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Rufus King Collection | Drug Hang Up
The Drug Hang Up, America's Fifty-Year Folly
by Rufus King
Smearing Mary Jane
IN THIS ENFORCED vacuum marijuana continued to be portrayed as a national menace calling for heroic responses from the drug-police camp. And that brings us to a brief look at Commissioner Anslinger's famous annual reports. From the early 1920's the Narcotics Division and its successor, the Narcotics Bureau, prepared a single document each year to serve as its report to the U.S. Congress and at the same time to fulfill the reporting obligations of the United States as a party to the International Opium Convention and subsequent treaties. This lent itself to the bootstrap operations we have already observed-whatever the Bureau said to Congress could subsequently be cited in Geneva and New York as the official U.S. position vis a vis the international community, and vice versa; that is, whatever the U.S. Commissioner might say as an international delegate was thus fed right back to Congress as gospel from the high contracting powers. These double-barreled reports are titled "Traffic in Opium and Other Dangerous Drugs" and there is nothing else like them in all the annals of U.S. bureaucratic publishing. Year after year they scolded, grumbled, and exhorted, leaning heavily on bold-face capitalization, torrents of italics, and turgid hyperbole. They innovated such shabby reporting tricks as measuring the T-men's prowess by adding all prison sentences imposed on persons they had arrested (already mentioned-the 1933 total was 3,248 years, 10 months, 18 days), and reckoning the value of contraband seizures in exaggerated estimates of what they might have brought at top-dollar retail prices on the illicit market. Although the Government Printing Office does not encourage embellishing illustrations in official reports, these documents were always laced with photographs: criminal types posed where they were caught, mug shots of unattractive Bureau targets, and revolting portraits of alleged victims of the traffic. Instead of statistical analysis, the reports leaned heavily on anecdotal items like the following:
On the night of November 4, 1947, at Chicago, M., a narcotic agent, after negotiating with an intermediary, Ralph Hicks, for the purchase of five pounds (2 kilograms, 268 grams) of marijuana or a total of $500 was taken to a point near the intersection of Loomis and Polk Streets where AGREDANO appeared with the marijuana. When the agent attempted to place him under arrest, AGREDANO drew a pistol and the agent was compelled to shoot him, the bullet going through his left arm and penetrating the chest cavity. AGREDANO died of these wounds on November 5, 1947.
It is noteworthy in connection with this otherwise insignificant -and typical-account that Treasury tax collectors were never intended to be armed, and that Narcotics Bureau agents only received special authority to carry guns from Congress in the Narcotic Control Act of 1956. The following year, the Bureau solemnly chronicled this as a marijuana case:
On June 30, 1948, at Cleveland, Ohio, James Buchanan was arrested by police of that city for the murder of a 60-year-old East Cleveland widow. After questioning by police detectives he admitted his participation in the crime and also accused an accomplice. Buchanan admitted having participated, during the previous 6 months, in the brutal attack of 16 women for the purpose of robbing them of their money. He stated further he wanted the money to buy wine and reefers (marijuana cigarettes) which he would consume at the same time. Before venturing out to commit their atrocious crimes, Buchanan and his partner would fortify themselves with wine and marijuana. Buchanan was 24 years of age at the time of his arrest, married, and the father of three children.
To give the full flavor of these singular documents-remembering t they are official publications of an agency of the United States government and at the same time formal communications addressed by the government to other nations, is a task which, though tempting for what it reveals about Anslinger and his Bureau, would require more than the compass of this volume. When anyone, no matter how clumsy or obscure, published something that supported the Bureau's official line, the report would note it and sometimes devote pages to commendation of the author and quotations of favorite passages. When one Pablo 0. Wolff, for example, who later became the World Health Organization's resident expert on marijuana thanks to vigorous U.S. sponsorship, published an alarmed monograph on marijuana in Latin America (where the drug has always been regarded with sanguine calm), the Bureau hailed it as "a painstaking review of information on the abuse of cannabis," and "a much-needed compilation of current knowledge in one volume":
His consideration of the relationship between marijuana and delinquency and criminality throws important light on this phase of the subject. He has been completely impartial, which is the basic requirement for all scientific investigation. His extensive study of hashish (marijuana) intoxication in many countries has enabled him to give a well-rounded picture of the destructive action of marijuana on both character and intelligence.
