BFTN #6 2018-05-14
May 14, 2018
BFTN #7 2018-05-21
May 21, 2018
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Part THIRTEEN of our series on the WAR ON DRUGS – The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 and The LaGuardia Report.

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Show Notes:

* We’ve seen that in the 1930s, Harry Anslinger decided to make cannabis his new focus.
* Despite the fact that most people had never heard of it.
* Exploiting the yellow journalism stories about rapey negros and Mexicans with superhuman strength.
* Up until 1937, cannabis products were legal to sell in pharmacies and drug stores, so long as they were properly labeled and regulated.
* But in 1937, Harry personally drafted the “Marihuana Tax Act”, as new piece of legislation designed to make it nearly impossible to sell cannabis-based medications.
* He also participated in the congressional hearings prior to the passing of the Act.
* During the congressional hearings, there were only twelve testimonies for the entire discussion on the marijuana issue.
* Out of the total witnesses, seven of them represented the Bureau, four corresponded to private industrial enterprises, and only one entailed a medical official perspective.
* This last individual, possibly the most important and relevant of them all, was the legislative counsel of the American Medical Association (A.M.A.), Dr. William G. Woodward.
* His statement within the process opposed and challenged the moral focus that had been exposed by all representatives of the FBN.
* Added to his medical expertise, he based his claims in the fact that there was not sufficient empirical evidence “about a marihuana problem from either the Bureau of Mental Health or the Public Health Service.”
* He concluded that marijuana “was largely an unknown quantity, but might have important uses in medicine and psychology. For this reason alone it should not be taxed prohibitively.”
* Dr. Woodward’s testimony, of course, was rapidly dismissed by the committee due to its inconsistency with the Bureau’s official perspective of the problem.
* He was ridiculed and accused of being insensitive to the medical and moral needs of Americans.
* Interesting:
* MR. DINGELL: I am just wondering whether the marihuana addict graduates into a heroin, an opium, or a cocaine user.
* MR. ANSLINGER: No, sir; I have not heard of a case of that kind. I think it is an entirely different class. The marihuana addict does not go in that direction.
* So even Harry didn’t think marijuana was a gateway drug.
* The Act was signed into law by FDR.
* It placed a tax on the sale of cannabis.
* Farmers could acquire tax stamps for the cultivation of fiber hemp, physicians would be charged a tax for prescribing cannabis, and pharmacists would be required to pay a tax for selling cannabis.
* Annual fees were $24 ($637 adjusted for inflation) for importers, manufacturers, and cultivators of cannabis, $1 ($24 adjusted for inflation) for medical and research purposes, and $3 ($82 adjusted for inflation) for industrial users.
* Selling marihuana to any person who had previously paid the annual fee incurred a tax of $1 per ounce or fraction thereof; however, the tax was $100 ($2,206 adjusted for inflation) per ounce or fraction thereof to sell to any person who had not registered and paid the annual fee.
* So here’s your baggie of weed, Ray.
* It’s be $50 plus $2200 tax.
* Anyone selling cannabis without a tax license, could get a fine of up to $2000 in 1937 dollars, and five years’ imprisonment.
* But it wasn’t about collecting the tax.
* There were also excessive regulations.
* Doctors who wanted to purchase the one-dollar tax stamp so that they could prescribe it for their patients, were forced to report such use to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in sworn and attested detail, revealing the name and address of the patient, the nature of his ailment, the dates and amounts prescribed, and so on.
* If a doctor failed to do so immediately, both he and his patient are liable to imprisonment-and a heavy fine.
* Obviously, the details of that regulation make it far too risky for anyone to have anything to do with marijuana in any way whatsoever.
* You don’t have to ban something to stop it – you just make doing it too difficult.
* But the Act didn’t criminalize the possession or usage of hemp, marijuana, or cannabis.
* Which was okay, because by 1937, most states already had laws against possession.
* The Monroe News-Star Monroe, Louisiana
* Monday, September 6, 1937

