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OPERATION INTERCEPTThe Multiple Consequences of Public Policy
The Multiple Consequences of Operation Intercept
The findings given in this chapter have been consolidated from the responses to each of the major areas of inquiry as set forth in the interview guide. Excerpts from taped interviews with drug users and drug sellers, as well as drug abuse rehabilitation workers and journalists who closely observed the events of the summer of 1969 in the New York City area, will be presented. The findings are divided into three sections. The first section will focus on the availability of marihuana during the Operation Intercept era. The second section will be concerned with the range of behavioral reactions to the marihuana shortage. The third section will explore attitudinal reactions to the situation and to the underlying public policy.
THE AVAILABILITY OF MARIHUANA DURING THE OPERATION INTERCEPT ERA
Although the idea of a general marihuana shortage appears to be a valid one, there were probably as many different specific experiences vis-a-vis the drug market as there are drug-using cliques in New York City. This observation was stated by a 25-year-old, full-time marihuana dealer who resides in Manhattan. He receives shipments of 50 pounds of marihuana at a time and has done so for the past year. Although receiving rather substantial shipments on a regular basis, generally from Texas via automobile, he does not consider his business dealings to be particularly atypical:
There's probably hundreds and hundreds of people like me just in Manhattan. Well, maybe not, because at times we've gone out of state to cop ourselves. If there's no grass we'll go get grass whereas most people who deal wait 'til their contact in the city gets grass.
Regarding differences in the marihuana market during the summer and early fall of 1969, he stated:
Just a little bit. But it's different like for every little group. Like the people that I deal to, if I'm having trouble getting grass there's a certain number of people who will think there's a shortage of grass. I guess there's probably a thousand different cliques like this just in Manhattan. A thousand is very conservative. Must be a few thousand, each one having its own contact. And if their contact doesn't have grass they'll think there's a shortage. And there's a possibility that a certain portion of the city will have a normal supply of grass.
When asked whether he believed there was ever a general shortage of a particular drug in a city or in the nation as a whole, he responded:
I would say that in Manhattan it's never like that. Except two years ago, the summer of two years ago, I would say that there was very little grass in all of Manhattan. Last year, summer, probably a lot of people were out of grass but just as many had their normal supply, depending on who your contact was and what he had. But generally speaking it does get tighter in the summer, every summer.
Apparently, the reputed marihuana shortage had little effect upon his ability to acquire the drug: "I wasn't dealing as heavy then as now, but whatever I wanted I got. It was never more than ten pounds at a time." Although significantly less than the 50-pound shipments he generally receives, the respondent stated that he generally preferred to do less business in the summer months. This was for personal reasons, unrelated to the drug market.
Although this dealer saw the marihuana shortage as a highly localized phenomenon, "depending on who your contact was," very few people took such a casual and particularized view of the situation. All other respondents were at least somewhat aware of a general marihuana shortage, although estimates regarding the extent of the shortage varied considerably. Two regular users of marihuana reported no impact at all upon their personal consumptions of marihuana. A 22-year-old Manhattan secretary, who has used marihuana for three years and who resides in a New York City suburb with her parents, described the situation for herself and her close friends as follows:
Well last summer I didn't have any problem with grass at all, because we had a lot of home-grown stuff.... Last summer people kept telling me they couldn't get any grass. But my group of friends and I really didn't have any trouble at all, because we either bought home-grown stuff from some people that were growing large amounts indoors, in New York, or we got from friends in upstate New York who grew lots of grass on their property. We always had plenty. There was never any problem.
Another respondent who "didn't have any problem" was a 25-year-old Brooklyn housewife, mother of two, who has used marihuana for six years:
I knew there was a shortage because people were talking about it and I saw things about it on T.V. But my husband always has a large stash so we could smoke as much as ever and that lasted us for the whole summer. The only difference was that we didn't give so much away. Like we wouldn't always offer to people when they came over. We got sort of cheap about it not knowing how long it would last. Also, he didn't sell ounces to friends like he used to. Maybe a couple of nickels all summer.
A 19-year-old female college student was also unaffected, due to her own infrequent pattern of marihuana use:
I've smoked pot for three years but that doesn't really mean anything because I only smoke on rare occasions. If someone has at a party or if we're going to a concert I'll get stoned. If it's there I'll use it, if not I don't care. I've never gone out and bought.
It should be noted that even these respondents, who experienced no personal difficulty, were still aware of an atypical marihuana market.
The remainder of those interviewed all experienced and/or observed some effect of the reported marihuana shortage upon the price and/or availability of the drug. Those who experienced only a Minimal impact included a 19-year-old male college student from Brooklyn, who has used marihuana for two years and occasionally sells:
We were pretty much preoccupied with hash.... As far as hash went, we had the best hash we've had in a long time. Some good red Lebanese hash. We had it in any quantity we wanted, at decent prices, for the whole summer.... So we didn't want too much grass but whenever we wanted it we were able to score. We found no problem getting it. The people we know always had.
When asked whether marihuana was more expensive than previously, he stated:
Maybe $20 to $30 more a pound. Before the summer it was $100 to $110 for a pound. During the summer it was running more around $140 to $150 a pound.
Although minimally affected, he was aware of the shortage:
Yes, we knew there was a grass shortage from the papers and from hearing other people talk. We also found we were doing a lot more selling. We never had any problem getting rid of any amount of hash. We weren't looking for profits. Just to make our money back and have some for our heads.
For this student and his friends, the marihuana shortage had little impact. Although slightly more expensive, he found it readily available in Bensonhurst.
Similarly, a resident of lower Manhattan, a staff reporter for a well-known East Village underground newspaper, found nothing unusual about the availability or price of marihuana during this period:
Well everyone kept saying it was going to get tight starting last spring, you know, buy your stock for the summer. The psychological impact of Operation Intercept plus there were so many more users, and it was getting to be between harvests and all that shit. But yet I found grass pretty freely available all the way through last summer. Fairly reasonable prices and decent stuff.
However, based on his experience covering drug-related stories for several local and underground newspapers, he noted that he has observed an upward trend in marihuana prices:
Well the price of grass generally went up. You couldn't score a pound of grass for $95 or $75 like you used to be able to. So now you've got to double those prices compared to a couple of years before, and you're always getting short weight and everything else, plus there are more young kids into dealing.... Pounds were expensive last year in New York. It cost $150 to $250 a key during the summer. I consider that pretty expensive. The old days are probably gone forever. So many people want it. Everybody smokes now. There aren't any more closet queens in the grass thing anymore. Everybody turns on any place you go.
In sum, he found average quality marihuana readily available, and noted a general upward trend in prices over the past three years. The summer of 1969 was not unique. Prices during this period were part of a long-term trend. A 2 1 -year-old student user-dealer from Bayside, Queens, observed "a little less smoking drugs around." Like the previous respondent, lie noted higher prices for marihuana during the summer, but perceived this as part of a long-term price escalation:
You could get it but not in any large quantities. If you wanted enough to deal, it was expensive to get. Expensive like if you wanted to get a pound, a couple of years ago you could get it for $100. Now it is $200.
Unlike these respondents, the remainder of those interviewed all observed and/or experienced a highly atypical marihuana market during the Operation Intercept era. They all noted both a shortage, making it less available, and higher prices for small and large quantity purchases. Further, they all saw this development as a unique, abnormal, short-term situation. The following are quotes from only a few of those who fall into this category. These selected responses are typical of particular subgroups in the sample. The reader will note that while some respondents emphasize high prices, others found limited availability of the drug to be the key problem factor.
The editor of an underground newspaper, a regular user of marihuana who has intimate knowledge of the Lower East Side drug scene, noted both short- and long-term changes in the price and availability of marihuana-.
Over the past year and a half marihuana has occasionally been hard to get. You could always get acid.... From '65 to '69 there was never any trouble. There was always more than one person to get from. Last summer and fall it was hard to get. It let up in the late fall. You were lucky to find one good contact. It was really a drought, even the Village Voice was writing articles about it. I once paid as high as $30 for an ounce. But it stayed, during that period, at least $20 an ounce unless you bought quantity. I usually like to get a quarter of a pound, but it wasn't around. There was never a shortage like last summer. Right now there's not a large supply around. You can get, but you have to check around, more than one source.... Also, last summer I got domestic stuff, lower quality. It got you high though. I think more people got into growing it last summer.... Also there was more hash around. You'd have to look around more for drugs and what happened is you'd run into hash before you'd run into grass. Usually it was the other way around.
An 18-year-old student., who sells marihuana to finance his college education, described the situation in his Long Island suburban community this way:
There was a lot of pot around the winter before this one. It was about $100 a pound; $120 would be a high price. Ounces sold for about $10. Then in the spring prices started getting higher, $125 to $150 a pound, and about $15 an ounce. In the summer if you got a pound for $200 you were lucky because there was hardly any around. Where I lived the price of an ounce was $25 and in the city it was $40.... If anyone knew anything about drugs they would know there wasn't much pot around. People that didn't smoke probably didn't know.
Several other respondents who were able to obtain marihuana in limited quantities emphasized the price factor. A 23-year-old high school art teacher from Queens commented:
Prices were higher last summer. An ounce was $25, it had previously been $15 or even $10. 1 had grass because I have good friends from other groups in Manhattan. My friends here were still into grass, but for a group there wasn't much around.
Several other respondents reported that they could obtain marihuana, but they noted a sharp increase in its price. As reported by these respondents, during the summer of 1969, the price of marihuana rose from between $15 and $20 an ounce to between $20 and $30 an ounce. Larger quantities were often unavailable.
Most of those who observed a shortage of marihuana as well as higher prices emphasized the lack of availability. A social worker at a drug treatment clinic, who has been a close observer of the New York City drug scene for many years, depicted the marihuana market as follows:
You could buy Acapulco Gold in April or May of last year at $100 a pound. It was not hard to get. Ounces of good quality pot were going for $15 to $20. In July and August similar quality was going for $35 to $40, and it was very hard to get. Even if people were willing to pay $40 it was hard to get. You could buy it in ounces but it was just about impossible to buy it in bulk.
Most respondents expressed similar observations, emphasizing that prices were high, "if you could get it." One of these respondents, a 26-year-old businessman from Queens stated: "If I got any it was expensive, like $40 an ounce. And that's all you could have gotten was an ounce." A 19-year-old student from Brooklyn stated:
Whereas we'd pay $20 an ounce before, usually we'd get it in larger quantities than ounces anyway, but if we did buy ounces $20 was the most we'd pay. In the summer it was $30 or $35 if you could get it.... We wasted a lot of time looking and then just couldn't get.
Another respondent who observed a "very tight market" was a 27-year-old stockbroker and part-time marihuana dealer. He emphasized the poor quality of the marihuana that was available.
Nobody was able to get any. I know various sources that could get some grass but the quality was very poor, and I don't smoke poor grass.... The price really didn't matter. I wasn't going to smoke or sell poor grass no matter what the price.
Unlike those respondents already quoted, many regular users of marihuana were unable to get any marihuana at all during this period. These respondents reported that they were unable to obtain marihuana for at least a month at a time, and several reported longer stretches - a few such periods lasting the whole summer. Reporting that whatever marihuana around was expensive, a 21 -year-old college senior spoke of the scarcity of marihuana among her friends in Jackson Heights, Queens:
I remember it was hard to get and we didn't have pot for a long time. Most of the time we didn't have it. And it was just too expensive. On rare occasions we would be able to get some.
A 24-year-old schoolteacher from Queens summarized the situation among his friends during the summer. "There was very little use Of marihuana because we didn't have any." A 23-year-old unemployed artist from Whitestone, Queens, reported:
At times it was impossible. There just wasn't any pot. There must have been some somewhere, but I couldn't find any. There wasn't any price for it. There just wasn't any.
A 27-year-old black bartender in East Harlem underscored this point: "I've seen it tight before, but never like this. There was absolutely no smoke around last summer."
A 43-year-old businessman, who uses marihuana regularly with his wife and friends in a Westchester community, stated:
I had a supply so it was cool. But I was very aware of the shortage because all kinds of straight commodity traders came to me, guys in their thirties and forties, guys I never expected, even relatives came to me to see if I could get.... These people all have money and are willing to pay a lot, some said they pay $40 an ounce and at times in the summer they still couldn't get.
This willingness and ability to pay high prices contrasts with the attitude of a 16-year-old Brooklyn youth who stated:
I buy it with friends. A lot of times we don't have much money. So when it got too expensive I couldn't get any.... Like, I like to buy a pound with some friends and sell ounces. Then I get free smoke. But the price was too high even if there was some around.
Black and Puerto Rican youths from the East Bronx reported that marihuana was unavailable in their neighborhood during the summer. Further, they were no longer able to buy it in Harlem, an alternative that had been used in the past. One respondent, a 17-year-old black high school student who had used marihuana for two years stated:
Smoke ran out. Like all of the people we used to cop from said that all of a sudden things were getting hard. They couldn't cop. You know, they couldn't get anything, and everywhere we went it was the same story all over.
Ms friend, an 18-year-old unemployed black who had used marihuana for three years, underscored this point: "We couldn't cop from the person we were copping from anymore and like other people ran out and nobody had anything." An 18-year-old black college student who had used marihuana for only seven months prior to the summer of 1969 stated: "Grass cut out. Like I would get off my job and we would go to this chick's house to score some smoke and we couldn't." Another resident of the East Bronx, a 17-year-old Puerto Rican male, presently suspended from high school, reported:
You heard about it down in Harlem or someplace else, always away from here, and then there wasn't nothin'. . . . By the time you got there, there was nothin' left. Like the papers might have called it a shortage but down here it was a panic.
Experiences relating to the marihuana supply during this period fell into four general categories:
1. No shortage/no higher prices: Although aware of a marihuana shortage, via word of mouth or the mass media, these marihuana users were not personally affected by the situation. They can be classified in the following three subcategories:
a. Those who had access to an adequate supply of domestically grown marihuana. Although several respondents reported that they knew of others (usually in the southern, Midwestern, and southwestern sections of the United States) who "grew their own," few respondents had access to an adequate supply for regular use during this period. Several others, who did experience a personal shortage, supplemented their supply with domestically grown marihuana, which was usually characterized as being of inferior quality.
b. Those whose supply was large enough to last through the summer and early fall of 1969, so that purchases during this period were unnecessary. Again, this situation was atypical since most marihuana users do not purchase enough at any one time to last for four or five months. One housewife, who reported an adequate stash," also reported that her husband curtailed his part-time dealing during this period. Other dealers, who operate on a larger scale, reported that business was affected by the lessened availability and increased price of marihuana, even though they Possessed enough marihuana for personal consumption.
c. Those who use marihuana so infrequently (usually as a means of sociability) that a two-, three-, or four-month layoff went unnoticed. Four such persons were interviewed, three of them females. Characteristically, these sporadic users enjoy using marihuana, and will usually do so when it is available, but do not personally purchase it or seek it out. Some seem to identify with the drug scene while others do not. However, this type of sporadic user does not represent all "experimenters," as many infrequent users were greatly affected by the marihuana shortage.
2. No shortage/higher prices: These persons were able to maintain their regular intake of marihuana, although the price of the activity increased. All respondents in this category used marihuana regularly (at least four times a week) and had access to several sources. Further, all identified with the drug scene and had sold marihuana at some time. Within this category, two subgroups can be identified, although they cannot be distinguished according to any social characteristics:
a. Those who perceived the price increase as part of a long-term evolutionary trend, emphasizing the increased demand for marihuana.
b. Those who perceived the price increase as a unique short-term situation, emphasizing seasonal variables and the restricted supply of marihuana.
