1920s Drug Fiends

Excerpted from Prohibition and the Crash, by J Henry Phillips

Chapter 18

Drug Fiends

            A five-to-four decision by the Supreme Court in Seattle’s “whispering wires” bootlegging case settled the 4th Amendment issue of wiretapping on June 4. Our highest Court on that day pronounced government skulking over phone lines legal, ethical and good.[1] The Court’s stated position in finishing the work begun with the Sullivan and Marron decisions was that the Bill of Rights was so important that only Congress—certainly not the Judicial branch—had the authority to attribute “an enlarged and unusual meaning to the Fourth Amendment.”[2]

Thirteen Coast Guards were suspended June 2, ostensibly for accepting bribes to overlook smuggling of “liquor” from ocean liners, but that story had been suppressed for over 2 months and had developed an odor.[3] In Buffalo, June 4 was opening day for a conference between U.S. and Canadian customs officials. The meeting was organized by Assistant Treasury Secretary Seymour Lowman. This is the same Lowman, who replaced Lincoln Andrews after Andrews was forced by Elmer Irey – the heavy-artillery agent – to resign. Placed in charge of customs, Lowman’s specialties included narcotics smuggling and dismissing “dirty” agents.[4] When newsmen finally found out about this meeting nearly 3 weeks later, Secretary Andrew Mellon assured them that no railroad men had been threatened and that it “had nothing to do with prohibition or enforcement of the Volstead act.” This naturally raised suspicions about drugs, suspicions reinforced when 6 persons were shot on the floor of the Yugoslav House of Representatives. Yugoslavia was a major exporter of medical-grade opium and was reeling from widespread riots. This news hit reporters even as they tried to pry a scoop on the secret meeting from Secretary Mellon.[5]

In April 1921, the Literary Digest had run an unsigned article “Is Prohibition Making Drug Fiends?” The article raised troubling questions. The State Department understood perfectly well by 1922 that war-fed output and prohibition-enhanced smuggling facilities were thwarting all efforts at narcotics control.[6]

Repeal advocate Franklin Fabian speculated in a 1922 book that prohibition might have something to do with U.S. narcotics consumption being 6 or 7 times as high as in most European nations.[7] The very suggestion was hotly denied by prohibitionist Herman Feldman, who also denied that figures describing the true situation could be had from any source. Feldman relied on the usual apocrypha and anecdotes to shore up his beliefs, and shrugged off any hard data on arrests and convictions as proving only that enforcement was improving. Feldman’s source, a Dr. Kolb, argued that alcohol was actually a sort of gateway drug which led to narcotics use.[8] Nowhere does Feldman explain why no narcotics planks figured in U.S. political party platforms before 1924. Yet that year the Democrats—eager, of course, to exclude Asian immigration—suddenly began railing in their platform against “the spreading of heroin addiction among the youth,” while the Prohibition Party merely blinked and stood mute on the issue.[9] The sight of prisons steadily filling up with “narcotics” convicts led the Democratic Platform Committee and Herman Feldman to diametrically opposite conclusions as to why.

At prohibition hearings held during April of 1926 Congressman William S. Vare of Pennsylvania had declared the “increased use” of narcotics throughout the nation “appalling.”[10] Then on May 14, 1928, Chairman Graham of the Judiciary Committee reported that 28% of federal inmates were “addicts” and pushed for the Porter bill to segregate the junkies on a Kentucky “narcotics farm.”[11]

Yet the wisdom of the Harrison Act stood unchallenged even after 537 pounds of heroin and morphine were discovered in Brooklyn by New York Deputy Chief Inspector Louis J. Valentine’s staff in 1927—the year of the recent “Tong War” on U.S. soil and civil turmoil on Chinese soil.[12] Not only had alcohol prohibition increased U.S. demand for heroin and morphine, but the well-developed channels for alcohol smuggling served even better as conduits for smuggling drugs. It was probably easier to bribe a customs agent to look the other way if the agent believed that rum, not heroin, was being smuggled in.

 

[1] (NY World Almanac 1929 91)

[2] (Olmstead et al. v. U.S. 06/04/28 [465])

[3] (NYT 8/15/28 23:4)

[4] (Merz 1931 248-249)

[5] (NYT 6/22/28 31; 6/23/28 34, 52)

[6] (Taylor 1969 150)

[7] (Fabian 1922 77-80)

[8] (Feldman 1927/30 109, 113-115, 111)

[9] (Johnson and Porter 1975 246; 249)

[10] (Feldman 1927/30 101-102)

[11] (NYT 5/15/28 10)

[12] (NYT 7/1/28 14; 1/13/27 4)

Does your company ever need to come to terms with pharmaceutical suppliers south of the border? Why not hire an interpreter familiar with the history and background of many foreign products?

