward efforts to suppress a habit that has little or no relation to the use o cannabis for medical purposes and that is already within the jurisdiction of the several states...
"After more than twenty years of federal effort and the expenditure of millions of dollars, the opium and cocaine habits are still widespread. The best efforts of an efficient bureau of narcotics, supplemented by the efforts of an equally efficient bureau of customs, have failed to stop the unlawful flow of opium and coca leaves and their compounds and derivatives, on which the continuance and spread of narcotic addiction depends. The best efforts of the Public Health Service to find means for the prevention and cure of narcotic addiction have not yet accomplished that end. Two federal narcotic farms, operating under the supervision and control of the U.S. Public Health Service, cannot guarantee the cure of narcotic addiction. What reason is there, then, for believing that any better results can be obtained by direct federal efforts to suppress a habit arising out of the misuse of such a drug as cannabis? Certainly it is almost as easy to smuggle into the country and to distribute as are opium and coca leaves. Moreover it can be cultivated in many parts of the United States and grows wild in field and forest and along the highways in many places…" (19)
The bill came before the full House on June 14, 1937. Congressman Snell objected to the lateness of the hour and confessed his ignorance of the subject:
Mr Doughton: "I ask the unanimous consent for the present consideration of the bill to impose an occupational excise tax upon certain dealers in marihuana, to impose a transfer tax upon certain dealings in marihuana, and to safeguard the revenue therefrom by registry and recording."
The clerk read the rest of the bill.
Mr Snell: "Mr Speaker, reserving the right to object, and notwithstanding the fact that my friend, Reed, is in favor of it, is this a matter we should bring up at this late hour of the afternoon? I do not know anything about the bill. It may be all right and it may be that everyone is for it, but as a general principle, I am against bring up any important legislation, and I suppose this is important, since it comes from the Ways and Means Committee, at this late hour of the day."
Mr Rayburn: "Mr Speaker, if the gentleman will yield, I may say that the gentleman from North Carolina has stated to me that this bill has a unanimous report from the committee and that there is no controversy about it."
Mr Snell: "What is the bill?"
Mr Rayburn: "It has something to do with something that is called marihuana. I believe it is a narcotic of some kind."
Mr Vinson: "Marihuana is the same as hashish."
Mr Snell: "Mr Speaker, I am not going to object but I think it is wrong to consider legislation of this character at this time of night."
Only four representatives asked for an explanation of the bill. Instead of a straight answer, a member of the Ways and means Committee gave them an account of criminal acts allegedly perpetrated by the use of marijuana. The act passed through the House without argument and was forwarded to the Senate Committee on Finance. The subcommittee hearing was held on July 12.
Clinton Hester, the Assistant General Counsel of the treasury Department, introduced the bill:
"The purpose, Mr Chairman, of HR 6906 is to employ the Federal taxing power to raise revenue by imposing occupational and transfer taxes upon dealings in marihuana and to discourage the widespread use of the drug by smokers and drug addicts.
"The flowering tops, leaves and seeds of the hemp plant contain a dangerous drug known as marihuana. The drug is used only to a negligible extent by the medical profession because the effect of the drug is so variable that a physician cannot tell how his patient will react to the drug and because there are so many better substitutes.
"The plant also has many industrial uses. From the mature stalk, fiber is produced which in turn is manufactured into twine, and other fiber products. From the seeds, oil is extracted which is used in the manufacture of such products as paint, varnish, linoleum, and soap. From hempseed cake, the residue of the seed after the oil has been extracted, cattle feed and fertilizer are manufactured. In addition the seed is used as special feed for pigeons.
"Marihuana is also used illicitly by smoking it in crudely prepared cigarettes, which are readily procurable in almost all parts of the country at prices ranging from 10 to 25 cents each. Under the influence of this drug the will is destroyed and all power of directing and controlling thought is lost... Inhibitions are released. As a result of these effects, many violent crimes have been and are being committed by persons under the influence of this drug. Not only is marihuana used by hardened criminals to steel them to commit violent crimes, but it is also being placed in the hands of high-school children in the form o marihuana cigarettes by unscrupulous peddlers. Its continued use results many times in impotency and insanity.
"Two objectives have dictated the form of HR 6906, first, the development of a plan of taxation which will raise revenue and at the same time render extremely difficult the acquisition of an adequate means of publicizing dealings in marihuana in order to tax and control the traffic effectively.