3. Shortage/higher prices: The majority of respondents experienced and/or observed both the increasing price and decreasing availability of marihuana during this period. These respondents came from a wide range of locations and socioeconomic groups within the New York City vicinity, and represented various stages of involvement in drug use subcultures. This was found to be the most typical situation among marihuana users in New York City.
Although all respondents in this category experienced a highly atypical marihuana market, responses can be divided into the following subcategories:
a. Those who stressed the high price of marihuana.
b. Those who emphasized the difficulty of obtaining marihuana.
Generally, those who stressed the difficulty of obtaining marihuana were older, had greater financial resources, and were less involved in the drug scene than those who emphasized high prices.
4. Shortage/generally could not obtain marihuana during this period: Many respondents reported that they personally could not obtain any marihuana for continuous time periods of at least one month. All but a few recalled that they had never previously experienced this type of situation.
Although they represented various geographical locations and socioeconomic groups in the New York City area, this situation appears to have been Particularly common among two distinct types of marihuana users:
a. Middle- and upper-middle-class white businessmen, professionals, and others in "respectable" occupational and community positions, whose only tie to a drug subculture consisted of one or two personal contacts from whom they previously purchased marihuana.
b. Young black and Puerto Rican users of marihuana, who were students, unemployed or marginally employed, and resided in low-income ghetto areas.
Observations and interviews during and following the Operation Intercept period have confirmed the conclusion that there was a severe marihuana shortage in New York City during the summer and early fall of 1969. Although a general shortage was evident, the extent of the shortage for various groups and individuals was not found to be constant. Further, the user's ability to obtain marihuana was influenced by factors unrelated to financial resources. Thus, marihuana was least available in ghetto areas and among "establishment" users - these two groups representing opposite poles on the socioeconomic spectrum. These findings emphasize the highly differentiated and uncontrolled nature of the marihuana market. In the next section we will examine the reactions of various groups and individuals to this situation, focusing on the use and availability of drugs other than marihuana.
BEHAVIORAL REACTIONS TO THE GENERAL MARIHUANA SHORTAGE
The stated objective of Operation Intercept was to curtail the Supply of marihuana, which, according to the government's logic, would cause drastic increases in its price, thus forcing millions of marihuana users to abstain from illegal drug consumption. This report is intended to document and analyze the range of behavioral reactions to this single public policy decision, the unanticipated as well as the anticipated effects.
The following are excerpts from selected interviews. These passages were selected for three reasons. First, it is believed that an analysis of behavioral consequences Should be grounded in the observations of the respondents, as stated by the respondents. Second, as it turned out, behavioral responses tended to reflect the varying circumstances and conditions that developed among drug users in various age, socioeconomic, and neighborhood groups in New York City. Such responses also reflected the degree of drug involvement among these groups prior to the shortage. Therefore, the selections are intended to document this range of behavioral reactions. The third reason for this selection is derived from the second. Since respondents with similar social backgrounds tended to respond to the situation in a similar manner, presenting the comments of all of the respondents would become quite repetitious. As stated, the purpose of this report is to document the range of intended and unintended consequences of Operation Intercept, without pretending to assess the statistical occurrence of any one reaction.
Abstaining and Decreased Drug Use
It was seen that a general marihuana shortage was evident in the New York City area during the summer and early fall of 1 969. If the government's prognosis was accurate, we would have observed a general decrease in drug use during this period. Ideally, the policy aimed at complete abstention by a significant proportion of drug users. Thus, both abstention and decreased drug use can be characterized as intended consequences of the Operation Intercept policy.
Throughout eight months of observations and interviews, few users of marihuana were found who reported that they had completely abstained from drug use during this period. Actually, since these respondents were very infrequent users prior to the shortage, "abstain" would be all inappropriate term. They all used marihuana so infrequently and were so uninvolved in the drug scene, that these were the only persons interviewed who were unsure as to the specific period of time in which it was unavailable.
However, several respondents reported that their own use of drugs decreased, and others reported observing friends or acquaintances whose drug use was minimized or temporarily discontinued.
A 27-year-old businessman who had difficulty obtaining marihuana during this period described his less frequent use of marihuana this way: "Well, when I didn't have it, I didn't smoke it.... Yes, sometimes my friends and I just didn't have any." He went on to say that none of his friends, predominantly middle-class, white-collar businessmen and their wives, ever used drugs other than marihuana and hashish. He stated that they did use hashish more often than in the past, and that it was more available than it had been, but that in general drug use had declined in this group. He emphatically stated that other drugs were not considered: "None of them will use any substitutes that I know of except hash."
Two other respondents, a 24-year-old housewife and a 27-year-old stockbroker, described their decreased use of drugs. She stated: "Well, it's simple. We didn't have much grass to smoke so we smoked much less." He reported that, although he was not forced to abstain, his drug use pattern was altered:
I had, I always have a limited amount on hand, just in case these things do happen. I had a minimal amount. I mean I couldn't smoke as much as I wanted to, but just a few times a week with friends. It's not a question of needing it, it's just a question of not being able to get it.
However, it must be noted that, although both respondents reported less drug use generally, each referred to the greater use and availability of hashish during this period.
All other accounts of abstaining came only from outside sources, who were either not personally involved in drug use or who did not personally abstain. A writer for all underground newspaper observed:
I know a lot of people whose personalities seemed to suffer. They were anxious and would get pissed off very easily. I think this was because there wasn't any grass around.
After noting the increased use of amphetamines and barbiturates in her upper Manhattan neighborhood. a secretary at a drug rehabilitation center commented on abstainers: "I'm sure there must have been some but I didn't see any." A more definitive response was offered by a social worker employed by a lower Manhattan drug rehabilitation clinic. Although he did not observe much abstinence among outpatients at the clinic or their peers, he did observe this mode of response by middle-aged businessmen and professionals in his upper-middle-class Manhattan neighborhood:
Many people did abstain. They would look for it but if they found it, good. If they didn't, they didn't bother to shift onto anything else. Possibly some more drinking did take place, alcohol, but I'm not sure.
Apparently, abstaining from all drug use was a highly atypical reaction to the marihuana shortage. Although less marihuana use was reported by many drug users and observers of the drug scene, most of these went on to note increased availability and use of drugs other than marihuana. Those who did report a personal decline in drug use were distinguished by certain characteristics that can be categorized as follows:
1. Middle-class and upper-middle-class men and women, between the ages of 24 and 55, who previously used marihuana on a regular basis (four times a week) but who had little identification with a drug subculture, a counterculture movement, or a drug-oriented way of life. Prior to the shortage, these respondents had never used any illegally obtained drug other than marihuana or hashish.
2. Very infrequent users of marihuana, who might have gone several months without using it even if the shortage had never developed. These were white, middle-class people, over 20 years of age, involved in white-collar employment or educational endeavors. As in the former group, these respondents had never used any illegally obtained drug other than marihuana or hashish prior to the shortage.
In sum, the stated objectives of Operation Intercept were realized only among a very limited segment of drug users in the New York City area. Further, these marihuana users are distinguished by certain objective and subjective characteristics, which, taken as a whole, make them unrepresentative of the general drug-using population These factors include serious involvements in respectable social institutions, lack of identification with a drug subculture, an average age above 20 years, and rare involvement in multiple drug use experimentation.
Switching: The Availability and Use of Drugs Other than Marihuana
As stated previously, the ultimate objective of Operation Intercept was to curtail marihuana consumption as well as general illegal drug use in the population. The Presidential Task Force did not state the expectation that a drastically decreased supply of marihuana would increase the use of other illegal or illegally obtained drugs, or that it would lead the growing drug consuming population to greater involvement in drug distribution. Assuming that these stated goals realistically reflected the government's intentions and assessments, all behavioral reactions and drug use modalities other than abstention or decreased usage may be termed unintended consequences of that public policy decision.
It was found that, although a general marihuana shortage materialized, the stated objectives of Operation Intercept were realized among only a very limited proportion of drug users. Further, these abstainers were found to be quite unrepresentative of the general drug-using population of the area. Far more common was the observation, among drug users, suppliers, and close observers of the drug scene alike, that this period was characterized by a drastic increase in the availability and use of drugs other than marihuana. Although some respondents simply noted this change, most perceived a causal relationship between the limited supply of marihuana and accentuated involvement in drug distribution, multiple drug use, and/or the use of other illegally obtained drugs. This development will now be explored.
The most general result of the marihuana shortage was the increased availability and use of hashish. Increased hashish usage was reported in more neighborhoods and by a wider range of marihuana users than was any other single reaction to the shortage. This does not mean that those groups and individuals who reported more hashish usage did not also partake of other illegal or illegally obtained drugs, some of which were used for the first time. In the following excerpts, there are references to barbiturates, amphetamine stimulants, cocaine, the psychedelics, and heroin (an opiate). Nearly all of the groups and individuals who reported an increased use of hashish during this period also referred to an increase in the use and availability of drugs that fall into these other categories. In fact, most Of the respondents emphasized the use of these other drugs, and Minimized the importance of increased hashish consumption in their neighborhoods.
The greater availability and use of hashish was even noted by several respondents who had reported a decline in overall drug consumption during this period. As might be expected, these respondents were the same persons who fell into the categories used to define those who minimized their drug intake during the shortage. They were generally older than most marihuana users, were middle and upper-middle-class persons engaged in white-collar occupations, and used marihuana regularly but identified with establishment institutions rather than with a drug subculture. The comments of a 26-year-old salesman from Howard Beach, Queens, were typical of this type of marihuana user:
Yes, there was more hash around. We used it more than usual. Whichever we could obtain. At that time hash was much more obtainable. Hash was just about all you could get in the summer. And it was expensive too.... Around $80 to $90 an ounce. I smoked what I got, hash or grass.... No, even today, in my circles I don't know any people who use speed or LSD or heroin or other pills and things like that.
When asked what he thought the reaction would be among his friends and associates if another shortage developed, his answer was somewhat less conservative than his past actions would lead one to expect:
I think that this time there would be more dependence on other drugs as opposed to last summer. Much more drugs. it seems to me that other drugs are coming into play more than they were. Each year they're increasing tremendously, sort of spiraling. Like the mild hallucinatories. I don't know if I'd particularly like that type of head. I like the pot head. It's a relaxed type of head. You can groove on music. But, if there was no grass around, I might try them.
The behavioral reaction of this type of marihuana user cannot be easily characterized as a success or a failure for the Operation Intercept policy. On the one hand, overall drug consumption was decreased by the policy-enforced shortage. On the other hand, the use of hashish increased and the total situation seems to have been one factor in the consideration of using other drugs in the future. Whether we consider this kind of two-sided result as beneficial or detrimental in terms of the long-range effort to curtail drug abuse, the fact is that this sort of very conservative attitude toward drug use was found to be so unrepresentative of the behavior and attitudes manifested in the general drug-using population that the answer to this question does not appear to be of pressing importance. Suffice it to say that even for some of those persons who experienced less drug use during this period the policy cannot claim unmitigated success.
The overwhelming majority of respondents, including drug users, drug suppliers, and observers of the drug scene, characterized the summer and early fall of 1969 as a period of heavy multiple drug use and unprecedented experimentation. Further, many observed a widespread and rapid proliferation of drug distribution involvements, and the adaptation of established drug distributors to the marihuana scarcity. The following excerpts concerning the availability and use of drugs other than marihuana during the period in question reflect adaptive behaviors among drug users that were unambiguously antithetical to the stated goals of the Operation Intercept policy.
A 20-year-old taxi driver described the range of drugs used by his companions in a middle-class residential Queens community during the summer:
Before the summer it was mostly grass. I guess we had tried everything, except heroin, but just on occasions. As I said, it was mostly smoking.... Smoke was scarce and prices were high on whatever we heard could be gotten. We didn't bother much with that but instead we did some other drugs. Mostly downs and some tripping too. I tripped about ten times, at least, in the summer.... Mostly we had Seconals, a hundred for $20, about five for a dollar. A few times we got Tuinals at about four for a dollar. There were a lot more downs around during the summer.... It came in spurts. We did whatever we got. We might do it four, five, six times a week for a couple of weeks. Then we would trip a little. Then some speed would be around and we'd do that some. Then some more downs. Whatever is around.... Trips were always an occasional thing, but sometimes in the summer we'd do it often, like one day after the other.... They always seemed to be readily available.... Always somewhere around three or four dollars a trip. Sometimes they were cheaper.... People took speed about as much during the summer as before.... When there wasn't grass around we smoked a lot of hash. Hash seemed to be around a lot more than usual.... Now it's mostly grass again but we do downs more than before the summer. A lot of the girls I know seem to like them. Well, if it was very scarce again a good many of them would just use something else. People I know would still want to get high and they would do whatever they could get. Drinking might be one thing, but from what I've seen it tends more toward other kinds of drugs. I'd probably see if there was some speed or downs around, or hash hopefully, if there was another shortage.
Although this group had previously experimented with "everything, except heroin," drugs other than marihuana were first used frequently during the shortage. Availability, or "whatever is around," rather than a distinct preference for any one particular type of drug, was most important in determining drug usage during this period.
Similar developments were noted by a college student from Brooklyn who had become "used to being stoned," but had used only marihuana and hashish prior to the summer shortage. She pointed to the changed drug use patterns that she observed upon returning to her middle-class neighborhood from a summer vacation abroad. Her travels also allowed her to observe a situation in which hashish smuggling became appealing to young people who had no such previous involvement:
Before the summer I had only used marihuana and hashish. Some people used ups, but not much, and some used mescaline once in awhile.... Pot was always easy to get at about $20 an ounce. I usually got half an ounce for $10.... I was in Europe during July and August so I really don't know about the drug situation here during that time, except that my friends said it was hard to get grass. It was getting harder in June, but I wasn't into it then, because I was thinking about leaving.... In Europe I noticed hashish being used. There wasn't any pot.... I really didn't talk about it much there because I wasn't into it. But I met some kids who were sending back hash or who were going to try to bring it back. It was clear that they'd get a lot of money for it because there wasn't any grass in the city. Many people I met seemed to be interested in doing this.... Yes, Americans.... One friend of mine, a guy, did it. He must have gotten through customs O.K. He had it when he got back to the States. He sold most of it but kept some. Grass was still hard to get. He told me he had a free summer vacation.... Things had definitely changed around here when I got back. There was absolutely no grass around. In fact, I was very surprised because people who had never tripped acid before were tripping regularly. And there was a great deal of speed around and lots and lots of downs. There were no other drugs to take so that's what people were taking.... Sure I asked around. There was some hash and we smoked whatever we could get and then we popped pills.... Seconals, Tuinals, ups, speed.... I don't know what the ups were. I tripped acid for the first time.... They were doing drugs to a greater extent than I wanted to. All my friends were into drugs really heavy in the fall.... They said it was because there was nothing around in the summer except pills. There was no grass and not so much hash and, if you found it, it was expensive. Downs and ups were around before the summer, but nobody used them because there was plenty of grass and it was all good.... I mean downs never interested me and speed and acid always scared me, so I never did them as long as I had grass.... I resisted for awhile but then there was just nothing else.... Once grass came back pills just sort of faded away. Occasionally some people take downs but it is not as prevalent as it was when there was nothing else.... I'm not sure what would happen if there were no grass again. I guess they'd go back to taking downs and ups and more mescaline. I really don't know what we'd do. We certainly won't just be straight for whatever period the grass stops. They're used to, I'm used to being stoned, occasionally and more than occasionally.
Although the aforementioned drugs were available prior to the summer marihuana shortage, "nobody used them because there was plenty of grass." Things changed drastically when "there was just nothing else." Drugs came to be used so indiscriminately that even those with vastly different properties and effects came to be lumped together under the heading of "pills," in the way that marihuana and hashish,, which are quite similar, had always been interchangeable among her companions.
