The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act
In the 1800s narcotics was mostly unregulated drugs. In the 1890s the (S&R) Sears and Roebuck sent out catalogs which offered a syringe and a small amount of narcotics to millions of homes for 1.50. The first American anti-drug law was an 1875 San Francisco ordinance which outlawed the smoking of opium in opium dens. It was passed because of the fear that Chinese men were luring white women to their "ruin" in opium dens. "Ruin" was defined as associating with Chinese men. It was followed by other similar laws, including Federal laws in which trafficking in opium were forbidden to anyone of Chinese origin, and restrictions on the importation of smoking opium. The laws did not have anything really to do with the importation of opium as a drug, because the importation and use of opium in other forms -- such as in the common medication laudanum -- were not affected. The laws were directed at smoking opium because it was perceived that the smoking of opium was a peculiarly Chinese custom. In short, it was a way of legally targeting the Chinese.
In the beginning of the 20th century cocaine and opiates began to lead to crime. In the 1900some people claimed that cocaine use caused black men to rape white women and was improving the marksmanship. The Chinese was blamed for importing opium smoke to the U.S. In 1903 the blue ribbon citizens’ panel of (CADH), concluded that “If the Chinaman cannot get along without his dope we can get along with him.”
In 1908 Pres. Theodore Roosevelt appointed Dr. Hamilton Wright was the first Commissioner of Opium for the United States. In 1909, Mr. Wright made a statement to the New York Times: Of the entire nation in the world, the U.S. consumes most habit-forming drugs per capita. Opium, the most pernicious drug known to humanity, is surrounded, in this country, with far few safeguards than any other nation in Europe fences it with.... [continues]
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