Even federal judges were patronized. In the 1949 report, this second-rate Treasury agency set forth the following, captioned "The Sound Policy of a United States District Judge":
In two recent cases, one involving narcotic drugs and the other marijuana, Hon. William T. McCarthy, United States District judge, of Boston, Mass., let it be known that certain types of violators could expect no leniency in his court. . . . In the marijuana case . . . judge McCarthy stated: After all, opium or any of its derivatives-and this is not one have a therapeutic value. They bring consolation to the sick and dying; they make their last days on this earth comfortable. But marijuana has no therapeutic value whatsoever. It has been responsible for the commission of crimes of violence, of murder and of rape. Those are two major tributaries that flow from the use of this marijuana. I don't say misuse of it. It has no value of any kind. . . . I don't like to be harsh in cases, I would rather be kindly, but I have a job to do, and I have a fixed, determined viewpoint in these narcotic cases.
The same report then details, for the information of Congress and the U.N., some "Crimes Associated with Marijuana":
On August 23, 1949, at San Jose, Calif., a 19-year-old youth was arrested for the unlawful possession and cultivation of marijuana. The marijuana, which was found growing in the flower garden of his residence, was admittedly for his own use. In a statement to the arresting officers this boy stated that he had read in the public library a copy of the Mayor's Report on Marijuana Problems. Because it gave him the definite impression that marijuana was not harmful or habit-forming, he decided to try smoking it. He stated further that as far as he was concerned the Mayor's Report is erroneous on practically all points. He said he had to have marijuana now and that was why he had been growing it. David Eugene Ash was arrested at Amarillo, Tex., in the early morning of September 11, 1949, by State and county police officers for operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs (marijuana). Ash had backed a large dual-wheeled truck over the top of a parked passenger automobile and overturned the truck. A quantity of marijuana was found on his person at the time of his arrest. Ash is a member of a notorious family and has a long criminal record, including convictions for theft, receiving and concealing stolen property, and affray. He has two sisters who are married to notorious narcotic addicts and criminals. Each of the sisters was sentenced in 1949 to serve one to seven years for violation of the Kansas State narcotic law. He has two brothers who each have long criminal records.
The total of seizures of bulk marijuana reported by the Bureau for the nation for the year 1949 was, incidentally, less than a thousand pounds, and total seizures of marijuana cigarettes were approximately twenty pounds. Members of Congress have always seemed to relish Mr. Anslinger's themes, and pronouncements emanating from the Bureau were sometimes topped by echoes from Capitol Hill. As public anxiety about drug addiction peaked again in the early fifties, the Bureau found a champion in Congressman Hale Boggs, who took up the witless refrain that the courts were really responsible for drug trafficking because they were meting out sentences of insufficient severity. The remedy for this, according to An-slinger and Boggs, was greatly increased penalties with mandatory minimums (provisions requiring sentencing judges to impose punishment of at least a specified number of years of imprisonment), and the Congressman introduced a bill for is purpose, quickly emulated by other law-makers in both houses, in the 81st Congress in 1950. This so-called Boggs Act failed to pass on the first round, but it was reintroduced in the 82nd Congress and acquired so much momentum that it was reluctantly embraced by the Kefauver Committee, becoming law in 1951 as one of the latter's legislative proposals. Drum-beating for tougher sentences for all dope-connected convictions somewhat eclipsed the marijuana issue in the Kefauver proceedings, but the new penalties were attached to marijuana offenses as a matter of course, without any question or opposition. Kefauver noted that marijuana was coming into the country from Mexico in "a tremendous flow," observed that more and more young people were using it, and accepted the Bureau claim that there was a causal or sequential relationship between marijuana use and addiction to the more damaging drugs:
The path to addiction ran practically the same throughout the testimony from young addicts. In their own vernacular, Mr. Dump-son put it this way: "They say they go from sneaky Pete to pot to horse to banging." In ordinary language, this describes the popular sequence--drinking wine, smoking "reefers" or marijuana cigarettes (sometimes starting at the age of 13 or 14) then sniffing or "snorting" heroin, finally injecting it directly into the vein.
Again in 1955-56, when the Daniel Committee conducted its hearings and sponsored even more severe penalties and higher mandatory minimums in the Narcotic Control Act of 1956, marijuana was carried along into the new pattern with only glancing attention. The Senate investigators noted that Mexico was still the source of a great volume of marijuana, that not only civilian users but also U.S. servicemen stationed at military installations near the border went across frequently to get drugs, and that "juveniles also cross with ease." Even Commissioner Anslinger was momentarily outdone by the zeal of some of the questioning:
Senator Daniel. Now, do I understand it from you that, while we are discussing marijuana, the real danger there is that the use of marijuana leads many people eventually to the use of heroin, and the drugs that do cause them complete addiction; is that true?