A college student from Brooklyn emphasized the increased use of hashish and mescaline by his group of friends during the summer:
I was in Brooklyn this past summer. . . . As far as hash went, we had the best hash that we've had in a long time, good red Lebanese hash. We had it in any quantity we wanted, at decent prices, for the whole summer. We were pretty much preoccupied with the hash so we didn't want too much grass.... I couldn't say if there was more hash around than before because the previous year we only looked for grass. Now, hash is the predominant drug. - . . Over the summer, that's when my friends and I started tripping pretty heavily. . . . We weren't looking much for LSD. We looked mostly got into mescaline so we came into it almost also had a pretty good supply of THC around. drugs before the summer but I used them more . . . . We really didn't hear much about ups the summer. We were happy with our hash and know really. . . . I've used downs and I've used twice. I couldn't see myself living on them. I don't like the idea of a pill to go to sleep and another to wake you up everyday. - . . Yes, we knew there was a grass shortage from the papers and from hearing other people talk. We also found out we were doing a lot more selling. There was never any problem getting rid of any amount of hash. We weren't looking for profits, just to make our money back and have some for our heads.
In this case, drugs that had been "tried" before the summer, became the primary drugs used during the shortage. As hashish, mescaline, and THC came to be used on a regular basis, the group's interest in marihuana declined appreciably.
A 22-year-old teacher from a middle-class Queens community emphasized the increased use and availability of hashish, barbiturates, and amphetamines among her neighborhood friends:
People are using stuff a lot less now compared to last summer. They are not taking any harder stuff like acid or downs. Now they're just smoking. Every once in a while they'll take a couple of ups or downs but nothing much. . . It was heaviest last summer.... We used some downs and speed during the summer. I took mescaline once. My friends speed a lot. Well, one was taking it every day, almost. But I only took it a few times. I took downs more. . . . I don't know if there were more downs around in the summer because I wasn't in contact with them before. I first got to know about them during the summer. People just had them. They said try it, so I did. They were good.... Hash was around. I guess we smoked every night. It was a big thing if we didn't smoke for a night. Once or twice we got grass. Otherwise it was hash. . . . Yeah, we knew there was a pot shortage. It was on TV and everything. And we couldn't get it. But it didn't make any difference because there was so much hash around. . . . You get together and you want to get high so you'll find something to use. Getting high is something to do when everyone gets together and there's nothing else to do. It's cheap. Even watching TV is more fun if you're stoned.
She also spoke of her 17-year-old brother's hashish-selling involvements:
You should have interviewed my brother because he made a fortune last summer selling hash. . . . He's 17. .. . He was selling hash all summer. If my father knew he'd have murdered him. My father is a policeman .... My brother was getting it from his friends and then selling it in smaller amounts. . . . No, he was never into selling before the summer. He did it because it was available to him, people wanted it, and he needed an easy way to make money.... I remember seeing Walter Cronkite on TV talking about the shortage. My brother and I were stoned out of our heads. We were stoned everyday, the shortage didn't make any difference, and there was Walter Cronkite talking about it. We cracked up.
It appears from these comments and from those of the previous respondent that the marihuana shortage created a situation in which many of those who were able to obtain a regular supply of hashish became involved in its sale. It also appears that little thought was given to the added risks involved in this transition.
A researcher at a drug rehabilitation clinic discussed the increased use of what he called the "chemical drugs." He was referring to the drug use behavior of students and young white-collar workers residing in Manhattan:
Last year it wasn't chemicals. Last year it was basically grass, just marihuana and hashish. Recently I've noticed these people aren't into smoking as much as they are interested in taking a condensed form like THC and especially mescaline. They also have started on this aphrodisiac that came in. It's Korean incense, a spice, and it is sold in pills or capsules. It's legal and it's supposedly an aphrodisiac. Now they're into mescaline again. These people don't want to take LSD. They'd rather take THC, mescaline, or STP.... Pot wasn't that accessible last year. That's why I've noticed a growth in chemicals. . . . That was in the late springtime, early summer. In the winter most of my friends had an ample supply of grass. Whether they stored up for that I don't know, but they did have enough grass and hash. It was springtime, perhaps, when they started using it all up, that they started into the chemicals. And then there was a large turnover among my student friends to using LSD, speed, mescaline.... It was terribly hard to get grass during the summer. I was approached a number of times on the streets, three times I think, which was quite a shock, you know, to be approached by someone who mumbles "you want grass?" It was really wild. That never happened before.... People I was in contact with didn't stop using drugs. No, that's when they started going to the chemicals. A lot of mescaline was used. . . . They might have tried chemicals anyway. I can't say they wouldn't have used them even if grass was accessible, but not to the extent they did, like going on seventeen trips using LSD and mescaline .... Snappers became popular during that period, amyl nitrite. It's for asthmatic and heart patients. It's a stimulant and makes the heart beat faster and they really got into that during the shortage. In other words, they smoked, but they wouldn't smoke that much because there was a shortage, so to get more of a head, they would snap these things. And then there was a great use of amyl nitrite, snappers, or poppers. . . . I think this changing drugs basically is conscious. I think it is out of necessity. They want the head, they think it is pleasurable, and so they go on to something else. . . . I don't know if these chemicals became more available when grass was less available. I would say that they became more appealing, so you would search out LSD, mescaline, or stuff like that. I think it's always been around, but if there were some graph made of the sale, the gross product or sales, you'd notice marihuana wasn't used that much. Whether it wasn't accessible or it was too expensive, that was a fact, there wasn't enough. You'd see that it sort of separates in that the chemical drug use increased. . . . From what I saw, the person who was previously getting the marihuana, that same person began getting and selling the chemicals.
According to this respondent, the scarcity of marihuana led to experimentation with legal (amyl nitrite, Korean incense) as well as illegal (THC, LSD, "speed," mescaline, STP) substances. Established marihuana dealers adapted to the shortage by catering to the growing demand for the "chemical drugs." He also discussed the heightened interest in domestic marihuana:
Remember what books were being published last year? Books on how to grow your own grass. A lot of people got into that and they are still doing it because there is still that fear. There is a rumor that grass is going to be terribly unavailable and even pills will be unavailable. So people are growing their own grass. I think it was Joe Rasso who put out a little pamphlet and lots of others too. It's sort of died out. I think there was a big influx of grass recently but there is a threat that it will be cut down again next summer. . . . I think a lot of people would try to get jobs down by the Mexican border. . . . I think the same thing would happen, lots of people are growing their own. Five of my friends, heavy smokers who really enjoy smoking, are doing it. One chick has three garden boxes filled. Another is growing it on his fire escape in midtown. Another friend, a bio teacher, is growing a whole patch of it in school.... I think they are doing it as a fun thing to do. But also with the knowledge that there might be that shortage again in the summer. One friend has just bought ten mescaline and ten acid tabs. He's getting ready for the summer.
A middle-aged businessman from an affluent Westchester community, who had previously used marihuana with only a very small group of friends, noted another consequence of the marihuana shortage:
I was very aware of the shortage because all kinds of straight commodity traders came to me, guys in their thirties and forties, guys I never expected, even relatives came to me to see if I could get. Not freaks. All kinds of people were sort of driven out into the open. . . . Actually, I greatly expanded my range of friends. Now as a direct result of 0peration Intercept, we get Jamaican, Peruvian, and North African pot as well. - - All these different people, previously unconnected, have pooled their resources.
He analyzed the situation from an economic viewpoint and emphasized the age factor in distinguishing between those who switched to "stronger drugs" and those who "returned to booze":
The younger ones unfortunately will go on to stronger drugs while people my age return to booze. That's what was happening last summer, . . . Basically, I look at it as a market phenomenon. Demand is always met. It's impossible to turn off the supply of any product which is in demand. It is an economic fact, as seen in Prohibition. If drugs are more satisfactory than booze to younger people, drugs will be available to them.
Although the shortage drove "straight" types "Out into the open," drugs other than marihuana and alcohol were not used among his peers.
A writer for an underground newspaper, who had published articles on the Lower East Side drug scene, underlined the use of psychedelic drugs, hashish, and heroin during the summer marihuana shortage. He also spoke of the "weekend junkie" phenomenon:
I think the government does want to stop grass from coming into the States but I think it's a mistake because you get a lot of kids now going on to other drugs. . . . Well, I saw more kids O.D.-ing, 'cause they'll take anything now. Anything they can get their hands on. Any kind of dope. . . . There's a lot of acid around, for example. A lot of people are taking acid again. There was a time that people weren't. Acid use went down a lot. People got a little uptight about it. But now, since last winter, they have really good acid. Pure, good, cheap acid at fifty cents a tab for sunshine, and now there's even better acid called quicksilver that's coming in. Kids are taking a lot of acid and using it more often, especially when there is very little speed in it like the kind I've had recently. People thought they were getting pure acid a year or two ago, but when you compare it to the acid you get now, you know somebody put some shit in that old acid .... Well, the prices of grass generally went up. You couldn't score a pound of grass for $95 or $75 like you used to be able to. So now You've got to double those prices compared to a couple of years ago, and You're always getting short weight and everything else, plus there are more Young kids into dealing. They're not necessarily into it for a profit, but they're into it to pay for their own or just to score a key and split it up with all their friends. If you don't have the $250 yourself, you get a bunch of People together and you go score it. With weight you have much closer control over the grass you're getting instead of buying an ounce off the street or something. . . . If you have the bread, sure you buy more when it's scarce. If you don't have the bread then You just have to buy ounces. In times of shortage there's going to be more ounce dealing because there's not much weight around. When it is around they buy bigger. Nobody pays much attention to the fact that dope is illegal. But now, at this particular time, there is very little grass. People are smoking a lot of' hash. In London it's just all hash. There it is $25 an ounce and here it is $75 an ounce. You can trade an ounce of grass for an ounce of' hash no sweat at all in Europe, and it is getting to that point here. Hash is getting cheaper because people are bringing in more. It's more profitable and it doesn't take up as much space. . . . There was and is certainly more smack available. Correlations are very hard to make because it's a very diverse society. Generalizations are easy to make. You could always say that the shortage of grass was reflected in the number of deaths from smack. In New York alone it was like double last summer than the year before and this year it's climbing also. It's easy to say that just because there's no grass people are taking smack. I don't know if that applies to a large number of people. There are more weekend junkies than there ever were. Those are people who snort smack on a Saturday night, assuming that they can get away with it and are not yet addicted. I knew a few but I know more now.
He also attempted to distinguish between those who abstain from drug use during a marihuana shortage because they "can't score," those who realize that they "don't really need it," and the "younger kids" who "just want to get stoned all the time" and go to using other drugs:
There are a lot of people who can't score. Like office workers who don't know where to go. When there is a lot of grass around it's everywhere so they get some too, because somehow, at parties or somewhere, someone's got a bag to sell them. But how they score when things are tight I don't know. People are beginning to feel it's not that big a part of their lives, too. I mean that when the realization comes that there's a grass shortage at first everyone goes through this whole thing, shit I need some dope, you know. And then they find that they don't really need it, it's just nice to have. And when you don't have it you just don't get uptight about it. But there are a lot of people who, and I think that's misusing grass, just want to get stoned all the time. When there's no grass around these people just go on to other drugs. . . . Like the younger kids who haven't smoked that long but who sort of grew up on drugs. . . . I see that at parties and just watching the kids around. The latest thing was pink mescaline, synthetic mescaline. The kids were taking it. I don't know if it's mescaline. They don't know if it's mescaline, it's just what somebody told them when he sold it to them for a buck a tab. Sure, they're always taking drugs without knowing what it is. They're "dopers".
A 23-year-old teacher from Queens depicted the wide range of reactions in his middle-class Suburban neighborhood:
I didn't know any people who stopped using drugs during the shortage. Yes, there were a couple of exceptions. People who would take nothing rather than an up, down, or a trip. They were older people, all over 25, and they went back to liquor, where they came from. When there was coke around, during the shortage, for the most part these people tried it but it was still hard to get a hold of and expensive.... There was more hash than grass around last summer and these people used more of it. But they consider hash and grass the same thing and wouldn't consider that a switch.
He distinguished between drug use within his own group of friends (people 22 to 27 years old) and drug use within a younger neighborhood group (17 to 22 years old). He also described the process by which many in this younger group who were "on grass and hash very heavy" switched "over to downs mostly" and then "went right into heroin":
Most of the younger group, younger than me, between 17 and 22, my brother's age group, were strictly on grass and hash. Last summer when there was a decline in grass they mostly went over to ups and downs.... I don't know for sure what they cost, but they were very, very cheap. This younger group would get like a hundred very cheaply and give them away. That's why a lot of people were O.D.-ing last summer.... Eventually this younger group started using hard drugs. It happened like this. This younger group was on grass and hash very heavy, like smoking every day, and all of a sudden they couldn't get any. So they went over to downs mostly, and then they got tired of downs and they went right into heroin. Heroin was more available than grass last summer in Bayside. It was all around the neighborhood. As I said, it was more available than grass. . . . They shot it, skin popped and mainlined. . . . In my group, mostly people 22 to 27, most people, in fact I'd say all of them, during the shortage they started tripping. A couple of them had tripped before but it wasn't a group thing or a regular thing. During the summer we would trip to get high. It was easier to get mescaline or acid than grass for awhile....
Concerning the long-term effects of these adjustments, he stated:
The people who switched over to heroin stayed on heroin for the most part. Those people who were on ups and downs through the summer came back to grass and the people who were tripping also came back to grass. They might still trip or speed once in awhile but not like before when you wanted to get high you tripped instead of smoking. But the people who started with heroin are still doing it now. The others are using marihuana for the most part.
Although many illicit drugs were readily available in this area, drug-using peer groups of different ages selected different substitutes for marihuana.
An 18-year-old drug dealer from an affluent Long Island community described drug use patterns in his Community and his own increased involvement in drug distribution during this period:
About a year ago everybody was doing just pot. There was a lot of pot around. There were no hard drugs or pills or anything. Coming into the summertime, I was dealing already. Things were starting to get dry for smoke, grass and hash, so I started dealing other drugs like LSD and ups and downs and speed. And my friends started turning to other drugs. They started tripping and speeding. Nobody I knew at that time went to dope. ... Now I know a lot of people who do dope, and not too many people who do only grass, and nobody who trips. They're mostly doing hard drugs or only soft drugs. It's like a big split in the middle.... Some people do barbiturates but it's a very small minority. Most people do smoke or hard drugs, dope. . . . There seemed to be an abnormal quantity of hash around in the summer, much more than normal. But the price of that was still high because it was very good quality stuff. It was $80 to $85 an ounce. That past winter it would normally be $80 an ounce.... It wasn't that much higher, but people didn't really want hash. It's too much of a hassle. They like to smoke in the car and you can carry joints anywhere. Not a pipe. It's easier to get busted for hash. Grass is easier to handle.
He described some of the particulars of the drug market in his neighborhood and of his own drug dealing activities:
Yes, I dealt hash during the summer, that was the only smoke I dealt. I sold mostly quarter ounces, half ounces, and ounces. I would buy like a quarter of a pound or a half of a pound. I got decent prices, about $250 for a quarter. I'd sell it for $80 an ounce, or maybe $85, or $25 for a quarter ounce. . . . Mostly LSD was around last summer. There was some mescaline. There were ups and downs and there was speed. There was a small quantity of cocaine but that was expensive. And there was some heroin. . . . The price of LSD went way down. It was $2 or $3 a tab. The normal price in our neighborhood had been $4 a tab. The price went down almost in half, especially for quantity. . . . People wanted marihuana and there was none around. So they had to either stay straight or turn to another drug. The cheapest drug around was LSD. People turned to that because there was no smoke. They bought large quantities so it was cheap. ... Maybe a fifth of the people I know stayed straight, maybe less. Most were onto other things. . . . Most returned to smoking. . . . They're between 15 and -19 years old, white, upper-middle, a few upper-class.