  • One thing that fascinates me about the media coverage of marijuana – it’s exclusively negative.
  • Now we *know* there were doctors and others who refuted the extreme negative aspects of Anslinger’s propaganda.
  • But you see ZERO sign of that in the media coverage.
  • It’s uniformly fear-mongering.
  • And then politicians and Anslinger use the media coverage as evidence of the problem.
  • It really looks like a recursive feedback loop.
  • Anslinger feeds stories to the media, and then uses those stories in the media as evidence.
  • There’s no way the media is doing any independent reporting.
  • It’s pure propaganda, yellow journalism.
  • The first person to be arrested after the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was precisely the person Anslinger and his cohorts sought to target with their cannabis crusade: A Mexican
  • 23 year old, Mexican-American named Moses Baca, who looked like a young Billy Zane, and who had a quarter-ounce of cannabis tucked into his drawer in his third-floor rooming house in Denvers Five Points neighborhood.
  • He served 18 months in Leavenworth.
  • Now keep in mind that the MTA did *not* actually penalise people for possession.
  • But Colorado had its own laws since 1929.
  • Baca wasnt selling weed – but he went to jail anyway.
  • Judge John Foster Symes sentenced Baca and made his disgust for cannabis well-known: I consider marijuana the worst of all narcotics, far worse than the use of morphine or cocaine. Under its influence, men become beasts. Marijuana destroys life itself. I have no sympathy with those who sell this weed.
  • Two days after Baca, the second guy arrested was career criminal Samuel R. Caldwell, 58 years old, who got four years for selling weed.
  • Caldwell was caught selling three joints not to Baca but to a fellow named Claude Morgan, whose fate is lost to historyand was also caught in possession of four pounds of cannabis, which hed smuggled over the state line from Kansas.
  • He was also arrested in Colorado and he was sentenced by the same judge.
  • Anslinger was so passionate about the implementation of the 1937 Marihuana law that he traveled to Denver from Washington D.C.a two-day trip by railin order to attend the trial and sentencing of both Caldwell and Baca.
  • he told the Denver Post. Marijuana has become our greatest problem. Its sale and use has found its way into at least twenty-five states.
  • Its ironic that first two arrests under the new law happened in the state which was the first in the Union to legalize it, 76 years later.
  • Most historians agree that racism factored heavily into Americas drug laws.
  • Yale historian David F. Musto put it this way: The anti-marihuana law of 1937 was largely the federal governments response to political pressure from enforcement agencies and other alarmed groups who feared the use and spread of marihuana by Mexicans.
  • Denver Post, dated August 8, 1937 with the headline U.S. Narcotics Bureau Plans Marijuana War: Drive in Western States Planned with New Act Passed.
  • The single greatest source of controversy to the FBN and Anslingers depiction of the marijuana  problem emerged from the La Guardia Report in 1944.
  • The LaGuardia Committee was the first in-depth study into the effects of smoking marijuana in the United States.
  • The document was issued under the direct  petition of New Yorks Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia who intended to uncover the real nature of the marijuana problem in the city.
  • LaGuardia was a strong opponent of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act.
  • The investigation was made through an empirical approach that concluded in certain facts that did not only defy the FBNs original claims but, moreover, completely contradicted them.
  • Among these conclusions were: The practice of smoking marijuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word, Marijuana is not the determining factor in the commission of major crimes, Marijuana smoking is not widespread among school children, and The publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded.
  • Anslingers response to the La Guardia report can be found, among other sources, in his own  publications.
  • Throughout his 1953 work titled The Traffic of Narcotic he refers to the report as hollow and superficial, as the favorite reference of the proselytor for narcotic-drugs use.
  • In a later work titled The Murderers: The Story of Narcotic Gangs, he states that the report was a government printed invitation to youth and adults  above all to teen agers  to go ahead and smoke all the reefers they felt like.
  • Anslinger went on an offensive against what he saw as a “degenerate Hollywood” that was promoting marijuana use.
  • After high-profile arrests of actors like Robert Mitchum, Hollywood gave Anslinger full control over the script of any film that mentioned marijuana.
  • BTW, I knew nothing about LaGuardia except the airport in NY
  • But I read up on him, fascinating character.
  • Fiorello Enrico La Guardia
  • the 99th Mayor of New York City for three terms from 1934 to 1945
  • Previously he had been elected to Congress in 1916 and 1918, and again from 1922 through 1930.
  • Only five feet, two inches (1.57 m) tall, he was called “the Little Flower”
  • Despite being a Republican, he was a big supporter of FDR’s New Deal.
  • He unified the transit system, directed the building of low-cost public housing, public playgrounds, and parks, constructed airports, reorganized the police force, defeated the powerful Tammany Hall political machine, and reestablished employment on merit in place of patronage jobs.
  • During WWII, his sister, Gemma La Guardia Gluck, ended up in a concentration camp.
  • She was married to a Hungarian Jew and they were both arrested by the Gestapo in Budapest when the Nazis conquered Hungary.
  • Adolf Eichmann and Heinrich Himmler knew that Gemma was La Guardia’s sister and ordered her to be held as a political prisoner.
  • They were sent to Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, where he died.
  • At the end of the war, she was released and managed to get word back to her brother about her location.
  • He worked to get her and her daughter and grandson, who had also been in concentration camps, on the immigration lists
  • But he said that her “case was the same as that of hundreds of thousands of displaced people” and “no exceptions can be made”.
  • So, despite her brother being a powerful American politician, who was then director of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), it took two years for her to be cleared and sent to the United States.
  • She returned to New York in May 1947, where she was reunited with her brother only four months before he died.
  • That’s either a) fucking hardcore ethics or b) he really didn’t like his sister.

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