Mr. Anslinger. That is the great problem and our great concern about the use of marijuana, that eventually if used over a long period, it does lead to heroin addiction. . . .
Senator Daniel. As I understand it from having read your book, an habitual user of marijuana or even a user to a small extent presents a problem to the community, and is a bad thing. Marijuana can cause a person to commit crimes and do many heinous things; is that not correct?
Mr. Anslinger. That is correct. It is a dangerous drug, and is so regarded all over the world. . . .
The Commissioner explained that cannabis had been withdrawn from medical use after 1937 because it had no therapeutic advantages and was dangerous, "with the likelihood that it might cause insanity." Then followed this exchange:
Senator Welker. Mr. Commissioner, my concluding question with respect to marijuana: Is it or is it not a fact that the marijuana user has been responsible for many of our most sadistic, terrible crimes in this Nation, such as sex slayings, sadistic slayings, and matters of that kind?
Mr. Anslinger. There have been instances of that, Senator. We have had some rather tragic occurrences by users of marijuana. It does not follow that all crimes can be traced to marijuana. There have been many brutal crimes traced to marijuana. But I would not say that it is the controlling factor in the commission of crimes.
Senator Welker. I will grant you that it is not the controlling factor, but is it a fact that your investigation shows that many of the most sadistic, terrible crimes, solved or unsolved, we can trace directly to the marijuana user?
Mr. Anslinger. You are correct in many cases, Senator Welker.
Senator Welker. In other words, it builds up a false sort of feeling on the part of the user and he has no inhibitions against doing anything; am I correct?
Mr. Anslinger. He is completely irresponsible.
In 1948 the United States government and the Narcotics Bureau-run synonyms in this context-had launched a campaign in the U.N. Commission to consolidate all existing international drug agreements into a new Single Convention. Year after year the Bureau reports scolded and exhorted to move this project along, and commencing in the middle fifties they began to bear down on cannabis:
Cannabis was the most widespread drug of addiction, geographically. The problem of cannabis was emphasized because it some-times serves as an introduction to addiction to other drugs and because of increased traffic, particularly in Asia, Africa, Central and South America. India made outstanding progress towards prohibiting cultivation and use of cannabis. Seizures of cannabis in the United Kingdom in the first quarter of 1957 exceeded the total quantity seized there during the entire year 1956. Egyptian authorities destroyed cannabis and cannabis preparations in all pharmacies. Lebanese authorities destroyed more than 5,000,000 square meters of clandestine cannabis plantations and continued their program of suppression. . . .
Heading a new parade of episodes in 1958 under the caption "Narcotics and Crime" came the story of one Joe Padilla Franco, an amiable alcoholic by his own description, who bought three marijuana cigarettes from the Green Ladder Bar in Roswell, New Mexico, drank some beer, smoked two of the joints, and some time later woke up to recall that he had stabbed a three-year-old girl to death, whereupon he fled to Mexico. When apprehended, Joe told the authorities that the whole thing had been like a dream, and that he "believed he would not have killed the child if he had not smoked the marijuana." In the following year, the Bureau's official gallery of horrors featured this:
On June 22, 1958, about 2:30 A.M., two officers of the San Francisco Police Department noticed Joe Ross William Callegos, a Mexican, constantly blowing the horn of the automobile he was operating in downtown San Francisco. When the officers told Callegos that horn blowing at that hour was very annoying, Callegos sped away from them, on the wrong side of the street, completely disregarding traffic lights at two intersections. The officers pursued and finally overtook Callegos, who tried to throw away a marijuana cigarette. As one of the arresting officers picked up the cigarette, Callegos struck him and kicked the officer in the face and stomach as they handcuffed the defendant, who became so violent that the officers had to put cuffs on his feet to subdue him. During questioning Callegos appeared to be under the influence of a narcotic drug. Two marijuana seeds were found in one of his pockets.
How surprised and proud this Mexican Joe must have been if he ever learned that his horn-blowing and seed-carrying had been thus officially reported in such vivid detail by the U.S. Treasury department to Congress and by the U.S. Government to the United Nations.