Unlike the stereotype of the "local pusher," the drugs he sold were the drugs he used:
I also changed during the summer. I usually smoked grass and sometimes hash. Then I mainly smoked hash and tripped a lot. I tripped many times. I was tripping three or four times a week. Before the summer I tripped once in awhile. The hash I had would go very fast because I smoked a lot. Since there was nothing left I turned to LSD because I wanted to get high.
He explained how selling drugs became a "business," how this development altered his daily patterns and social involvements, and how it all led to a jail sentence:
The winter before this I was dealing drugs but I only sold a small quantity. During the summer, in the shortage, the price of pot went up. I didn't have any money so I started dealing in larger quantities and harder drugs, mainly LSD. Where I used to buy maybe 25 tabs, and sell them singly, now they would cost me $2.50 to $3.00 each. I then bought in the hundreds and it cost me $2.00 or $1.75 each, and I would sell it. Also there was a much larger market where people were always asking for drugs, so I started dealing heavier and started taking a lot more chances. I was even selling to people I didn't know. I started dealing heavily and trying to get contacts every which way to buy drugs. I was beat a few times. I got money taken off me. . . . Before the summer I was in with people that did drugs, people that sold drugs, and people that bought drugs. In the summer I was mainly with people who sold drugs. I had to because I was selling heavily. When you deal in large quantities you take a very big risk. You have the stuff on your person almost constantly, at least I did. I was busted because of this. I had it on my person, I was stopped and searched. When I was stopped, my friend went to get out of the car and he fell on the ground, which led them to believe something was wrong with him so they went ahead and searched. It was all illegal. He was stoned out of his mind, and so was 1. . . . I always had drugs on me. Always. Eventually it caught up with me. Before the summer I didn't carry drugs on me. I left it in my house or I put it someplace because I only bought and sold small, just for my head. During the summer it became a business. It continued through the fall. I actually increased my dealing after the summer, after I was busted. I started dealing larger, pounds of hash and kilos of grass. Eventually I got busted again, interstate.
The following description of the market in "opiated hash" offers insights into the psychology of drug purchasing and drug selling:
Strangely I had a large quantity of opiated hash in the summer. After that
I hardly had any. It was during the summer that opiated hash came in. It was stronger than the other hash.... Well, it was a big thing then to say it was opiated hash. People wanted to get high, and to get higher. So like it was a trademark. It's opiated hash, it's good, buy it! So people bought it. People want drugs with the most in them. If you tell them that the hash is treated with DMT, STP, LSD, and opium, they'll buy it right off the bat. If you tell them it's just regular hash, they want to try it. It might not be so good.... Everybody I know does pot, with a few exceptions. Even very young kids. I know kids twelve, thirteen years old who smoke. . . . Since so many younger kids are smoking pot now, the younger kids would start doing harder drugs if they couldn't get pot.
A 23-year-old unemployed artist discussed the drug use he observed among friends in Brooklyn and Queens before, during, and after the summer shortage:
It was just more intense last year, especially in the summer. Lots of people were tripping and speeding, and a lot were doing anything they could get their hands on. Coke, heroin, STP, hog, anything. Now it's just getting back to the steady stream of grass. People are just getting high for the most part ... people between 19 and 25, students and working, one or the other, on speed, acid, heroin, downs. You could get them whenever you wanted them. By early fall the drought was almost over. Things began to level off again, becoming more normal.
According to this respondent, the summer of 1969 was characterized by "a lot of different drugs going around," and a great number of people "talking about smuggling":
The summer seemed like a very crazy time. There was just no pot. No peaceful relaxing or anything, just a lot of different drugs going around, a lot of freaky things. People doing all kinds of drugs that they never did before. . . . It began whenever the pot stopped coming in ... at times it was impossible to get pot. There wasn't any price for it. But there was hash. . . . It was a little more expensive but still reasonable enough. Like it was $60 OF S70 an ounce, as an average price. But that was O.K. There was a lot around. Sometimes I would smoke five or six different types of hash in a week. People had all different hash from different places. . - - I suppose, it was from independent people bringing it in. I know three guys who brought in 300 pounds. And another who got 50 pounds of it from Tangiers. They went themselves to get it. They got it very cheap and brought it back. Everyone was talking about smuggling in the summer because you see some guys do it and they get like instant wealtb and you say why not me.
Although marihuana was scarce, other drugs, including heroin, reportedly became more available:
There was no shortage of anything besides marihuana. There was plenty of speed, downs, acid. I didn't do any acid. I did a lot of speed and sometimes downs. I usually did the downs after speed. I didn't get into them as much as some people did. . . . Lots of them got into downs in all different places. People I knew from school in Manhattan were into them, also my friends in Brooklyn and my friends in Queens. Everybody had a hundred downs of his own. Everybody was taking six a day. Get up, take one, take another when that wore off. It was like that for a long time for a lot of people. . , . They were about twenty-five cents each. If you bought more it could be a dime each. It's still a cheap way to get a head.... Yeah, there were much more downs around. Zillions of downs. . . . There was heroin all over the place, with the younger kids mostly, high school mostly, high school juniors and seniors and college freshmen. . . . I don't really know where it was coming from. I know two friends of mine that practically became junkies for the entire summer that were just confirmed pot heads before that. They used to go to Jamaica, to a certain bar where there were a lot of junkies. That's as much as I knew about where it carne from. After the summer, one continued using it. The other one didn't. He uses pot again. He really got carried away with junk for the summer. He was shooting it a lot. But then he got completely out of it and went back to smoking pot. He was shooting heroin for the summer just because he likes large amounts of pot and he couldn't get it, not at all. He's usually pretty levelheaded so he got out of it at the end of the summer and went back to smoking pot. The other guy is still shooting a lot of junk.
He described his own involvement in selling hashish and spoke about "the young people" who "got the most messed up":
I just dealt small amounts of hash during the summer. I'd buy a quarter of an ounce for $20 or $25, and I'd cut seven dimes out of it or else a bunch of nickels. No, I didn't really make any money, just smoke some hash. Before the summer, I dealt some grass the same way, just to get some smoke. . . . The young people I saw got the most messed up. Because all the young people who were introduced into drugs couldn't get anything but ups and downs and acid and heroin. It's just too much for them. You can't do that intense thing for too long you know. I gave hash to some of them, my brother's friends, and they had never done a smoking drug before- They probably settled down to pot. It's a steady thing if they want to get high. People like to smoke pot. If they're going to mess around with speed and all kinds of pills, they like to do it when they want, not because it's just all over the place. Most people are happy with marihuana.
A social worker at a drug treatment clinic in Manhattan discussed drug use developments among teenagers and college students. Beginning in the Summer of 1969, he noticed a great increase in the use of drugs "that people previously shied away from":
Over the past year I've noticed a big switch from the use of pot and hashish to amphetamines, barbiturates, heroin, and LSD. I'm speaking primarily of teenagers, in the clinic and in the neighborhoods. This includes the five boroughs and Westchester. . . . In the last year there has been a definite increase in hard drug abuse, especially starting around July and August, possibly even sooner but I'm not sure about June. And then an even greater increase in September.... It started in the summer but the evidence that I have is that in September there had been a tremendous increase in barbiturate use. Amphetamines probably less so.... Well, some people have not been able to get hold of the softer drugs and have switched to LSD. There was a tremendous rise in LSD consumption in September. One estimate that I have is something like a 400 percent increase from August to September in LSD use, that principally in the greater New York area.
He filled in some of the particulars concerning the market in hashish:
The marihuana shortage definitely had an effect upon this.... They may shift to hashish for instance, and that was happening. Hashish was not as scarce and people simply shifted from one to the other. Hashish went up in price also, although not nearly as much as marihuana. And the hashish was principally Lebanese, Pakistani, Nepalese; those were the three. It was harder to get. In the spring it was very easy to get, let's say, hashish, no problem at all. It was only a question of could you get it for $75 an ounce, or would you pay S80, that kind of thing. But later it went up as high as SI IO. It also got scarcer, but it was still possible to get it.
He also discussed the increased use of mescaline, psilocybin, LSD, barbiturates, and heroin:
I couldn't answer as to numbers of people. I feel that a fairly substantial proportion went on to other drugs. I should really include here too that there was a greater use of mescaline and psilocybin as another shift. People that smoke pot usually are familiar with hashish, so that was a simple kind of thing. If you didn't get one you got the other. But because they couldn't get pot and hashish was also hard to get, although not as hard, they would then start to experiment with mescaline and psilocybin and acid. . . . There was a very significant increase in barbiturate use. It's very difficult to say how much but I believe there was a very significant increase. I do know that part of the cannabis-using population shifted onto barbiturates. Some drifted onto heroin, heroin being competitive with marihuana. There does seem to be a great deal of activity in terms of trying things that people previously shied away from for a variety of reasons, one being that perhaps they were scared. Others complained that it was hard to get but did not go on to anything else. As to proportions, I simply cannot say but a substantial number of people shifted.
Concerning the expanded market for heroin, he explained how the available heroin "started being cut more," was "packaged in smaller bags" which were "specifically designed for youngsters," and how the involvement of "amateurs" in the heroin trade may have led to a number of deaths:"
Heroin use two or three years ago on campuses was practically nil for all practical purposes, and it certainly has been around for a long time but people simply didn't use it. But suddenly it started becoming a problem. Second- and third-hand information indicates that in the midwest this was particularly true. This is something that I just heard.... What happened is that the actual amount did not change but the heroin started being cut more, much more than it had been, so it was something around one-half the strength or even more diluted than it had been three years ago. Usually heroin was sold in $5 bags. In certain parts of town there were $10 bags, and in certain parts of town there were $3 bags. But then we started getting the $1I and $2 bags, which may have existed before but only in very small sections, possibly in parts of Harlem. But this suddenly became much more prevalent so that for a dollar you could actually get a quantity of heroin, granted a very small one, but you could get heroin. It was selling for $1 , $2, $3. There were $4 bags, $5 bags, that kind of thing.... These new smaller quantities were specifically designed for youngsters who had never used heroin before. In fact people previously wouldn't bother making a dollar bag. The $5 bag was all and, if people didn't have enough money for a $5 bag, let's say they were mild users around 14 years of age, they would pool their resources and buy a bag and split it. But apparently the demand was such that it paid to package it in smaller bags. It was, you know, an extra bother for these people, but apparently it was worthwhile to do this. A lot of people who were using heroin, who were not familiar with it, got into the business of dealing, and got to the point where they were actually mixing the stuff. They didn't quite know how to mix it and quite often what you had was a tremendous inconsistency between buying the same drug from the same dealer who presumably knew what he was doing. A case in point was a patient who had been buying from the same source, using two bags a day, and getting a certain high from it. He never exceeded that. He and a friend of his used two bags each. What happened is that one day they made the same purchase and they both almost overdosed. They both wound up unconscious, on the floor in the bathroom. One of them was rushed to the hospital, the second looked as if he should be, but he wasn't and he finally recovered. I remember talking to this patient, and his opinion was that the dealer must have been stoned when he mixed that batch because he had been using that stuff for a year or more, from the same source, and suddenly it was practically pure. It's quite possible that a number of deaths that have happened were due to the fact that they were amateurs making it, working perhaps for someone, being permitted to mix. It didn't have the professional touch the way it used to.
The assumption that "marihuana leads to heroin" was inconsistent with his clinical experience:
But that assumption is very much open to question anyway because many people start experimenting with something entirely different. For example, I had a number of patients who did not start with marihuana, they started with heroin. And sometime after they had been on heroin, they tried cocaine, a few other things, and perhaps only three or four years later did they ever smoke their first joints. So it works that way too. Or they might start with mescaline or with beer. It doesn't always go from marihuana. You know softer to harder is not always the pattern. Let's put it this way, if someone starts smoking marihuana today and tries heroin next week you can hardly say that one has led to the other. It's just like an interest in drugs. I simply don't believe that marihuana leads to heroin. I think this is nonsense. . . . If the shortage reoccurred this summer, I think you'd see the same story all over again, only possibly more people involved now due to the fact that more people are using marihuana. Probably turning toward, let's say, psilocybin, mescaline, LSD on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the hard drugs.
A secretary at an East Harlem drug rehabilitation clinic discussed her observations in her Upper West Side neighborhood and explained why she believed the market in other drugs "will keep on climbing" even if "marihuana becomes very available":
I live in a middle-class area and almost everyone smokes pot. And a lot Of people use acid. Everybody wanted to get high. They really didn't care how. They preferred to stick with pot but it wasn't around so they would use something else. There were many more people dealing amphetamines and LSD and many more people willing to try. Before, they were pretty uptight about using acid because of' all the mass media stuff that came down about it but then, you know, like you gotta get high, so you go ahead. . . . Yes, now the pot market has stabilized. It's around. But the market has climbed in other drugs because of last summer and I think it will keep on climbing. I think this will happen even if marihuana becomes very available. Nobody wants to shoot up by himself.
She also recalled her conversation with a small-time dealer in East Harlem. This dealer serves as an example of the "amateurs" who became involved in the heroin business during the marihuana shortage:
In East Harlem a lot of people started using heroin for the first time last summer. I was talking to some guy at a bar around the corner and he said like he never messed with heroin until last summer. He couldn't get any pot, so. He said that he never messed with stuff except when he couldn't get marihuana. . . . Well, than he started snorting. But he didn't have any fear of ever getting the habit. He said that a lot of people did that last summer. And he said that he did deal some heroin last summer where he usually deals only pot. . . . Now he's dealing pot. He went back to it. But last summer he was dealing heroin.
A reporter for a Lower East Side newspaper emphasized an apparent rise in heroin use among high school students. He also noted how youngsters who "had been selling grass . . . got into selling skag " -.
The first time I picked up on what was happening was in Gem's Spa, a little magazine shop on the East Side where a lot of kids hang out, runaway kids, street kids. I heard a couple of perfectly normal looking little middle-class hippie girls talking about skag and doing skag. They were from the Bronx, not runaways, talking about how one of their boyfriends was selling skag. Apparently he had been selling grass and there wasn't any grass around so he got into selling skag. These girls were both doing it.... I never heard anything like that from them before. I mean from chicks like that. Kids were always talking about acid and grass and shit like that, but skag. . . . There was a lot of general talk about there not being any grass around. And then also a lot of talk about how people who really didn't know how to get grass, were starting to shoot up. Like these high school kids who would ordinarily buy a nickel were buying a $5 bag of heroin. ... My brother's in high school and through him and other talk that I heard apparently that's what was happening. Either it was around more or it was the only alternative.
An editor of a radical publication offered the following explanation for the switch to heroin:
I think one reason kids are using smack is that they found out everything they were told about smoke was a he, so when they didn't have it they used smack because they didn't believe that that was bad either. They don't believe anything anymore.
A community center worker in the Bronx emphasized the relationship between the marihuana shortage and the use of heroin among the teenagers with whom he works:
I work in a black community. . . . They went through the experience of not being able to get grass and therefore going to other drugs. And kids are telling me all the time now that, yeah, last summer, man, everyone started using heroin because there was no grass around. . . . These are 16- 17- 1 8and 19-year olds, black kids in the Soundview-Bruckner area in the Bronx. And that is not even really an impoverished slum area like the South Bronx, where I heard it was even heavier. . . . A lot of the younger kids started using H when they couldn't get grass. The 16- 17-year-old kids, they're now back to grass again. They didn't get really strung out on heroin. These guys were together enough anyway. They're getting themselves out of it and trying to help other guys get out of it. And a lot of them, man, really blame the government for what happened last summer.
