Part ELEVEN of our series on the WAR ON DRUGS. And we’re still talking about a man who tried to stop the war on drugs way back in 1938 – Dr Henry Smith Williams.


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Show Notes:

In his 1938 book “Drug Addicts Are Human Beings: The Story of Our Billion Dollar Drug Racket”, he drives home the point that being addicted to drugs has nothing to do with a lack of morality.

Henry Smith Williams, angry sane person

  • The clearing away of the MORPHINE-MORALITY SUPERSTITION would do for the victim of drug addiction disease what the clearing away of the DEMONIACAL-POSSESSION SUPERSTITION did for the INSANE.
  • Now of course thinking about addiction as a medical problem was pretty novel in the 30s.
  • The founders of AA, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, had the same approach in 1935.
  • The American Medical Association (AMA) declared that alcoholism was an illness in 1956.
  • But the idea goes back to the early 19th century.
  • American physician Benjamin Rush, a signatory to the United States Declaration of Independence, wrote that “habitual drunkenness should be regarded not as a bad habit but as a disease”.
  • Anyway, back to the arrest and conviction of Dr Edward Williams.
  • Harry wanted Edward Williams to be broken more than any other doctor, because he was widely respected and many people listened to him.
  • Anslinger wrote “The moral effect of his conviction,will most certainly result in greater circumspection.”
  • His idea was that you only have to destroy a few doctors to silence the rest.
  • Go for the top.
  • Maximum intimidation.
  • This was always Harry’s way.
  • Howard Diller, one of his agents, said later: “Anybody that came out with any academic work that could be critical of him, his Bureau, or his philosophy, had to go to prison, Or be beheaded.”
  • Henry went to see Harry to plead for him to lay off his brother.
  • While he was in Harry’s office, Anslinger claimed no knowledge of the arrest and blamed it on his underlings.
  • The buck stops… Over there, waaay over there.
  • But when Henry left, Anslinger apparently made fun of him to his staff.
  • Another doctor once visited Anslinger’s office with a gun hidden in his jacket, ready to shoot him.
  • But Harry saw it coming and disarmed the guy.
  • So in Henry’s book he eventually claims Harry was taking his instructions from the Mafia.
  • If you want to know how this scam works, he explained, you need to look at the story of Chris Hanson.
  • He was Harry’s bureau chief in California, and he masterminded the mass round-up of doctors there, including Edward Williams.
  • And we now know why he did it, wrote Henry Smith Williams.
  • Not long after he shut down the clinic in Los Angeles, it was proven in court that Big Chris was secretly working for a notorious Chinese drug dealer named Woo Sing.
  • He was taking bushels of cash from the drug dealers, and in turn he was doing their bidding.
  • The dealers paid Big Chris to shut down the heroin clinics.
  • They wanted him to do it.
  • Hanson was sentenced to 10 years in the Federal penitentiary at McNeill Island and a fine of $9,000.
  • So there you have it.
  • At the start of the drug war, the man who launched the drug crackdown in California did it because he was paid to—by the drug dealers themselves.
  • They wanted the drug war.
  • They wanted it so badly, they would pay to speed it up.
  • Williams figured Anslinger must also have been in the pay of the Mafia.
  • But as it turns out, wrong on this one crucial detail.
  • There is no evidence that Anslinger ever worked for the Mafia, and it’s fair to assume it would have emerged by now if he had.
  • Anslinger wasn’t corrupt.
  • He was just a cunt.
  • Henry spent his remaining years setting up a group to campaign for an end to the drug war, but Anslinger’s men wrote to everyone who expressed an interest in it, warning them it was a “criminal organization” that was “in trouble with Uncle Sam.”
  • Henry Smith Williams died in 1943.
  • Drug Addicts Are Human Beings remained out of print and largely forgotten for the rest of Anslinger’s life, and ours.
  • But you can find it, like I did, on
  • The book contained a prediction.
  • If this drug war continues, Henry Smith Williams wrote, there will be a five-billion-dollar drug smuggling industry in the United States in fifty years’ time.
  • He was right almost to the exact year.
  • The size of the global illicit drug market was estimated to be US$321.6 billion in 2003.
  • It’s about 1% of the global GDP.
  • The story of the Williams brothers, and all the doctors who were crushed alongside them, was so successfully wiped from America’s collective memory that by the 1960s, Anslinger could say in public that doctors had always been his allies in the drug war.
  • He told a journalist: “I’d like to see, the doctor who claims he was treated in anything but the kindliest fashion.”