Harrison Narcotics Tax Act


From the article:

“An Act To provide for the registration of, with collectors of internal revenue, and to impose a special tax on all persons who produce, import, manufacture, compound, deal in, dispense, sell, distribute, or give away opium or coca leaves, their salts, derivatives, or preparations, and for other purposes.” The courts interpreted this to mean that physicians could prescribe narcotics to patients in the course of normal treatment, but not for the treatment of addiction.

In the 1800s opiates and cocaine were mostly unregulated drugs. In the 1890s the Sears & Roebuck catalogue, which was distributed to millions of Americans homes, offered a syringe and a small amount of cocaine for $1.50.[4]

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

Wright also stated that “one of the most unfortunate phases of smoking opium in this country is the large number of women who have become involved and were living as common-law wives or cohabitating with Chinese in the Chinatowns of our various cities”

The opium addicts were mostly women who were prescribed and dispensed legal opiates by physicians and pharmacist for ”female problems,” probably mostly pain at menstruation, or white men and Chinese at the Opium dens. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of these addicts were women

House representative Thomas Sisson stated, “The purpose of this bill—and we are all in sympathy with it—is to prevent the use of opium in the United States, destructive as it is to human happiness and human life.”[

The drafters played on fears of “drug-crazed, sex-mad negroes” and made references to Negroes under the influence of drugs murdering whites, degenerate Mexicans smoking marijuana, and “Chinamen” seducing white women with drugs.[16][17] Dr. Hamilton Wright, testified at a hearing for the Harrison Act. Wright alleged that drugs made blacks uncontrollable, gave them superhuman powers and caused them to rebel against white authority. Dr. Christopher Koch of the State Pharmacy Board of Pennsylvania testified that “Most of the attacks upon the white women of the South are the direct result of a cocaine-crazed Negro brain”.[4]

Before the Act was passed, on February 8, 1914, The New York Times published an article entitled “Negro Cocaine ‘Fiends’ Are New Southern Menace: Murder and Insanity Increasing Among Lower-Class Blacks” by Edward Huntington Williams, which reported that Southern sheriffs had increased the caliber of their weapons from .32 to .38 to bring down Negroes under the effect of cocaine.[4][8][12]

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

The act also marks the beginning of the creation of the modern, criminal drug addict and the American black market for drugs. Within five years the Rainey Committee, a Special Committee on Investigation appointed by Secretary of the Treasury William Gibbs McAdoo and led by Congressman T. Rainey, reported in June, 1919[20] that drugs were being smuggled into the country by sea, and across the Mexican and Canadian borders by nationally established organisations[21] and that the United States consumed 470,000 pounds of opium annually, compared to 17,000 pounds in both France and Germany.[20] The Monthly Summary of Foreign Commerce of the United States recorded that in the 7 months to January 1920, 528,635 pounds of opium was imported, compared to 74,650 pounds in the same period in 1919.[20]

As a reference point.. women got the right to vote in 1920 and discrimination was outlawed by the Civil Rights act of 1964…. and the war on drugs was officially expanded with the creation of the BNDD ( Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs) in the late 1960’s… and the ADA (Americans with Disability Act) was passed in 1990 to prohibit discrimination from those who are disabled/handicapped.

4 Responses

  1. Hi Boilerrph87. In my state if you get pulled over for anything you can pretty much expect to be tested right there on the spot. They even have the right to take your blood at the scene now. You can’t refuse a breathalyzer at all by law now. There are even commercials on TV about it. I live in Texas. It’s like they are just “out to get us”. I am always very careful when I drive here. It’s downright scary to me every time I get in the car. They make a lot of money off drivers and the outrageous tickets they give out. I think it’s all very corrupt. I was once stopped when I was wearing my seat belt and it didn’t look tight enough to some motorcycle cop. I couldn’t believe it. I have a new car now and we make sure every sticker is up to date. The seat belts and everything else work fine. We have to make sure everything is up to date because they WILL stop you even if you just don’t look right. I mean really, I know there are drunk driver’s out there because I was hit by one and it changed my entire life. So, I stay very aware. If I am in pain I do not drive at all. I abide bu every street sign I see. I hate living in fear of the police. I grew up thinking they were there to help us. If you call the police for ANYTHING here you can expect that someone will be going to jail. It’s just that bad. I’m serious. They are out to make money off you here and meet their quotas.

  2. I discovered this when I helped my son do some research for his debate on the pros of legalizing marijuana several years ago. And in the process of our research we could not find one study that was negative against marijuana. He found alot of information from government sources no less of potential positive uses for it. And the Harrison Act bigotry seemed to be the main reason it was outlawed. And how ironic in the last year since 2 states have legalized it suddenly theres now a “government study” out implying how bad it is. Mothers against Drunk Driving are also out to stop people on pain/controlled substances from driving as well. In my state, if you get pulled over or in a serious accident and the cop thinks you are under some influence and the breathalyzer is negative they can take you to the hospital and have your blood drawn and tested for alcohol and drugs. If drugs test positive they can charge you with DUI/OWI even if you have legal prescriptions. A short version from a cop friend of mine.

  3. Thanks for all the historical data that has led to this anti-opiate zealot bs we are having to deal with now. It’s hurting me a lot and I’m isolated and not hurting anyone else. I stay out of trouble and don’t go looking for it. I have lived with chronic pain my entire adult life because of a drunk driver. He broke my neck and broke my pelvis into 8 pieces. There were a lot of other injuries too. Swelling on my brain, internal injuries. loss of blood causing me to die 3 ties in the ER. severe lesions and severe bruising over most of my body. It was’t my fault. I had to go through surgeries 10 years later after this accident. That accident changed my life instantly. A lot of my dreams never came true after this. Instead it’s been a life of how to live and maneuver myself into employment when I was young that I could handle. It’s been a lifetime of always having to consider what pain I could handle and what I could physically endure. So where are all you Mothers Against Drunk Drivers now that I have survived what you campaign against? Where do I find relief when all you anti-opiate people who have probably never even broken a toe continue to make my life more miserable? I have a problem with the way things are going. A LOT of these opiate overdoses, deaths and suicides also involve street drugs. Opiate painkillers that are prescribed to “someone” who probably needed them, I hope, may be “involved” in these deaths by illegal means (stolen) but there are a lot of other factors that are not mentioned and a lot of innocent people are hurting needlessly. It’s not ALL because of prescription pain killers that some dummy commits suicide or overdoses because he/she has a substance abuse problem. This is fanaticism going on now. Straight and Simple. It’s hurting a LOT of people who legally need help with pain. I am disgusted and in pain. Extremism is NOT the answer.

  4. Things go better with Coke(cocaine)

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