He spoke of the increased availability of other drugs, particularly "speed," in his middle-class neighborhood:
A lot of other drugs increased in the summer. Speed, that was the big thing in my neighborhood in the Bronx. I don't live in a ghetto area. It's a middle-class area and all the kids who would come over to my house and try to sell grass would come over and say to everyone, "hey, you want speed, you want speed?" These were the same guys who used to sell grass now dealing speed. Once the fall happened, grass was around again. I remember getting some really shitty grass at the end of the summer. I don't know what happened with Operation Intercept or anything but all of a sudden there was grass.
According to this respondent, the fact that people enjoy using marihuana, that they had already become familiar with other drugs, and that they need some form of drug in order to create a "reality which they can deal with" explained the switch to other drugs during the marihuana shortage:
I don't know any people who smoke only grass and nothing else. Everybody I know who smokes grass at least smokes hash. Almost all of them do some other things once in awhile. Not many people smoke and then decide to stop because they like it .... A lot of people who are really getting fucked around by the system and who can't relate to what's happening, and even people who are, have to have some kind of drug as a form of dealing in another kind of reality which they can deal with. So these people, mainly kids in the ghetto now, who are smoking grass and a lot of others, will probably end up on other drugs anyway, but it just speeds up the process.
The switch to heroin use, especially by people in the High school age group, was the most important development during the summer marihuana shortage, according to a reporter for a New York daily newspaper. This respondent had covered stories related to drug abuse for the past five years and had recently completed an article dealing with the effects of the marihuana shortage upon young people throughout New York City. The following comments are based on his own observations and interviews:
I think the changes I've seen are the changes everyone has seen. Greater acceptance of psychedelic drugs to the point where everyone tried them and became bored with them, and a rise in the use of speed over the last couple of years, speed is available and speed is cheap, and a great increase in heroin use, especially in the last year.... The fact is that marihuana has become so popular that nobody makes a big deal about using it anymore. It's not even a fad, it's just there, like the air.... There's more than fads. There's such an acceptance of drugs that a kid will start on grass, move up to LSD, find there is no LSD around, and be so familiarized with the drug Scene he'll start to use whatever is around. And what has been around a lot is speed for the last couple of years, and heroin has been around a lot recently in the schools ... among all types of groups. . . . Well the drug scene started reaching down to the very young, down to the junior high school level, over the last year. And it's very strong on the high school level.
He noted marked changes in the heroin market and hypothesized that "there is such a broad acceptance of all drugs..... that availability very much determines it":
Last summer there certainly was a great change in the amount of heroin use, the number of people using it, the kind of people using it, and the availability of it in different areas of the city. . . . It was more available.
Marihuana was less available. Operation Intercept at the border cut off the marihuana flow. A lot of kids who had become accustomed to walking around with a high half the day decided that the way to keep that high was to use whatever was available at the time, and that was heroin. They started snorting for three, four months, whatever it took, and after awhile you figure the needle isn't so scarey anymore. . . . I spoke to kids in the Bronx; black kids from the South Bronx; middle-class kids in Queens, Jamaica, and Bayside; black and middle-class kids in Brooklyn, a whole range of kids beginning with black kids in Fort Greene to middle-class kids in Flatbush. . . . In all those areas, kids had heavily switched to heroin during the summer. I think there is such a broad acceptance of all drugs, of any drug now, that availability very much determines it. If everything is available then people drink to the jug of personal preference. If the drug of personal preference isn't available, they will use something else. . . . Yes, quite a few people I spoke to used heroin for the first time last summer. ... It was there. It was in the school. I remember one kid in the Bronx whose brother had been pushing outside the school. This began in September. They knew there was no marihuana available and they figured the school was ripe and he told me they began giving out test bags of very clean stuff, very nice stuff. I think the test bags were $1, just to let the kids know what it was like, to get a sense of it. They did very well and then they started selling the bags regularly for $2 and $3. 1 wouldn't say heavily cut but they were not as clean... No, I've heard about dollar bags before ... a dollar bag is half a $2 bag. It's just how you cut it.... I think a lot of the older kids drifted back to marihuana. The thing you have to remember is that the heroin they were getting into is so heavily cut it's certainly not addictive. And the psychological addiction that they already had, the desire for the constant low-level high, would be well fulfilled by marihuana or hash or whatever else was available.... In terms of a strong physiological addiction I don't think any of those kids I interviewed at the community center were addicted. They were kids who had gotten involved in the summer, had gotten involved precisely because there was no marihuana, and friends had heroin, and they tried it. They used it just as often as they would grass, maybe a little bit more for awhile, then they get found out and the parents dump them into the treatment program.... if it dried up again I think the same thing would happen. No question about it. As long as the heroin is available, kids would use the heroin.
The comments of high school age residents of the East Bronx confirmed the above observations. Young black and Puerto Rican respondents consistently reported a significant increase in heroin use in their low-income neighborhoods during this period. Further, all respondents had become personally involved in heroin use, which for many of them led to the selling of heroin. The following are first-hand accounts of four of these East Bronx residents, which were typical of others in this neighborhood and age group.
A I 7-year-old black- Irish school student stated:
Smoke ran out. Like people we used to cop from, they said that all of a sudden things were getting hard. They couldn't cop. You know, they couldn't get anything, and everybody we went to was the same story all over. . . . During the summer-, because things were hard we'd ask anybody. And nobody knew where to get anything, man. . . . Yeah, we got into dope last summer. . . . Because there was no smoke. Dope was the only thing that was around.... I'm pretty sure like they figured all they had to do was cut it off and the kids wouldn't have anything, so then they would stop. But kids, they were smoking for a long time and they were used to getting high and once their pot was cut off they just went on to something else and the government never figured on that. . . . I think I would have gone a little above, but I would have finally ended up with grass.... No, I didn't see any pills. All I saw was dope.... When they stopped smoke and dope came out, it came out in the black and Puerto Rican communities, Westchester County, Long Island, all them places which really must've shocked the shit out of those guys, man. And then like they really started coming out against dope. And they started all these programs and all these rallies and movements against dope, since their kids were hooked on it now. If they stop smoke again man, I think that, especially New York, it's really going to go to the dogs. It's going to be a terrible place.
An unemployed 18-year-old black youth commented:
Yeah, 'cause like we were hanging out together. And we couldn't cop from the person we were copping front anymore and like other people ran out and nobody lead anything. That's what happened. . . . We got for a little while but then after awhile the pot got bad and then they didn't have any and that was it. . . . I got into dope last summer for the first time. . . . There was much more dope around. I was dealing. . . . Yeah, during the summer and fall. 'Tit the winter. . . . No, never before. Not even pot.... Because I started taking it. . . . I could get enough to deal and then to get high too. - - - I guess they probably thought that they were helping the kids Of America, you know this garbage, and they didn't want to see them smoke Pot and become nothing, and all that garbage. So they figured if they cut it off, nobody would smoke it and kids would be saved. But that's not true because then they had, well it was back in 1968 when they had the 1968 dope famine when reefer was really cut off. . . . Well Brooklyn especially got it first and right away everyone's head went to dope. Then it just spread throughout the city. And it came and went until it got really strung last summer. And they did up everywhere. And nobody had nothing, and everybody went to dope.... I definitely would've stayed with pot. Well, I think I might have messed around with some dope maybe, but I don't think I would have got as far into it as I did.... No. No more dope. I use pot daily but I can still carry on.... No pills. I only saw dope. . . . Personally, if it happened again, I think I'd probably freak out because I'm not going back to dope, and acid and hash is about the closest thing to pot. But you know, smoke goes, hash goes with it. I think my friends would freak out with me, and maybe a lot more people too ,cause there are lots more people into pot now than before last summer.
A 17-year-old Puerto Rican youth, on suspension from high school stated:
It got as heavy as hell. Everybody started shooting dope, mess with dope, sniffin'. 'Cause that was the only thing that was around. There was no smoke or nothing.... It just was there. It was more and everybody started using it because there was nothing else to use.... Right, no grass. Nobody knew where to get it. . . . I started dealing last summer before I started shooting up. . . . There was just a panic, you know, there was nothing else to cop. . . . Yeah, but it still ain't as heavy, man, as it is here in the Bronx and in Manhattan and Brooklyn. All right, they got it in Long Island, they got it in Westchester, but it ain't as heavy, man, as they got it here.... I agree with him in a way too because they say when a guy smokes pot he goes on to dope, you know. So they probably figure, if you chop off the grass maybe they'll stay off dope altogether. But if they would've hit dope in the first place all of us here just wouldn't be here now.... Like before I used to be shooting dope, before I even knew these guys, and I got to know 'em and we started rapping about dope and what it was doing to us, how it messed things up. I dropped out of school because of dope. Like I didn't drop out, I got kicked out. And then grass came back and we started smoking and cut the dope off. We just cut it loose.... If they had left the grass alone there wouldn't be so many junkies. There was more around last summer than ever before. . . . A lot of young guys I know, from Monroe, a lot of them are just sniffin'. Like they're smoking too. They're just starting to get off dope. Like if they cut off grass they'd all be strung out on dope. That's the damn truth.
An 18-year-old black college freshman recalled the events of the summer of 1969 in this way:
I was usually around with everybody else. Everybody started sniffin', You know at first until like somebody would come over with the works, then everybody would try skinning at the same time, just to see what it was like. I started skinning because they started skinning and they started because I started. . . . Last summer. . . . I was smoking just a couple of months, six or seven months. But grass cut out. Like I would go with them. Like I would get off my job and we would go up to this chick's house and try and score some smoke and that was the whole thing.... No, we couldn't score. . . . I was like with guys that dealt. Like I'd drive over to the park with them but like I never dealt. . . . But dig it. We was just about getting into the dope thing anyway so like it wasn't that much of a hassle. Like if you had it, it wasn't any hassle at all, you wouldn't even think of it. If you could get yourself some dope like you'd really forget about the smoke. Every once in awhile you'd say, "on, I wish I had a couple of joints of something," right. . . . When smoke came back we finally started digging things, you know. . . . I still sniff dope if I get a chance. I use dope just like it's another drug but I won't get hung up on it. I use it just like I'd use smoke, hash, or whatever.... There was all kinds of dope. Like when dope started coming around everybody was a pusher, I mean practically everybody. Before dope it was only like older people, like cats that look like hustlers, then it turned into kids, chicks, and everybody, you know, old ladies. . . . During the summer everybody started dealing, mail. And it was real profitable.... Tripping came around when we got off the drug scene. That's one of the things that helped us. Like our characters changed when smoke and acid and all that stuff came around. We got into movements. That's when we started turning more liberal. Before we were like in the soul mail bag, buying silks and Playboys and so forth. Smoke and acid, we felt in the liberal tendencies but we never expressed it, then we started reading books and digging concerts and music, man, into WNEW. We started changing. . . . During dope our attitude was always hostile towards each other, you know, like we'd beat each other up for a cigarette, mail. Now we smile and do it. . . . Like I don't know anybody that well. I don't know these cats that well, man, but they say they wouldn't go back. . . . The younger kids, they'd get into it, mail. I'm pretty sure they'd get into dope. . . . A lot of them are on the verge of using dope now. Like if you look at 'em. If I could get something else, I'd do it, man, but like if I couldn't I'd sniff but I'd never get straight.
It was found that those who decreased or discontinued drug use during the summer shortage were distinguishable from other drug users by certain objective social characteristics. In contrast, those who manifested increased experimentation, a greater reliance on drugs other than marihuana, and/or a heavier involvement in drug distribution cannot be easily characterized. These types of unintended reactions and adaptations were experienced by marihuana users from a wide range of' residential,, socioeconomic, occupational, and age groups in the New York City area. Further, such unanticipated reactions were reported among persons representing various stages of involvement in drug use subcultures. This is most evident in the case of hashish.
The most general result of the marihuana shortage was the sharply increased availability and use of hashish. Like marihuana, hashish is a derivative of the Indian hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. Hashish is generally estimated to be six to eight times as potent as marihuana.' This is due to the fact that hashish is made only of the pure resins derived from the flowering tops of the hemp plant, which contains the active principle, tetrahydrocannabinol, in highest concentration.
At the time that Operation Intercept was put into effect, authorities in the field of drug abuse agreed on three points regarding hashish. First, its availability and usage had increased significantly in the past few years.' Second, although derived from the same plant as marihuana, it was regarded as far more potent, sometimes approximating the effects of mescaline and LSD, when consumed in sufficient quantities. (While hashish is generally found to be more potent than marihuana, this is not necessarily the case. In other words, some varieties of marihuana are more potent than some varieties of hashish.) Third, whatever possible negative consequences had been "attributed" to marihuana use, including social, psychological, and physical considerations, these had been attributed to a greater degree to the use of hashish.'
During the summer and early fall of 1969, the increased use and availability of hashish was reported in most neighborhoods and by a great diversity of "social types." In fact, there were few groups and individuals who did not observe this increase. Contrary to this city-wide trend, hashish was reported to be less available than it was prior to the summer of 1969 in Harlem, East Harlem, and sections of the East Bronx, South Bronx, Jamaica, and Brooklyn. Specifically, its availability and use declined in low-income black and Puerto Rican neighborhoods. It might be instructive to note that these are the same types of areas in which marihuana was also found to be least available. In other words, it was more difficult to obtain either marihuana or hashish in the ghetto areas of New York City than it was in other neighborhoods.
In contrast, the use of hashish was noticeably accelerated by the marihuana shortage in both urban and suburban middle-class and affluent communities. This process was reported in all but the aforementioned ghetto neighborhoods and among persons representing the full spectrum of age, occupational, and drug use
In these areas. the price of hashish increased from a previous low price of $60 an ounce and a previous high price of $80 an ounce, to a low-high range of $70 to $110 an ounce. For individual purchases, the average price increase was approximately $10 all ounces This price increase was generally perceived as "a little more expensive but still reasonable," as stated by one respondent.
Higher prices on drugs generally reflect diminished local supplies, but the higher price of hashish must be explained by other factors. Although hashish is regarded to be six to eight times more potent than marihuana, the two have come to be regarded as interchangeable. In the words of one respondent, "There was more hash than grass around last summer, and these people used more of it. But they consider hash and grass to be the same thing and wouldn't consider this a switch." Even though some respondents expressed a preference for marihuana, the willingness of marihuana users to also use hashish appears to be nearly universal. Therefore, the total supply of both marihuana and hashish fulfills the needs of a single, although heterogeneous, population at any given time. Since the marihuana supply was significantly reduced during the summer and fall of 1969, it might be said that a severe "cannabis gap" was created and that the demand for cannabis derivatives was substantially rechanneled toward the local supply of hashish. This demand led to all escalation in the importation and consequently the consumption of hashish. However, the total demand for cannabis derivatives was still significantly greater than that part of the demand that was met by the increased supply of hashish. Thus, the price of hashish rose at the same time that it became more available than in previous years.
A substantial proportion of marihuana users adapted their drug use patterns to the marihuana shortage in other ways as well. In most neighborhoods throughout the New York City area, an increase in the use of barbiturates, amphetamine stimulants, and/or psychedelic drugs was reported. During this period, these types of drugs became more appealing as well as more available to drug-using groups and individuals.