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Hyperinflation, 1923, 1989

Germany was saddled with making reparations payments for damage she caused in WWI. The cause of that war and the method of raising money with which to pay were intimately intertwined. How?

germansmack12oct1923

German heroin glut

Knowledge of the Opium Wars invariably comes as a surprise to most victims of pre-Internet government schooling. But just before Victoria was crowned Queen of England, China banned opium trading and ordered the traders to leave. Lord Palmerston soon oversaw military operations to force China to repeal its opium prohibition. The war preparations sucked British investment capital out of These States and a depression set in shortly after 1837, when prohibitionist policies in China first affected British commerce.** Modern weapons crushed all resistance and the Chinese were forced not only to legalize the only really addictive drug warranting the nomenclature, but also to pay for the losses suffered by their attackers. This rankled. The Boxer Rebellion was a failed rematch, but the Revolution of 1911 finally restored control of their ports to the Chinese, and the ban produced a huge opium glut affecting the economies of the producing nations–The Balkans.

That almost all the opium containing 12 to 14% morphine is produced between Italy and Turkey is an inconvenient fact handily omitted from government school curricula. Serbia, Montenegro–the entire mountainous area from Slovenia to Bulgaria down to Greece was shot through with opium plots feeding chemical plants in Austria-Hungary and Germany. There, the morphine was extracted and acetylated into patented German Heroin™. Immediately after it became clear Chinese customs agents could no longer be bribed or bullied, price-cutting and competition for dope markets exploded into war in the Balkans, and escalated smoothly into World War I. This too is a surprise to people educated in government-subsidized classrooms, but the mechanism was obvious in the year 1923, when a heroin epidemic in United States called into question the wisdom of the government’s classification of light beer as a felony narcotic per the 18th Amendment. But alcohol prohibition in America was a windfall for the German drug industry. According to The Norwalk Hour:

This country has been a dumping ground for the large quantity of drugs manufactured abroad since the end of the war. And it is against this production of drugs abroad for illicit sale in this country that a movement has now been launched.
Germany, previous to the outbreak of the war, was the chief alkaloid manufacturing country in the world. The supply of morphine, heroin and other alkaloids of opium for the Occident came largely from her factories. In 1915 and thereafter the Allied countries found themselves short of opiates, the medical treatment of hundreds of thousands of wounded having drained surplus stocks the world over. Manufacturing laboratories sprang up. At this time poppy growing in India, Persia and China increased tremendously, and in India it receives governmental encouragement.

There you have a historical recitation of These States suddenly discovering how the Chinese had felt since long before the Civil War.  The parallels with the situation endured by the Celestial Empire continue, for Britain, after losing America, transformed India into an opium farm with an annual output worth $19 million in gold. That entrenched drug market brought England and France (which ran opium regies in Cochin-China) into war with Germany. The war necessitated loan-taking in the USA, whose President Coolidge insisted on October 5 that the loans be repaid. Hence, again, the transfer of British liability to the vanquished, this time Germany. Germany’s reaction was to evade reparations payment by inflating its currency into worthlessness.

Cruzeiros novos e Cruzados brasileiros

Brazil’s inflation during George CIA Bush regime

Why is this relevant? The prohibitionist infiltrators that caused the GO-Pee to try and fail to keep light beer a felony in 1932 never relinquished their hold on the party. During the Reagan-Bush years, when South America was exporting relatively harmless and nonaddictive cocaine to These States and Europe, a flurry of drug testing laws and the exhuming of Herbert Hoover Administration asset-forfeiture legislation triggered a major crash once traders perceived the Depression was inevitable. Like Germany in 1923, Brazil went into hyperinflation, and its president was deposed by impeachment (much like the September, 2016). George Waffen Bush repeated this Herbert Hoover in his second term. Bush’s Executive Orders packed the government with religious fanatics. Together they pushed prohibitionist asset forfeiture of billions, again causing damage to the US and global economies in the trillions of dollars.  Today’s Republican platform reads like Mein Kampf, only with “drug” search-and-replacing “jew” and “America” replacing “Germany” throughout. Both the Republican and Democratic parties disguise the fact that prohibitionist fanaticism by banning beer attracted opiates during prohibition. Prohibition enforcement, caused the Crash and Depression, and Herb Hoover’s policies supported the rise of National Socialism. This led to more war, and finally major Crashes in 1987, and just recently in 2007.

I vote Libertarian secure in the knowledge that there is nothing the other looter party could do that is worse than Republican economic disasters. Furthermore, my LP spoiler vote has 6 to 36 times the law-repealing clout of a vote wasted on the Kleptocracy.

** The Sydney Morning Herald of May 15, 1837 p. 3 contains the unlinkable article labeled CHINA. Click HERE to go to that page and see the Edict expelling all the foreign opium traders from Canton at the lower right. There is no date, but it is likely the thing was issued December, 1836, when the US economy was already in free fall and covetous of Mexican gold in California. The first news in English took six months to find publication in the newspapers. We’ll be blogging on that shortly.