"This bill is modeled upon both the Harrison Narcotic Act and the National Firearms Act, which are designed to accomplish these same general objectives with respect to opium and coca leaves, and firearms, respectively.
"Under the provisions of this bill all legitimate handlers of marihuana are required to pay an occupational tax as follows: Manufacturers, compounders, and importers, $24 per year; producers, $5 per year; dealers, $3 per year; practitioners (doctors, dentists, veterinarians, and others of like character), and persons who use marihuana for experimental purposes, $1 per year. These persons, in addition to paying the occupational tax, must register with the collector of internal revenue and file information returns as to their dealings with marihuana.
"However, as an additional means of bringing the traffic in marihuana into the open, the bill requires all transfers of marihuana to be made in pursuance of official order forms issued by the Secretary of the treasury, upon which the details of the transaction are set forth. In order to raise the additional revenue and to prevent transfers to persons who would use marihuana for undesirable purposes, a transfer tax is imposed upon each transfer of marihuana. Upon transfers to registered persons, this tax is $1 per ounce, while upon transfers to non-registered persons, who under ordinary circumstances will be the illicit users of marihuana, a heavy tax of $100 per ounce is imposed. Heavy criminal penalties are provided for manufacturing, producing, or dealing in marihuana without registering and paying the special taxes, for transferring marihuana without registering and paying the special taxes, for transferring marihuana not in pursuance of an order form, and for acquiring marihuana without payment of the transfer tax.
"Thus, the bill is designed, through the occupational tax and the order form procedure, to publicize legitimate dealings in marihuana and through the $100 transfer tax to prevent the drug from coming into the hands of those who will put it to illicit uses.
"The production and sale of hemp and its products for industrial purposes will not be adversely affected by this bill. In general, the term 'marihuana' is defined in the bill so as to include only the flowering tops, leaves and seeds of the hemp plant and to exclude the mature stalk, oil and meal obtained from the seeds of the plant, and sterilized seed, incapable o germination.
"Under this definition of 'marihuana' the hemp producer will pay a small occupational tax but his fiber products will be entirely exempt from the provisions of this bill, including the order form and transfer tax provisions... The same is true of seed produced by the hemp grower for sale for the further production of the plant, for the manufacture of oil or for birdseed, except that such transfers will be made subject to regulations designed to prevent diversion of the seed for illegal purposes.
"Similarly, the manufacturers of oil and the byproducts of seed, such as hemp seed cake and meal, will pay an occupational tax, but their purchases of seed will be exempt from the transfer tax and order form provisions of the bill, if carried out in accordance with regulations. Further, under the definition of marihuana, the bill will not apply to their sales of birdseed, if the hemp seed contained therein is sterilized so as to be incapable of germination...
"The imposition of an occupational tax enables the government constitutionally to make it illegal to engage in the occupation without payment of the tax. Thus, unless the Congress in this bill imposes an occupational tax upon the producers of hemp, Congress cannot make the production of hemp for illegal purposes illegal. Hence, if the occupational tax is not imposed upon producers, marihuana may be legally produced for illicit purposes. Furthermore, the imposition of an occupational tax enables the Government to require the taxpayer to furnish information in connection with the business taxed. This would permit the Government to ascertain where the legitimate production of hemp is being carried out, and having this information, it can stamp out the illicit production more effectively. Obviously, therefore, the legitimate producers of hemp cannot be further exempted from the provisions of the bill. Otherwise, the bill cannot be enforced.
"Aside from the reasons stated as to why it is believed to be impossible to further exempt the producers of hemp from the provisions of the bill, Attention is invited to the fact that the primary purpose of this legislation is to raise revenue.
"That completes my statement, and we have witnesses present."
Sen. Davis: "Do I understand you to say that the primary purpose of this bill is to raise revenue?"
Mr Hester: "The primary reason of this legislation must be to raise revenue, because we are resorting to the taxing clause of the Constitution and the rule is that if on the face of the bill it appears to be a revenue bill, the courts will not inquire into any other motives that Congress may have had in enacting this legislation..."
Harry Anslinger was called as the first witness. He read into the record several more horror stories, some of the goriest yet, and lied about cannabis' medical utility and about the law's impact on the legitimate hemp industry. Anslinger also denied the "stepping-stone" thesis that marihuana leads to opiate addiction:
Sen. Brown: "Do you think that the recent great increase in the use of it that has taken place in the United States is probably due to the heavy hand of the law, in its effect upon the use of other drugs, and that persons who desire a stimulant are turning to this because of enforcement of the Harrison narcotics Act and the State laws?"