Unlike the marihuana market, it appears that the demand for these types of drugs is consistently met by those who supply the market. This is probably related to the fact that most of these drugs are manufactured domestically. As marihuana became scarce, these other drugs became more accessible. They were more readily available on the local level, in large or small quantities, and often at lower prices than prior to the marihuana shortage. It may be said that the accessibility of these drugs, combined with the scarcity of marihuana, made these drugs more appealing. On the other hand, it might be argued that due to the marihuana shortage the appeal of other drugs was enhanced leading to an increased demand for these drugs, which resulted in unprecedented availability and black market distribution. Although the exact sequence of events could not be determined, these two interrelated factors appeal and availability - were both of great significance during the summer of 1969.
Unlike hashish, the barbiturates, amphetamines, and psychedelic drugs do not appeal to all users of marihuana. Even while experiencing a severe marihuana shortage, certain types of marihuana users avoided involvement with these drugs. It was the sporadic user of marihuana and the older (25 years and older), generally married, middle-class user, enmeshed in establishment institutions and white collar occupational responsibilities who found these drugs to be neither appealing nor unusually available. Similarly, although for different reasons, these types of drugs did not have a great impact in ghetto areas. In these three groups - the sporadic marihuana users, the "establishment marihuana users," and young ghetto drug users those individuals who favored these drugs were already using them regularly prior to the marihuana shortage. The marihuana shortage had little effect.
The switch from marihuana to the barbiturates, amphetamines, and the psychedelic drugs was most prevalent among youthful drug users (high school and college age) from predominantly white communities. This phenomenon was reported by individuals representing a wide range of neighborhoods and socioeconomic strata, from Lower East Side "dropouts" to affluent young people from Long Island suburbs. Although reactions varied in terms of individual preferences, one type of drug or, more accurately, one type of drug at a time, usually played a predominant role in a particular locality. For instance, one would find that amphetamines were most popular in one neighborhood, at the same time that barbiturates became the primary drug in another, and the psychedelics were making the greatest impact in a third area. As a whole, experimentation with a variety of pills and encapsulated drugs was greatly expanded during this period.
This development occurred simultaneously with the increased use of hashish. An increase in the use of cocaine, a variety of homemade concoctions, and an assortment of other pharmaceuticals was also reported, but due to high prices or the lack of continuous availability, these made a significant impact on the drug use patterns of only a few individual drug users. In sum, it was found that in most groups of Young drug users, the typical reaction to the marihuana shortage consisted of an accelerated interest in experimentation and multiple drug use, primarily channeled toward the barbiturates, amphetamines, and psychedelic drugs as well as hashish.
Although the switch to heroin use was accorded great attention by the respondents, this development was not found to be as widespread as was the increased popularity of the aforementioned drugs. This emphasis is more closely related to the elaborate mythology surrounding heroin use than to the total number of persons affected in this manner.
The switch to heroin use during the marihuana shortage represented a significant development in particular localities and among specific types of drug users. This phenomenon was most widespread among young drug users in the low-income ghetto areas of New York City. According to a variety of sources already quoted, the switch to heroin use was so rampant in these neighborhoods that this reaction represented the rule rather than the exception. It included persons who had previously experimented with heroin and many who had never done so. It also included people who had used marihuana for several years, others who had first used it only a few months prior to the shortage, as well as some who had never used marihuana. Reportedly, the use of heroin reached epidemic proportions during the Summer and fall of 1969. It should be remembered that these were the same neighborhoods in which marihuana and hashish were found to be least available and in which the impact of the barbiturates, amphetamines, and psychedelic drugs was imperceptible.
In contrast, in predominantly white, middle-class, and affluent communities, the switch to heroin was reported among only certain types of drug users. Most of these were distinguishable in terms of age and degree of involvement in a drug use subculture prior to the marihuana shortage. From these areas, those who went on to heroin used drugs heavily prior to the shortage, usually on a daily basis, had experienced a good deal of experimentation although marihuana and hashish were the primary drugs, limited their associations mainly to a drug-using clique, and identified with a drug-oriented lifestyle and a counterculture movement. It can be said that for these persons drug use was the focal point of all other activities.
Although those who became involved in heroin use were characterized by these features, not all who manifested these behaviors, identifications, and associations did so. Consistently, the respondents observed the switch to heroin in groups of younger drug users, between the ages of 16 and 20 years, heavily involved in a drug-oriented lifestyle. In older groups, although some individuals experimented with heroin, heavy involvement was generally avoided. Interview responses indicated that older individuals who did move on to anything more than a short-term flirtatious relationship with heroin were perceived as doing so as a manifestation of an abnormal personality need rather than as a peer-sanctioned group activity. Thus, the use of heroin was far less general, far more defined by a process of social selection. within white middle-class and affluent areas than within ghetto neighborhoods. This finding will be analyzed in greater depth in the next chapter.
Another direct result of the marihuana shortage was the involvement of greater numbers of drug users than ever before in the importation. distribution. and sale of illegal drugs. Several respondents reported that personal friends and acquaintances brought hashish into the United States during this period. It was also found that American travelers abroad were well aware of the marihuana shortage, and the possible profits for those who could successfully smuggle hashish into the country. It is impossible to tell how many persons became involved in this kind of activity, but the increased availability of hashish during this period suggests that many may have done so,
A far greater number of drug users became involved in the sale of illegal drugs for the first time. There Lire several reasons for this development. First, the demand for marihuana was so great treat anyone who had some was able to sell it for a substantial price without any difficulty. Respondents in this Situation reported that any quantity, no matter how small or how large, could be sold immediately.
Prior to the shortage, regular users of marihuana generally purchased one ounce quantities at a time, one-half ounce at a minimum. Larger purchases were usually divided among friends, since such quantities were available from several sources, competition kept prices in check. The attempt to realize substantial profits from the sale of marihuana was in the hands of who did this activity on a more or less full-time basis and involved large-scale purchases.
With the onset of the marihuana shortage, anyone who was able to obtain anywhere from one ounce to several kilos of marihuana was in a position to divide it into smaller quantities, sell some to friends or acquaintances, and still keep a quantity for his own personal use at no cost. If one wished, one could sell a greater proportion and realize a monetary profit. Of course, this mode of distribution was occurring prior to the shortage as well. But, during the shortage, one suddenly could realize worthwhile profits even from dividing very small quantities such as one ounce of marihuana, and reaching it in "nickel bags,"' or even smaller amounts.
Thus, with many large-scale marihuana dealers temporarily out of business, the profit motive filtered down through the ranks of marihuana users to the point where those who were able to obtain marihuana, those who used marihuana, and those who sold marihuana were the same persons. Even prior to the shortage, many users of marihuana had been involved in its sale to some degree. As Erich Goode points out, in the marihuana market the distinction between the user and the seller is so blurred as to be meaningless. Those who sell marihuana use marihuana, and those who use it often sell. But he goes on to note that it is the heaviest users, Who purchase in largest quantities, Who become involved in "dealing" marihuana for profits. During the shortage, with the general unavailability of large quantities and the possibility of realizing meaningful profits from small-scale sales, these distinctions vanished and the ranks of marihuana "dealers" proliferated rapidly.
A second reason for increased involvement in drug distribution during this period is closely related to the increase in small-scale marihuana sales. As the supply of marihuana steadily declined throughout the summer and early fall of 1969, there was a growing tendency for large-scale marihuana dealers to adapt to the situation by stocking other types of drugs. Specifically, many now sold hashish. some went on to dealing barbiturates, amphetamines, and/or psychedelic drugs, and a few sold heroin. As the appeal and availability of these drugs filtered down through the predominantly cannabis-using population, new markets for these drugs were created. Although the manufacture, importation, and large-scale distribution Of these drugs was still in the hands of organized and semiorganized networks of individuals heavily involved in this business, mainly drug users became involved on a small-scale level as well. Just as many larger-scale marihuana dealers adapted to the situation by "switching products," so did many of the newly expanded forces of small-scale marihuana dealers who had recently acquired a taste for easy money. Thus, many of those who were selling marihuana for the first time early in the Summer of 1969, were selling hashish and an assorted variety of pills by the late fall of 1969.
The third reason for the expansion of drug distribution involvements is related to the contagious nature and high cost of heroin use. As more people became involved in heroin use during the summer, a proportion of these became involved in its sale. As with the other drug markets already discussed, the enticement of free drugs and easy profits rapidly filtered down even to those who had only recently begun to use heroin. Also, some of those users and dealers who had previously been on the bottom rung of the ladder in terms of heroin distribution were now in a position to sell to others. These new additions to the heroin business explain the widespread reports of inept mixing and packaging, and the emergence of the $1, $2 and $3 bag of heroin, which was previously unknown in many neighborhoods. As was the case with marihuana, hashish, the barbiturates, the amphetamines, and the psychedelics, more and more nonprofessionals became involved in the business aspect of heroin use.
ATTITUDINAL RESPONSES TO THE GOVERNMENT'S POLICY
Operation Intercept was a public policy decision specifically designed to alter the behavior of a predefined "target population." This heterogeneous target population was composed of persons involved in importing marihuana, persons who profit from its distribution, and persons who use marihuana. The most significant group numerically was the marihuana-using population in the United States. The number of such persons had been variously estimated at between five and twenty million. Kenneth Gergen has stated a widely accepted axiom concerning the relationship between public issues and individual relevance: "An issue will be relevant to an individual to the extent that for him it can potentially modify the status quo." ' For those persons, as well as others who were professionally concerned with drug abuse, it may be said that the Operation Intercept policy had particular relevance since it had a direct effect on drug use patterns in the United States.
During the years preceding Operation Intercept, in which the use of marihuana reached new levels of popularity in the United States, a multitude of scholars and journalists attempted to define those values and attitudes that they believed predisposed individuals, particularly young people, to partake in this illegal activity. At the time of Operation Intercept, with marihuana use already well entrenched in our society, the focus of analysis shifted from those attitudes that allegedly predispose individuals to use marihuana to an examination of attitudes that allegedly result from using marihuana. This shift did not follow from an empirically justified or a widely accepted answer to the first question, nor was the new issue clearly distinguished, methodologically or otherwise, from the first. It simply represented a change in strategy with the implicit, although grudging, acceptance of a new Situation.
In line with this new strategy, a key reason advanced for the implementation of the Operation Intercept policy was the alleged adverse attitudinal concomitants of marihuana use. The Special Presidential Task Force states a particular concern about "the possibility of personality changes and a loss of motivation among Youthful marihuana users." ' The Report goes on to note that, while systematic studies of large numbers of American chronic users are not yet available., a number of clinicians have observed that at least some users show evidence of a loss of conventional motivation. They seem to prefer instead a non-goal oriented lifestyle, which emphasizes immediate satisfactions to the exclusion of ambition and future planning." ' These attitudes and orientations, supposedly directly associated with marihuana use, were also believed to accompany or foreshadow an array of other negative and disruptive attitudes, specifically those concerning authority, vocation, government, and the use of other drugs. With the rise in the population of marihuana users recognized in policy-making circles, and research minimizing the short-term dangers of marihuana widely disseminated, many alleged immediate effects of marihuana use were played down, (i.e., criminality, violence, and bizarre sexuality), and long range associations were emphasized. This was true regarding physiological as well as psychological and sociological considerations.
With all this concern about the attitudes of marihuana users, one Would have expected that those involved in public policy decision making might have evaluated the possible effects of this new public Policy upon the attitudes of the "target population," since these were the people to whom the decision would have direct relevance.
Neither the President, his advisors, nor the Special Task Force ever publicly stated their expectations regarding the attitudinal repercussions of this policy decision. Nor did they estimate the effects of any immediate attitudes resulting from the policy, upon the long-range attitudinal and drug-related behavioral consequences about which they expressed such great concern. In this section, the attitudinal reactions of the respondents to the Operation Intercept policy will be explored. In Chapter III those responses will be analyzed in terms of the long-range concerns and goals expressed by the policy makers.
The pointed and often well-developed opinions expressed by respondents reflected the direct relevance of the Operation Intercept policy decision to these individuals. Such attitudes and opinions were also a manifestation of the fact that the altered drug situation and the underlying government policy had been topics for individual evaluation as well as informal peer-group consideration prior to the interviews. Those respondents who had a longstanding professional interest in the relationship between drug abuse and society namely, writers, journalists, and rehabilitation workers in the drug abuse field - had already reached certain opinions and conclusions on these matters prior to Operation Intercept. Although Operation Intercept and its practical repercussions did offer some unique perspectives and insights, this new data was absorbed within the scope of a preexisting orientation and frame of reference. But, for many youthful drug users, the policy-induced modification of the status quo precipitated a personal interest in the relationship between drug use, law enforcement policies, the government. and society-at-large for the first time. The focus of such evaluations was an existential one, rooted in the drug user's own experiences and the "envelope of events" in which he found himself enmeshed. For the great majority of respondents, Operation Intercept served as a catalyst in the development and crystallization of attitudes and opinions on these matters. To all unprecedented degree, these issues,, policy decisions and relationships, previously relegated to the consideration of professionals, politicos, and academics, were thrust into the everyday life of the drug user.
Of course, not all marihuana users expressed a great interest in analyzing the reasons behind the government's policy and the subsequent marihuana shortage. Many Such persons were minimally affected due to personal access to all increased supply of hashish. Typical of this attitude were the remarks of a 22-year-old female schoolteacher:
We didn't think about it. We knew about them cracking down on Mexico but we never thought why. We only cared about that it was. . . . I guess they thought if people wouldn't be getting it, more people wouldn't try it, people would be getting high less. I don't know what they thought. There was so much hash around that it didn't make any difference.
Although she noted a significant increase in the use of barbiturates, amphetamines, and hashish in her middle-class suburban neighborhood, she believed that the primary motivation behind the government's policy was to curb drug use.
A 2 I-year-old salesman expressed a similar view:
Because they thought if there was less around, less people would be using it. Fewer people trying it for the first time. . . People I know didn't stop. But it probably kept some people from trying it for the first time. But they probably eventually tried hash or something else if they were that interested.
Another respondent, a 20-year-old taxi driver, felt that for certain persons this policy might have resulted in the kind of reaction the government intended, while for others this was not the case. He saw the policy as all attempt to force behavior into line with the laws:
It seems that since it's illegal, and people always got it very freely, they tried to reach out and cut it off before people could get it. Just making it illegal didn't seem to do too much. The only way I could see it helping is in those minor cases where someone might be smoking and this might be the significant difference, if they just couldn't get it. If they hadn't been smoking long, they just might ignore it. But people who've been smoking awhile, I don't think cutting off the supply of just marihuana would help the whole drug problem considering the other drugs all around.
A 27-year-old stockbroker was somewhat ambivalent concerning the government's expectations:
Because they don't want to legalize marihuana. Basically people wouldn't have it to smoke and perhaps they would just forget about it. I don't believe it though. People will look for other drugs.... I should hope they realized this. Who knows, maybe they didn't realize it.
This ambivalence was also expressed by an 18-year-old student drug dealer from an affluent Long Island suburb:
Apparently they were trying to stop drugs passing over the Mexican border. Mainly they were looking for pot. Some people went down there and told me that the whole car was searched, mainly for large articles. They didn't search very thoroughly. Apparently it only stopped marihuana and it led to higher drugs. It would seem that they didn't know this would happen, but they probably did. The end result was people went on to higher, harder drugs, and the government doesn't want this. They want to stop drugs. But I think they probably did know something about what would happen. They just wanted to stop the main consumption, which is in marihuana.
In effect, he felt that the government policy was intended to curtail drug use, but was primarily concerned with marihuana.
