The Harrison Act

Topics: Opium, Drug addiction, Morphine Pages: 5 (1848 words) Published: October 19, 2011
Yolanda James
Lea 201
Research Paper
The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act
Of (1914)

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. Wright further stated that “cocaine is often the direct incentive to the crime of rape by Negroes of the South and other section of the country,” even though there was no evidence to support his claim. By 1914, the problem had grown to the point where an estimated 1/400 U.S. citizens was addicted to some form of opium. The addicts were mostly women who were prescribed and dispensed legal opiates by physicians and pharmacist for “female problems,” Between 2/3s and three-quarters of these addicts were women, forty-six states had regulations on cocaine and twenty-nine states has laws against opium, morphine, and heroin. After several author argued that the debate was merely to regulate trade and collecting a tax. They discussed the raise of opiate use in the U.S., and to how to regulate commerce. The war on drugs was hoped to be regulated by the Harrison Act due to the fear of “drug-crazed, sex-mad negroes” and made references to Negroes under the influence of drugs murdering whites, degenerate smoking marijuana and Chinamen seducing white women with drugs. At the hearing for the Harrison Act Dr.Wright testified that the drugs made blacks uncontrollable, it gave them superman powers and caused them to rebel against the white authorities. Dr. Koch of the State Board Pharmacy of Pennsylvania testified that “Most of the attacks upon the white women of the South are the direct result of a cocaine-crazed Negro brain”. Before the act was passed, on Feb. 08, 1914 The New York Times published an article entitled “ Negro Cocaine ‘Fiends’ Are New Southern Menace: Murder and Insanity Increasing Among Lower-Class Blacks” by Edward Williams which he reported that Southern sheriffs had increased the caliber of their weapons from .32 to .38 to bring blacks down under the effect of cocaine. The act appears to be more concerned about marking of opiates. However the clause of distribution was only allowed by doctors “in the course of his professional practice only.” It was interpreted...
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