Anslinger: "We do not know of any cases where the opium user has transferred to marihuana. There is an entirely new class of people using marihuana. The opium user is around 35 to 40 years old. These users are 20 years old, and know nothing o heroin or morphine."
Sen. Brown: "What has caused the new dissemination o it? We did not hear anything of it until last year or so."
Anslinger: "I do not think that the war against opium has very much bearing upon the situation. The same question has been discussed in other countries; in Egypt particularly, where a great deal of hasheesh is used, and they tried o show that the marihuana user went to heroin, and when heroin got short he jumped back to hasheesh, but that is not true. This is an entirely different class.
"I do not know just why the abuse of marihuana has spread like wildfire in the last 4 or 5 years."
Mr Matt Rens, founder of the Rens Hemp Company of Madison, Wisconsin, entered into the record a written statement that interpreted the bill in relation to legitimate hemp producers, and suggested some changes, particularly asking that the $5 fee be reduced to $1 for the sake of the many small farmers who produced only a few acres of hemp for seed. Mr Hester promised to oblige him, saying, "We will take care of that."
Mr M. Mosknes, who was superintendent of the AmHempCo Corporation of Danville, Illinois, appeared as a witness for the industry to complain about the $5 tax:
"This company was organized 3 years ago by Bell Brothers of Muncie Industries and the Sloan Interests, who are textile people in New York. They had in mind developing a process whereby a fiber that is being used for rope and cordage could be further processed and made into plastics. Three years ago we planted 4,200 acres, last year 1,200 acres, and this year 7,000 acres, and we are in operation. The capacity of the plant is 15,000 acres.
"We have to contract our seed from growers in Kentucky, that was covered by Mr Rens, and their acreage runs anywhere from a quarter of an acre up, and we have no objection to the bill. In fact, any attempt to prevent the passage of a bill to protect the narcotic traffic would be unethical and un-American. That is not the point, but we do believe that a tax of $5 is going to be prohibitive for the small dealer as well as the man that grows the crop, because he will average ¾ I do not know what the average will be, but they raise as little as 2 acres."
Sen Brown: "As I understand it, Mr Hester can take care of the dealer."
Mr Johnson, who represented Chempaco and the Hemp Chemical Corporation, raised similar objections, but as he made clear in his somewhat incoherent statement, he did not care about small farmers:
"Now, getting down to the practical part of this measure, no one has any business growing this hemp in any quantity whatever except under contract with someone who is using it for a legitimate business. They have no more business growing it on one-tenth of an acre that I have growing sweet potatoes on my front lawn. Anyone who uses the seed or who used the stalk -- the hurd -- or uses the fiber as a manufacturer, a processor, who will contract to pay a man a good price to grow it for him; and these other people ought to be simply barred, and I am I favor of licensing them. I think the small producer is going to be eliminated, this man that sticks one-tenth of an acre. And why shouldn't he? He is doing no good to himself or anybody else. But here is a great industry where men will put in 10, 20, 30, 40, one gentleman I know planted 2,000 acres and expects to plant 20,000 acres.
"This has been experimented with in South Carolina, in Oregon, and all over the country, because these big industries that use the fiber and use the hurd have come to take into consideration crop failures, and therefore cannot confine themselves to just Minnesota or to South Carolina or to Oregon. Some of these people have already expended $300,000 in the last few years, trying to work out in big industries the use of this fiber, and they feel that it should be so stated in the law that the farmer who is growing the stalk and growing the fiber knows definitely that he is not growing anything that has marihuana in it. He does not want to grow marihuana, and yet we might have here an industry, purely by phraseology of the measure..,
"Now, on this question of the tax, and the constitutionality of the law, I am firmly convinced that the farmers' can be reduced to $1 and this law be sustained. This is not the sort of measure that people are saying it is, a regulatory measure under the guise of a tax measure. We do not need to run around the corner to the hemp industry in order to stop the sale of the flowers or of the leaves. It can be taxed like the automobile industry, or the cosmetic industry, like the fur industry, and we do not need to use any legal sophistry in this to sustain this statute because hemp is produced in the United States; and I would say in the presence of this committee that I am sure and would almost guarantee that Mr Hester and Mr Tipton could go before the Supreme Court and get a unanimous decision, if they would argue along the lines I am suggesting. This is not like narcotics, where there are no poppies growing, nothing like it. In my judgment a $1 tax on the farmer is sufficient. To my mind this industry is going to be more affected by the regulations, but I have no doubt Mr Anslinger and the gentlemen associated with him, with their wide experience, will work out regulations far more important than the law which will be fair to industry and the farmer."