A 17-year-old black high school student also believed that the primary motivation behind the policy was to curb drug use. He perceived the switch to heroin in his low-income East Bronx neighborhood as an unintended consequence of this effort:
I heard something about, urn, President Johnson then, or somebody, made Operation Intercept. And, you know, he was like blocking off Mexico and everything, and then all of a sudden there was no smoke and then we started finding out about this, and that's what happened. . . . I'm pretty sure like they figured all they had to do was cut it off and the kids wouldn't have anything, so then they would stop. But kids, they were smoking for a long time and they were used to getting high and once their pot was cut off they just went on to something else and the government never figured on that. Really, I think they thought smoke and stuff like that was making kids into the freaks they are now. They figured if they could cut it out everybody would turn back nice and straight and everything, you know.
A 16-year-old high school student from Flatbush, Brooklyn, also believed that the government was primarily concerned about the personalities and lifestyles of youthful Americans:
They thought that people wouldn't smoke marihuana anymore. That marihuana wouldn't be in the country so we'd have a strong country, that people wouldn't fight about the Vietnam war, and it would be a lot safer. They thought that we'd be back to World War II again, with people growing their victory gardens.
Most respondents adopted a far more disparaging, condemnatory, and hostile attitude toward the government policy. Such attitudes reflected a basic distrust of the government's intentions and/or knowledge of the situation. A 26-year-old businessman from Howard Beach, Queens, offered the following opinion:
They were trying to stop the traffic in marihuana and cut down the usage because it goes against their principles, their beliefs, supposedly. I think they don't understand it, they don't know it. They heard a lot of baloney about it and they therefore ignorantly feet against it without any real understanding. And there's an awful lot of politics involved.
Many respondents believed that the primary motive behind the policy was to generate publicity in order to calm the public demand that something be done about the drug problem. A 25-year-old marihuana dealer from the Upper West Side of Manhattan stated:
It was probably just something to show the public that they're trying to fuck the pushers. It was ineffective as far as I was concerned. Personally I got grass right through the Intercept thing. I don't think that would bother them though. Mostly, they just wanted to look like they were doing something. Personally, I think organized crime caused the shortage and the government started Operation Intercept just so they'd get credit for it.
An 18-year-old college student from the West Bronx perceived the policy in terms of its social repercussions versus its political strategies. She saw the main problem in terms of youthful values and aspirations:
The young people have nothing to aspire to. All the authority images are coming down against them so why would they want to be a president or a congressman or a teacher or a banker. That's why all the kids are, I mean white middle-class kids, are using smack. I wonder if Nixon thinks the southern strategy is worth it.
A 20-year-old college student from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, expressed a similar opinion. She said:
He did it for publicity. Nixon said he would do something about drugs so he decided to do something about Mexico. I don't think he thought about what the results would be. I think he did it because it's what he thought the country wanted. Besides, most people who know something about drugs are too young to vote anyway, and that's all he cares about, votes.
According to a 25-year-old writer, a Greenwich Village resident, the government policy had two goals:
They were responsible for cutting off a tiny bit, and just for a short period of time. They did it, A, to pacify the folks back home who are getting uptight about dope and B, I think it was to put pressure on Mexico too, I don't know how effective that was. They certainly did put pressure on Tijuana and towns like that. They closed them up for two or three weeks. I think they wanted to stop the grass but I think it's a mistake, too, because you get a lot of kids now going on to other drugs.
A reporter for an East Side underground newspaper saw the policy as a "propaganda stunt" aimed in the wrong direction:
I would say it was probably from within the Justice Department or through Mitchell. But it's a propaganda stunt more than anything else. it's effective to a certain extent. But it's just effective as far as individual users bringing back small quantities, mostly for themselves and their friends. It doesn't disturb the large scale flow of dope. That's why I think it's a mistake. They're not working on organized crime, they're working on the individual user. They say they want to reduce the penalties for just users and yet these are the people that suffer the most with things like Operation Intercept. You know, people who don't want to score through organized dealers and so on.
Although he saw the policy as misguided, he didn't agree with statements he had heard in his Lower East Side neighborhood, alleging that the government had an interest in heroin trade:
Some people said that they wanted to keep the black folks down by keeping them on smack, or getting them on smack. I think that's looking for too much evil within the government. I don't think, I mean I hope they're not that bad. I don't think they have any control or make any profits on dope. I don't think the revolutionary blacks are on smack anyway. Most of them, like the Panthers, are completely out of the use of heavy drugs.
A drug counselor at a local college saw the policy as a shortsighted "token effort" based on several incorrect assumptions:
The official administration line was that it was an attempt to cut down drug traffic going across the Mexican border into the United States. They assumed drug traffic would be diminished, or at least it would be harder to smuggle drugs into the United States, at least marihuana.... I think it's a token effort to burn a marihuana crop when the main problem seems to me to be heroin usage. And I never subscribed to the view that people start out using marihuana and then go on to using heroin because marihuana no longer is strong enough or whatever. I think the government took a very shortsighted view when they lumped all narcotics together and said in effect that heroin usage and marihuana usage were equivalent problems and directed most of their efforts to stopping drugs smuggled in along the Mexican border, the assumption being that most of those drugs were marihuana and hash. . . . God knows where the policy originated. I'm sure it was not President Nixon's idea. Mostly because I don't think he knows very much about the problem nor has he thought about it much. For one thing I'm not so sure marihuana should be illegal. For another thing I think the government should direct more of its money and energy to doing research on marihuana rather than stopping its importation. I don't think the police have ever been effective in any community in diminishing drugs whether it's federal or local police. The only effective measures have been when the communities themselves have not wanted drugs. A case in point would be the Panthers work in Elmhurst, Queens. Even a better example was shown in "The Battle of Algiers" when Algerians decided themselves that drugs were bad for the national interest, and communities of Algerians got together and policed themselves. That's the only effective way.
According to a staff reporter for a daily New York newspaper, the publicity-oriented policy was instigated by officials within the government, seeking recognition by means of a simplistic approach to a complex problem:
It probably has more to do with a new administration and a not very sophisticated administrator of the drug department, trying to impress that new administration. It was partially publicity, partly a feeling that perhaps you make yourself look good in the eyes of a new president by starting a drug drive. Also, it might simply be that Mitchell just took a broad swipe at what seemed a simple thing to do. Why don't we shut off the Mexican border? It's easy. He does seem to be a person who would reach for the quick and easy solution. . . . I have no idea what they imagined would happen, but they certainly didn't imagine very intelligently. They're probably not sophisticated enough to know exactly what the effects of what they were doing would be. In terms of anything they've done in law and order, and crime, they always fail to have a real understanding of exactly how it works on the street level and how it works for the person involved. They always kind of see it in black and white, in the abstract, and don't realize that criminals are people, and smokers are people, and drug users and pushers and even guys who bring in drugs are people, and they march to a different tune than the Republican philosophy.
An editor of an underground newspaper also focused on the idea that the policy represented a "power expansion" by groups with vested interests within the government:
I can't see the logic. I think it was like how the anti-marihuana legislation began. Prohibition was over and Anslinger didn't have a job anymore. So the whole bureaucracy switched over when they made marihuana illegal and used the same techniques against marihuana as they did against alcohol. Any bureaucracy wants to enlarge itself, like any branch of government. So they constantly try to get more power and become bosses over more men. Doing this stuff on Mexico was just the same kind of power expansion.
A middle-aged businessman from a Westchester suburb saw the policy as an in-conceived attempt at dramatic publicity:
Operation Intercept was incredibly stupid. It was intended to dramatize hostility to the drug scene. I heard from reliable sources that it pushed lots of people into all kinds of pills, stuff, and rat poison and apparently only very young people. . . . The American government is not aware of the nature of Mexicans and peasants who supply the market. Peasants with a cash crop are brave and savage individuals. The man in charge of the Mexican program was shot dead six weeks later. It was nothing but a maladroit gesture on the government's part. It caused a lot of arrests, a lot of taking of toxic substances, and a lot of in will from the Mexican government and people. If you want something you can always get it. The government is deluding itself. If they continue formalized programs for the purpose of publicity, they will have more kids taking dangerous stuff.
A 23-year-old unemployed artist from Bayside, Queens, believed the policy to be an attempt by government to inconvenience "people they didn't like," with no other long-range motive:
I guess they did it just to make it hard on a lot of people they didn't like. Ultimately that's all it meant. Nixon said he wanted to make marihuana so scarce it would be too expensive to buy or enjoy. If he was going so all out on marihuana and there was a dozen other drugs, dangerous drugs, available, he just wanted to make it hard on people who wouldn't ordinarily be put out if they just had their pot. They are probably so stupid that they assumed people would just stop using drugs.
According to a 25-year-old housewife from Queens, the government's power to influence the policies of other countries was rooted in vested interests and financial coercion:
I heard about something where they have a thing with other countries including Mexico, an agreement. I don't know if it's written but some kind of agreement with certain other countries where they can't legalize it. Even if everyone wanted it, or a majority, it couldn't be done until they were ready to do it.... There must be some financial way of enforcing the agreement. There's money involved somewhere. I think it has something to do with the liquor lobby.
An 18-year-old Puerto Rican high school student from the South Bronx pointed to the government's "scare tactics" and the tendency to indiscriminately propagandize against "all kinds of drugs." As was the case with several respondents, she believed such campaigns were related to a vested interest in alcoholic beverages:
I think they were trying to scare everybody. Like at that time they had a lot of TV scares, you know, they used to show movies about pot and grass and different things would happen to you. And they gave that acid scare and the smoke scare. People walking around killing each other and all that. I think they were trying to really scare a lot of the young people. When the smoke stops, you know, I figure they figured like from hearing all this they would be scared, they wouldn't even try and get it, and if they didn't try they would never get it. They'd be so scared about any kind of drug, all kinds of drugs, like they'd keep to their wine and liquor.
A 21-year-old college student from Jackson Heights, Queens, Postulated a direct governmental financial interest in the marihuana market: "Maybe they were trying to get a lot of attention about how they were against drugs, while at the same time jacking up the price. Maybe they get something from it. They probably do."
Although he believed that the policy was aimed at decreasing drug abuse, a 23-year-old teacher from Bayside, Queens, stated that the government, unknowingly, was influenced by organized crime:
I saw articles in the papers about the government burning fields in Mexico, and paying the Mexican government to burn fields. There was also a tightening up at the borders. Most people knew through word of mouth rather than a newspaper. . . . First of all, the government is behind the times. Being Puritanical in their approach to policy, they caused other problems without really realizing it by making a pot shortage. They thought they were doing a good thing. Really they were doing a bad thing because of the Mafia influence. The Mafia influenced them indirectly. Somehow they caused the government to create a policy of tightening up on pot. By doing that, the supply of pot becomes less, so the demand really becomes more, so the price can go up. And since the Mafia controls the pot in the United States, they get more money out of it.
Apparently, the relationship between the Operation Intercept policy and the influence of organized crime was discussed in many quarters. A researcher at a Manhattan drug rehabilitation center recalled this explanation:
There was a lot of talk about the policy and I heard a lot of reasons for it. One was that the Mafia was behind it. They were going to stop importing grass and hash from wherever they get it, the Mid-East, Mexico, because they thought the Vietnam war was going to end. So they realized that Vietnam grass was supposed to be tremendous. They were cutting down so when they brought in the Vietnam grass there would be a bigger market for it. This seemed logical because there was a shortage.
A 23-year-old writer for an underground newspaper postulated a complementary relationship between the heroin trade, organized crime, and the government's counterrevolutionary policies. She had observed a great deal of switching to heroin during the marihuana shortage:
I don't know if he thought of this but it's to Nixon's interest to have heroin addicts around. Someone who uses smack is a slave, not a revolutionary. It uses all their energy. They have nothing left for revolution. It also puts more money in the Mafia bank account. If Nixon really wanted an anti-drug program he would crack down on heroin first. But then he'd hurt the Mafia.
Another resident of the Lower East Side, a 24-year-old unemployed male, emphasized the publicity value of a policy that at the same time may be harmful to people:
Nixon was making political hay out of Operation Intercept. He made it like a little Korean War, like Vietnamization only this was Mexicanization. Nixon expected middle America to cheer. . . . Like with the gangs in the 50's. They let them get smack when they were all busting everyone's brains out. When they all got hooked on dope there was no more street gangs. It solved the problem. They know that when people do smack it puts them out of action. I believe they consciously figured on that. . . . There's no difference between Honeywell and the Mafia. They're both big organizations only out to make money. They must have taken all these things into account. They're not stupid. It's easy to confuse evil with stupidity.
A social worker at a drug rehabilitation clinic in Manhattan discounted "conspiracy theories" and emphasized the policymakers' thoughtlessness and unfamiliarity with drugs:
The idea was to so increase the price that people would not be able to afford it and without giving thought that because they couldn't afford it they wouldn't simply stop using drugs. What actually happened is that they shifted and how much thought was given to Operation Intercept in those terms I don't know. It's really like curtailing something relatively harmless, thinking people will simply shrug their shoulders and stop it, without realizing that they are creating a whole new problem in the synthetic drug areas such as barbiturates. I know some people thought that this was some kind of a plot to get in more heroin, a Mafia plot, one hears all sorts of things. I just think it was probably due to the fact that the government didn't know what the hell it was doing. They are so unfamiliar with what drugs are, that they sort of tend to lump everything together and they say, O.K. we're going to eliminate this without taking, let's say, simultaneous measures to eliminate all sorts of other things.
An 18-year-old unemployed black youth from the East Bronx saw the policy in political terms as a conscious attempt to "bring the people down."
I think that in them cutting off pot they neglected cutting off anything like dope. And in that sense I'd have to say that maybe they were trying to bring the people down. Dope is the thing that is really choking people, and they know that. They have no history at all of anybody over-smoking and they sure have plenty of history of people O.D.-ing. And so they didn't try to stop the really bad thing and so I could say that maybe they were trying to bring the people down.
He believed that there was an interrelationship between the heroin market, organized crime, and the financial interests of the United States government. He explained the relationship in this way:
Well, actually, like Mafia, it's so said, is the one to actually have control of the money in the United States. So if that's true then they are profiting off dope and they are profiting off the people who are using dope, and they are actually the United States. At the same time it is known that the
Mafia owns two of the, I know some of the ammunition depots which makes bullets and things like that for this country, for our government. So there must be some link between dope, Mafia, and the United States government. And, at the same time, the Mafia controls the dope traffic.
He also believed that there was an implicit racial bias in the government's approach to the drug problem:
I happened to have went to jail, and I met a black fella there that was from a white community and was caught juggling dope. And he was locked up and they gave him no chance, and that was his first bust. And I found out cats in there from the Bronx and Brooklyn, from black and Puerto Rican communities, who'd been busted two and three times and were still going home. And so it seems as if they just might want to keep it out of their communities especially, and don't care so much about black and Puerto Rican communities, seein' as they don't give those pushers as hard a sentence. What I'm saying is they don't mind if it's in these other communities because these don't really count. But these prominent people, and it is known that more prominent people come from more white neighborhoods, these prominent people are in the establishment, so that's why they wouldn't want dope in their neighborhoods, because they know what it's going to do to their kids. At the same time I would say they most probably feel the same way about pot. . . . Most of the people in those drug programs, when they come out they're right back on dope anyway. And the ones that come just out of jail and get back in society aren't allowed to do this, that, or the other thing because of their record and wind up being nothings. So it seems that they might have been trying to hurt us in another way too.
Similarly, a secretary at an East Harlem drug rehabilitation clinic saw the policy as a reflection of a new-found concern about drugs, specifically because drug use had moved into the middle and upper classes of society:
Their whole thing about drugs is because it's moved into the middle class and upper class. Like all those politicians' kids are getting busted for marihuana and all the other drugs too, and it puts them in a bad position. So they had to act like they were doing something. It didn't matter so long as it stayed in the ghetto. They didn't want the ghetto bothering them anyway, but once it started messing up their middle-class kids, then they got all uptight about it.
