Today, the Drug War is a part of American life, just like the War on Terror, the War on Poverty, and any other number of “Wars on Concepts.” But how did the Drug War originate?
The Origin’s of America’s Drug War?
Few people realize the Drug War is a very new invention, launched in 1914 with the highly-questionable Harrison Narcotics Tax Act. Here’s more on the dubious and racist origins of the Drug War from Jacob H. Huebert over at Lew Rockwell…
Bigotry and xenophobia were another major factor leading to drug prohibition. Chinese immigrants were partly responsible for spreading opium use in America, so prohibitionists found a receptive audience among whites who feared the prospect of their daughters being lured into the Chinaman’s opium den. Early anti-opium laws in western states explicitly discriminated against Chinese immigrants.
Absurd fears about cocaine-crazed blacks fueled support for cocaine prohibition. Dr. Hamilton Wright, the leading anti-drug crusader during the Theodore Roosevelt Administration, told Congress that cocaine “is often the direct incentive to the crime of rape by the Negroes,” despite a lack of evidence for this or even for the proposition that blacks used cocaine more than whites. Still, Southern Senators especially bought into the widespread myth that black men on cocaine essentially became crazed zombies who were – yes, some people believed this – invulnerable to .32 caliber bullets.
Professional and industry groups, most notably the American Pharmacological Association, also helped enact drug prohibition. Big pharmaceutical companies did not like competition from patent medications, and pharmacists did not like it that people other than themselves could sell drugs. Regulation of drug distribution, even if it imposed costs on pharmaceutical companies and pharmacists to some extent, could be worthwhile to them if they could bear the costs while their smaller, less diversified competitors could not.