Sen Brown: "Just let me ask you one question here. You say that you want the farmer to be made to realize that he is not growing marihuana?"
Mr Johnson: "In the stalk and fiber."
Sen Brown: "In the stalk and fiber, but of course he cannot grow the stalk and fiber without growing the resin plant?"
Mr Johnson: "That is right."
Sen Brown: "How are you going to leave that out? I do not see."
Mr Johnson: "Because he is going to have to sell his product. He will have to sell this to a manufacturer. Now, as a matter of fact the people making paper, and the finest grades of paper, which you cannot make in this country without the use of hemp at the present time, and which is being imported ¾ even a great deal of the paper that goes into our money is being imported ¾ must have hemp fiber. It is just a ridiculous situation, because it can be made out of our local products in this country. The paper manufacturer, when he gets the plant, simply blows these leaves away. They disappear when dried. They are gone. As a matter of fact, these people in Minnesota did not know until two months ago that the hemp which they grew there contained marihuana. Until this agitation came up they did not dream of it, and they were as much surprised as anyone else.
"Now, they will have some difficulties, just as the liquor people had some difficulties, and the man who does not recognize that, the producer or manufacturer, is going to be put out of business in my judgment, because there is a problem with marihuana."
The legislators soothed the industry representatives with patronizing agreements to agree, and finally entered into the record a letter from Dr Woodward, who had spared himself the humiliation of appearing before the gaggle of hypocrites:
"Sir: I have been instructed by the board of trustees of the American Medical Association to protest on behalf of the association against the enactment in its present form of so much of H.R. 6906 as relates to the medicinal use of cannabis and its preparation and derivatives...
"Cannabis and its preparations and derivatives are covered in the bill by the term 'marihuana' as that term is defined in section 1, para. (b). There is no evidence, however, that the medicinal use of these drugs has caused or is causing cannabis addiction. As remedial agents they are used to an inconsiderable extent, and the obvious purpose and effect of this bill is to impose so many restrictions on their medicinal use as to prevent such use altogether. Since the medicinal use of cannabis has not caused and is not causing addiction, the prevention of he sue of the drug for medicinal purposes can accomplish no good end whatsoever. How far it may serve to deprive the public of the benefits of the drug that on further research may prove to be of substantial value, it is impossible to foresee.
"The American medical Association has no objection to any reasonable regulation of the medicinal use of cannabis and its preparations and derivatives. It does protest, however, against being called upon to pay a special tax, to use special order forms in order to procure the drug, to keep special records concerning its professional use and to make special returns to Treasury Department officials, as a condition precedent to the use o cannabis in the practice of medicine in the several States, all separate and apart from the taxes, order forms, records, and reports required under the Harrison narcotics Act, with reference to opium and coca leaves and their preparations and derivatives.
"If the medicinal use of cannabis calls for Federal legal regulation further than the legal regulation that now exists, the drug can without difficulty be covered under the provisions of the Harrison Narcotics Act by a suitable amendment. By such a procedure the professional use of cannabis may readily be controlled as effectively as are the professional uses of opium and coca leaves, with less interference with professional practice and less cost and labor on the part of the Treasury Department. It has been suggested that the incorporation into the Harrison Narcotic Act would jeopardize the constitutionality of that act, but that suggestion has been supported by no specific statements of its legal basis or citations of legal authorities."
The bill was returned to the House with some suggestions that were adopted and returned after being passed without a roll call. In reply to a senator's question of whether or not the American Mediacl Association agreed with the bill, Congressman Vinson lied outright:
"Our committee heard testimony of Dr William Wharton [sic] who not only gave this measure his full support, but also the approval from the AMA which he represented as legislative counsel."
The Senate passed the bill offhand, and President Franklin Roosevelt delivered the coup de grace with the stroke of a pen he signed the Marihuana Tax Act on August 2, 1937.
(7) References ~
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