An 18-year-old black college student, who had previously been treated in a drug rehabilitation program emphasized the influence of organized crime and political motives in the formulation of the policy. His statements reflect the fact that he and his associates turned to heroin use during the "marihuana panic":
My neighborhood is like half and half. But I mean the black communities, the poor white communities, the poor Spanish communities. I'm pretty sure, I'm definite, it's a way to keep the people down, it's a way to oppress the people you know. And it's like a profitable way, you know, it's really profitable. They see that they can make money and keep the people down, so definitely they're going to do it. Like with the Mafia. The way the Mafia controls this country. I don't really know that much about it but I'm pretty sure it goes down. The way that a lot of senators probably own a lot of real estate down in Mexico, man, growing their grass, you know. I believe there's a lot of that going on. I'm pretty sure that they wanted to keep oppressing the people like that because the narcotics agencies and all these help things that they made at that time, they were really jive, man. Like they were, they wouldn't have the person ready to do anything when he got out. They would really mess a person up while he was in. Like he couldn't see any kind of future for himself. The point they put across then was really "down the junkie" as a criminal. They made the whole country look at the junkie as a criminal, you know. And that was really bad. And they made anybody who even smoked pot a junkie.... Well, like they did whether they were trying it or not. They did oppress the people and I'm pretty sure they did make a profit on it, man.
A community center worker, employed in the Soundview Bruckner section of the Bronx, believed that the government foresaw the switch to heroin and embarked on the Operation Intercept policy primarily for political motives - namely, as a way "to cut down on some of the opposition to the government:"
Operation Intercept was effective in one sense. Not only was it just that you couldn't get grass, if you got grass it was so expensive it outpriced the kids in the ghetto. They couldn't afford marihuana but they were able to buy small bags of heroin. . . . They did it to get more people to shoot heroin, to cut down on some of the opposition to the government, and to get people strung out, to fuck up people. It seems to me that the people who run the government are so fucked up in their heads, it's really hard to imagine what they thought would happen. If they didn't see that people were going to go into other drugs because of the shortage of marihuana, then they just weren't opening their eyes to see what was going to happen. So it seems to me that they probably did see it, unless they're really dumb fools, they probably did see it and purposely did it. People who weren't political, not at all, because of last summer and then Operation Intercept, at least started to vocalize their opposition.
The perception of political rather than financial motives was also reflected in the statement of a 17-year-old Puerto Rican youth, enrolled in the Harlem Teen's program at the time of the interview. His comments were based on his observations in Harlem and the East Bronx:
Listen man, I really think that they wanted to get more people on dope, you know, and bring 'em down. Especially like the Spanish and black people. To really hold them down so they won't get nowhere. You know, like they're fighting now to get somewhere and these people want to keep them down.
The excerpts selected for this section represent the range of attitudes and opinions that resulted, either directly or indirectly, from the Operation Intercept policy and its practical street-level consequences. Although very few respondents believed the policy to be successful in terms of the government's stated objectives, several opinions reflected the idea that the government's real intentions and its stated objectives were identical. Those opinions, stressing the convergence between real and stated objectives, will be called "trusting attitudes." Within the category "trusting attitudes," two subcategories will be distinguished:
1. Statements reflecting the belief that the policy was aimed at the general drug abuse problem.
2. Statements reflecting the belief that the policy was aimed at a specific segment of the drug-using population. This category includes the following explanations, believed to be behind the government's policy:
1. Policy aimed at the general drug abuse problem.
a. The policy was part of a general crackdown on the use and availability of drugs.
b. The policy makers assumed that due to the marihuana scarcity, people would abstain from drug use.
c. The unavailability of marihuana would have a beneficial effect on national cohesiveness and/or individual personalities, as perceived by the government.
d. The policy was intended to intensify pressure on Mexico, so that the Mexican government Would assume greater law enforcement responsibility.
2. Policy aimed at a specific segment of the drug-using population.
a. The government intended to minimize the number of people who would be experimenting with drugs for the first time, primarily young people.
b. The government-enforced shortage would curtail marihuana use among those who could not or would not make the extra effort suddenly required to obtain it.
c. Higher prices would force some marihuana users to abstain.
d. Although they might have realized that some marihuana users would switch to other drugs, the policy makers focused on marihuana because they saw this as the most massive drug consumption problem at the time.
All of the aforementioned types of opinions reflect the belief that the government planned and implemented the Operation Intercept policy with the intention of combating the drug abuse problem or some aspect thereof in the United States. Further, they reflect the idea that such a policy possibly could have had the desired results, at least in certain cases. This should not be interpreted to mean that the respondents expressing these opinions found the policy to be commendable or even well conceived. In fact, the experiences and mass media exposures of such respondents, which served to underline the negative consequences of the policy decision, led most to an uncomplimentary evaluation. However, such statements still echo an underlying faith in the policy makers' good intentions and basic intelligence.
In contrast, a wide range of disparaging, denunciatory, and condemnatory statements served to underline the apparent hostility of most respondents to the Operation Intercept policy in particular and often to the government's approach to drug abuse in general. Many of these opinions emphasized the belief that the government's decision was based on unstated ulterior motives, and that such motives were unrelated to any authentic concern about drug abuse or helping People. Further, these hidden motives were often seen to be in direct Opposition to the short-term and long-range effort to curb drug abuse in this country. The opinions expressed by other respondents reflected an acceptance of the government's credibility concerning the policy's stated goals, either in whole or in part, while being vehemently critical of the basic assumptions, misunderstandings, and inadequate knowledge and foresight upon which that policy decision was based.
All of these types of statements, to be called "distrustful attitudes," will be divided into the following three subcategories:
1. Policy based on ignorance - statements emphasizing the policy makers' lack of knowledge, misunderstanding of the problem, and/or miscalculation of the policy's effects.
2. Policy related to direct or indirect financial interests - reflecting the belief that the government's primary intention was, in reality, this type of unstated ulterior motive.
3. Policy implemented for political reasons - statements based on the belief that the government was primarily concerned with its own propagandistic and/or counterrevolutionary strategies. This category includes the following explanations, believed to be behind the government's policy decision:
1. Policy based on ignorance.
a. The policy reflects no real understanding of the drug problem in general.
b. The policy makers lacked any foresight or predictive ability.
c. The policy was aimed at the symptoms rather than at the underlying causes of drug abuse.
d. The policy was focused on the wrong problem. The marihuana problem is minor compared to the problems related to the use of heroin, the barbiturates, and other drugs.
e. By controlling the influx of marihuana only, the government inadvertently accelerated the use of other drugs.
f. The policy was ineffective because the large-scale flow of marihuana was undisturbed.
g. Only the small-time smuggler was affected by the policy, since organized importers use boats and airplanes rather than automobiles to bring marihuana across the border.
h. The policy was contradictory to other developments in the drug abuse field. The penalties for first-time offenders and possessors. of small amounts of marihuana were being reduced at the same time that these were the people most likely to be arrested at border crossings.
i. The vast amount of money and energy spent on Operation Intercept could have been used for intensive research on the effects of marihuana. If it had been, the government might have obtained a clearer picture of whether it should be illegal in the first place.
j. Drug control must come from within local communities. The law enforcement approach has never been effective in this area.
k. The policy makers do not really understand the law of supply and demand.
1. The policy makers have little understanding of Mexican farmers or of the Mexican police and government officials.
m. The government incorrectly assumed that people would stop using drugs because marihuana was scarce.
n. The government underestimated the adaptability of those who supply the illegal drug market,
o. The policy was part of an unrealistic "scare campaign," that incorrectly lumped all drugs and all drug users together.
p. The policy's effects made people more, instead of less, involved with obtaining drugs.
q. The government fails to understand that people are attracted to drug use because they find it to be an enjoyable activity. Operation Intercept did nothing to alter that basic attraction.
2. Policy related to direct or indirect financial interests.
a. The policy is closely related to the "liquor lobby" in the United States.
b. The government directly profits from inflated marihuana prices.
c. People within the government own marihuana farms in Mexico. They initiate such policies in order to realize greater profits.
d. People with influence within the government have a vested interest in the increased demand for barbiturates and other black market pharmaceuticals, which always accompanies a marihuana shortage.
e. The government was manipulated by organized crime so that the price of Mexican marihuana would rise.
f. The government was manipulated by organized crime so that there would be a bigger market for Vietnamese marihuana, which they planned to import in larger quantities.
g. The government did not concentrate on heroin importation because the people controlling the government do not want to hurt organized crime.
h. The people in control of the government and the people in control of organized crime are indistinguishable. For financial reasons, the marihuana shortage was in their interests.
3. Policy implemented for political reasons.
a. The policy somehow related to the political ambitions of those in government.
b. The government was primarily concerned about "looking" as if they were doing something, regardless of what would be the real effects of the policy.
c. Young people are being sacrificed for the "Southern Strategy."
d. The government wanted to pacify "middle America."
e. It was a "token effort" intended to please those who were demanding that something be done about the drug problem.
f. The policy makers saw the policy as a "vote getter."
g. The government presented the problem in simplistic terms and proposed a simple, easy solution. By misstating the problem, they were able to claim a success for the policy.
h. The administrators of government anti-drug agencies devised the policy in order to impress a new political administration.
i. The policy was initiated by bureaucracies within the government for the purpose of expanding their own power and influence.
j. The government was trying to get credit for a situation brought about by organized crime.
k. Politicians decided to stop the marihuana traffic because their own children were getting "busted."
1. As soon as the drug problem was recognized in white communities, the government decided to do something about it. They were unconcerned when the problem was confined to the ghetto.
m. The policy makers wanted to inconvenience people they don't like, namely, people involved in marihuana use.
n. It was believed that a strong anti-marihuana stand would bring young people "into line."
o. By citing a common enemy, the President expected the American people to "band together" against attitudes and behaviors which he disapproved.
p. The policy was part of a trend to make drug users look like criminals.
q. The policy makers foresaw the switch to heroin and felt that this was in their interests.
r. The government knows that many people who use drugs are potential revolutionaries, and believed that the switch to heroin would curtail this development.
s. The policy was intended to keep the black and Puerto Rican people oppressed, by forcing them to use heroin.
t. The policy was an attempt to cut down on the growing opposition to the government, particularly by young people and poor people, by forcing them to use heroin.
u. By forcing people into heroin use, more people would be contained in dead-end rehabilitation programs rather than demanding jobs.
Although it is not possible to arrive at a clear-cut distinction between those whose comments reflected an underlying faith in the policy makers' intentions and intelligence and those whose statements emanated from a basic distrust of same, a few useful generalizations seem to be justified:
1. Trusting attitudes were more likely to be expressed by "establishment marihuana users." These marihuana users were rarely exposed to multiple drug use experimentation and did not identify with a drug subculture.
2. With a few exceptions, those who expressed trusting attitudes were not personally exposed to the increased use of heroin.
3. Even those who expressed trusting attitudes did not feel that the policy was generally successful, in terms of its stated objectives.
4. Youthful, middle-class, frequent users of marihuana, drug rehabilitation workers, writers, journalists, and drug dealers usually emphasized the policy makers' unfamiliarity with the drug situation and their overriding concern with publicity.
5. Those who feel furthest and most alienated from the centers of power and decision making - namely "hippie-types," writers for underground publications, community workers in ghetto areas, and young black and Puerto Rican residents of low-income neighborhoods - were most likely to believe that the government is closely aligned with organized crime, and that the government has a political vested interest in the use of heroin.
6. Those who expressed distrustful attitudes were far more likely to have witnessed or participated in the increased use of heroin during this period.
7. Distrustful attitudes were more common than trusting attitudes among all types of drug users.
On September 21, 1969, the United States government officially implemented the Operation Intercept policy. With a great deal of mass media coverage, the policy makers announced that this policy was intended to detect and deter the illegal importation of drugs, marihuana in particular, which were coming from Mexico into the United States. It was reasoned that reduced importation and resultant high prices would stem the upward trend in illegal drug use in the United States.
Although the government's intentions were clearly stated and widely disseminated, those to whom the decision had direct relevance interpreted the government's analysis and/or intentions quite differently. What is most interesting is the very great range of perceptions and interpretations that resulted, either directly or indirectly, from a single public policy decision. The scope of that range is evident from the data presented in this section.
Another important insight to emerge from this data is the apparently widespread undercurrent of public cynicism vis-a-vis official decisions, particularly by those most closely associated with the drug abuse problem - the belief, in both respectable and disapproved social circles that even regarding a pressing social issue the government says one thing and means something else; the widespread conviction that the government is more concerned with its own selfish aims, in terms of public relations, financial or political motivations, than it is with the well-being of its citizens; the implicit assumption that the policy makers and those whom the policy is designed to help see things quite differently and are often working at cross purposes. It is evident that the effects of Operation Intercept did little to mitigate this unfortunate situation. If anything, Operation Intercept widened the communications gap and exacerbated this situation, particularly among those who were least likely to trust public officials and government leadership prior to this new policy effort.
1 See Richard R. Lingeman, Drugs From A to Z: A Dictionary (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969), pp. 94, 143; Sidney Cohen, The Drug Dilemma (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969), p. 49; William A. McGlothlin, "Cannabis: A Reference," in The Marihuana Papers, ed. by David Solomon (New York: The New American Library, 1968), p. 462; Lester Grinspoon, "Marihuana," Scientific American, Vol. 22 1, No. 6 (December 1969), p. 17.
2. Testimony by Eugene T. Rossides, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in charge of the Customs Bureau and Secret Service, before the Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency, on September 29, 1969; see also Narcotics, Marihuana and Dangerous Drugs Task Force, Report of Special Presidential Task Force Relating to Narcotics, Marihuana and Dangerous Drugs (June 6, 1969), p. 8. (Mimeographed.)
3. Lingeman, Drugs From A to Z, p. 94.
4. See Cohen, The Drug Dilemma, p. 59; Lingeman, Drugs From A to Z, pp. 95-96; Grinspoon, "Marihuana," p. 22; McGlothlin, "Cannabis," pp. 455-47 1; Dana L. Farnsworth, "A Short Dialogue on Pot," Medical Insight, Vol. 2, No. 3 (March 1970), p. 45; A. Benabud, "Psychopathological Aspects of the Cannabis Situation in Morocco: Statistical Data for 1956," U.N. Bulletin on Narcotics, Vol. 9, No. 4 (1957), pp. 1-16; R.J. Bouquet, "Cannabis, Parts III-V," U.N. Bulletin on Narcotics, Vol. 3, No. 1 (1951), pp. 22-45; R.J. Bouquet, "Marihuana Intoxication," Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 124 (1944), pp. 1010-101 1; I.C. Chopra and R.N. Chopra, "The Use of Cannabis Drugs in India," U.N. Bulletin on Narcotics, Vol. 9, No. 1 (1957), pp. 4-29; "Statement From the National Institute of Mental Health on the Current Status of Marijuana," in First Report by the Select Committee on Crime, Marihuana, House Report No. 91-978, 91 st Cong., 2d Sess. (April 6, 1970), p. 1 13.
5 A "nickel bag," is a five dollar packet of marihuana equal to approximately one-fifth to one-eighth of an ounce.
6 Erich Goode, "The Marijuana Market," reprinted from the Columbia Forum, Vol. XII, No. 4 (Winter 1969), p. 6.
7 Kenneth Gergen, "Assessing the Leverage Points in the Process of Policy Formation," in The Study of'Policy Formation, ed. by Raymond Bauer and
8 Kenneth Gergen (New York: The Free Press, 1968), p. 183.
Drugs Task Force, Report, p. 15.
9. Ibid., pp. 1 5 -16.