The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The history of Mary Jane

Then the single law which has done the most in this country to reduce the level of drug addiction is none of the criminal laws we have ever passed. The single law that reduced drug addiction the most was the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act.

The labeling requirements, the prescription requirements, and the refusal to approve the patent medicines basically put the patent medicine business out of business and reduced that dramatic source of accidental addiction. The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, not a criminal law, did more to reduce the level of addiction than any other single statute we have passed in all of the times from then to now.

Via The Old New Thing, The History of the Non-Medical Use of Drugs in the United States

An absolutely fascinating article on the history of marijuana laws and enforcement in the United States. Prior to the 1937 Federal ban of marijuana, 27 states had laws against the drug and all, with the exception of Utah, fell into two camps—the western states, to stem the tide of Mexican immigration and the eastern states, afraid that heroine addicts (cut off because of the Harrison Act of 1914) and drunkards (cut off because of Amendment 18 of 1919) would instead substitute marijuana. The one exception, Utah, passed the first actual criminal statutes against marijuana because of returning Mormom missionaries to Mexico were using the drug, and, as you know, the Mormoms have to outlaw fun.

And the actual passing of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 (yes, it's a tax act) made for some interesting reading:

You want to know how brief the hearings were on the national marijuana prohibition?

When we asked at the Library of Congress for a copy of the hearings, to the shock of the Library of Congress, none could be found. We went “What?” It took them four months to finally honor our request because—are you ready for this?—the hearings were so brief that the volume had slid down inside the side shelf of the bookcase and was so thin it had slid right down to the bottom inside the bookshelf. That's how brief they were. Are you ready for this? They had to break the bookshelf open because it had slid down inside.

The entire debate on the national marijuana prohibition was as follows— and, by the way, if you had grown up in Washington, DC as I had you would appreciate this date. Are you ready? The bill was brought on to the floor of the House of Representatives—there never was any Senate debate on it not one word—5:45 Friday afternoon, August 20. Now, in pre-air-conditioning Washington, who was on the floor of the House? Who was on the floor of the House? Not very many people.

Speaker Sam Rayburn called for the bill to be passed on “tellers”. Does everyone know "tellers"? Did you know that for the vast bulk of legislation in this country, there is not a recorded vote. It is simply, more people walk past this point than walk past that point and it passes—it's called “tellers”. They were getting ready to pass this thing on tellers without discussion and without a recorded vote when one of the few Republicans left in Congress, a guy from upstate New York, stood up and asked two questions, which constituted the entire debate on the national marijuana prohibition.

“Mr. Speaker, what is this bill about?”

To which Speaker Rayburn replied, “I don't know. It has something to do with a thing called marihuana. I think it's a narcotic of some kind.”

Undaunted, the guy from Upstate New York asked a second question, which was as important to the Republicans as it was unimportant to the Democrats. "Mr. Speaker, does the American Medical Association support this bill?”

In one of the most remarkable things I have ever found in any research, a guy who was on the committee, and who later went on to become a Supreme Court Justice, stood up and—do you remember? The AMA guy was named William C. Woodward—a member of the committee who had supported the bill leaped to his feet and he said, “Their Doctor Wentworth came down here. They support this bill 100 percent.” It wasn't true, but it was good enough for the Republicans. They sat down and the bill passed on tellers, without a recorded vote.

The History of the Non-Medical Use of Drugs in the United States

There's more, a lot more, in the article. Yes, it's long, but it covers the testimony of industry in the 1937 hearings (birdseed packagers got an exemption to use hemp seeds; the other industry experts didn't care one way or the other), the fall out of the early enforcement in the 40s, Reefer Madness, the gateway drug, organized crime, Prohibition, schedules, the War on Drugs—to say nothing of the dogs.

And the author makes a convincing case for the next major prohibition in the United States, but you'll have to read the article to find out what it is.

But a hint—look at a habit of the lower classes that the upper classes have kicked. And California … always look at California, for as it goes, so does the nation.

Obligatory Picture

[“I am NOT a number, I am … a Q-CODE!”]

Obligatory Contact Info

Obligatory Feeds

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

You have my permission to link freely to any entry here. Go ahead, I won't bite. I promise.

The dates are the permanent links to that day's entries (or entry, if there is only one entry). The titles are the permanent links to that entry only. The format for the links are simple: Start with the base link for this site:, then add the date you are interested in, say 2000/08/01, so that would make the final URL:

You can also specify the entire month by leaving off the day portion. You can even select an arbitrary portion of time.

You may also note subtle shading of the links and that's intentional: the “closer” the link is (relative to the page) the “brighter” it appears. It's an experiment in using color shading to denote the distance a link is from here. If you don't notice it, don't worry; it's not all that important.

It is assumed that every brand name, slogan, corporate name, symbol, design element, et cetera mentioned in these pages is a protected and/or trademarked entity, the sole property of its owner(s), and acknowledgement of this status is implied.

Copyright © 1999-2024 by Sean Conner. All Rights Reserved.