Peter Gorman Archive
Award-winning investigative journalist (and dad) Peter Gorman has spent more than 20 years tracking down stories from the streets of Manhattan to the slums of Bombay. Specializing in Drug War issues, he is credited as a primary journalist in the medical marijuana and hemp movements, as well as in property forfeiture reform. His work has appeared in over 100 national and international magazines and newspapers.
Peter Gorman's love affair with the Amazon jungle is well-known to people in the field. Since 1984 Mr. Gorman has spent a minimum of three months annually there generally using Iquitos
This story appeared in High Times in 1997
SIXTY YEARS OF REEFER MADNESS
by the HighWitness News Team:
by Peter Gorman
How did it come to pass that a helpful little herb like cannabis came to be the legs on which the Drug War stands? What steps were taken by people in power that would lead to more than 600,000 marijuana arrests in 1996 alone? The story is a lurid tale of prohibitionist lust to clamp down on other people’s pleasures, fired up by racism and cultural warfare.
2000 BC—Hindu Atharva Veda notes cannabis as among the “kingdoms of herbs which release us from anxiety.”
500 BC—Herodotus notes that the Scythians intoxicate themselves by placing the leaves of the hemp plant on red-hot stones in a closed room and “thus transported with the vapor, shout aloud.”
160 AD—The Roman physician Galen writes that the general use of cannabis in cakes produced intoxication.
400—A young Middle Eastern woman dies, apparently during childbirth. Some 1,600 years later, in 1993, a team of Israeli scientists discovers cannabis residue with her skeleton.
1532—French author François Rabelais publishes The Herb Pantegruelion, giving an account of the intoxicating properties of cannabis.
1545—The Spanish plant hemp in Chile, probably its introduction to the New World.
1554—Spanish introduce cannabis to Peru.
1611—Hemp cultivation begins in the colony of Virginia.
1765—George Washington, a hemp farmer, writes in an Aug. 7 diary entry that he “began to seperate [sic] the male from the female hemp…rather too late.”
1775—Hemp introduced to Kentucky, which becomes the center of 19th-century production of the plant in the United States.
1850—The United States Pharmacopoeia admits marijuana as a recognized medicine under the name Extractum Cannabis or extract of hemp. It becomes one of the most widely used medicines in the nation and remains in the Pharmacopoeia until 1941.
1851— The United States Dispensatory reports that “extract of hemp causes exhilaration, intoxication, delirious hallucinations.” Among the illnesses for which it recommends its use are neuralgia, gout, rheumatism, tetanus, convulsions, hysteria and depression.
1857—The young American author Fitz Hugh Ludlow publishes The Hasheesh Eater about his marijuana-eating experiences.
1893—Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, called by British colonial authorities to study the cannabis “problem” in India, warns against prohibition of bhang. This is to be the first of many panels of legal and medical experts called to study the problem which reject cannabis prohibition.
1920—Shortly after alcohol is prohibited by the Volstead Act, recreational use of cannabis surges and the first “tea pads” are opened in New York City.
1928—Louis Armstrong records “Muggles.” Other weed-inspired jazz songs of the era include Cab Calloway’s “Reefer Man” (1932), Sidney Bechet’s “Viper Mad” (1938), and Rosetta Howard’s 1937 “If You’re A Viper” (Dreamed about a reefer five feet long/The mighty mezz but not too strong). In 1945, with pot no longer legal, Cee Pee Johnson would note that “The ‘G’ Man Got the ‘T’ Man.”
1930—Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow, a saxophone player who is credited with turning on the world of New York jazz musicians to cannabis, begins selling loose joints in Harlem. According to author Albert Goldman, writing in HT (Nov. ’79), “Mezz and his vipers were the tiny seed from which the whole modern dope-culture sprang.”
1937—At the two-hour Congressional hearing on July 10 that preceded passage of the Marihuana Tax Act, the American Medical Association’s legal director, Dr. William C. Woodward, presents an inspired prophecy: “Since the medicinal use of cannabis has not caused and is not causing addiction, the prevention of the use of the drug for medicinal purposes can accomplish no good whatsoever. How far it may serve to deprive the public of the benefits of a drug that on further research may prove to be of substantial value, it is impossible to foresee.”
1944—Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of New York City launches investigation following press scare on marijuana use by Harlem’s blacks. Concludes The LaGuardia Report: “The publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded.” The report also shoots down the “gateway theory” generations before the phrase is even coined: “The use of marihuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction, and no effort is made to create a market for these products by stimulating the practice of marihuana smoking.”
1949—Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady go on the road.
1951—In Senate testimony, Dr. Harris Isbell of the US Public Health Service Hospital in Lexington, KY—the grandfather of modern addiction theory—opposes the Boggs Act: “Marijuana smokers generally are mildly intoxicated, giggle, laugh, bother no one and have a good time. They do not stagger or fall, and ordinarily will not attempt to harm anyone. It has not been proved that marijuana smoking leads to crimes of violence or to crimes of a sexual nature. Smoking marijuana has no unpleasant after-effects, no dependence is developed on the drug and the practice can easily be stopped at any time. In fact, it is probably easier to stop smoking marijuana cigarettes than tobacco cigarettes.”
1955—Allen Ginsberg writes “Howl,” the Beat epic-poem manifesto hailing those “who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York.”
1958—Paul Krassner begins The Realist, inventing underground journalism.
1962—HELP! Magazine provides the first national exposure for underground-comics pioneers R. Crumb and Gilbert Shelton.
1964—LeMar (Legalize Marijuana) founded, the nation’s first legalization organization.
1965—East Village Other, Berkeley Barb, Detroit Fifth Estate begin publishing.
1966—San Francisco Oracle begins publishing.
1967—The Summer of Love: San Francisco and New York teem with Human Be-Ins. President Lyndon Johnson appoints commission to study the “problem.” Johnson Commission once again condemns the policy of treating marijuana like opiates and repudiates the “steppingstone” theory.
1968—Life magazine puts a photo of a man smoking a joint on the cover.
1969—Woodstock Festival, the pinnacle of the hippie counterculture, overwhelms Bethel, NY.
1970—DC attorney Keith Stroup founds NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. State chapters are formed, and the national drive for cannabis decriminalization is on.
1971—After Mexican border is stifled by Operation Intercept, far-superior Jamaican and Colombian weed instantly flood the US market.
1972—Richard M. Nixon’s President’s Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse—the Shafer Commission—issues its report, yet again deriding prohibition policy: “Our youth cannot understand why society chooses to criminalize a behavior with so little visible ill effect or adverse social impact.”
1973—Oregon become the first of 12 states to decriminalize possession of personal quantities of cannabis.
1974—President Gerald Ford’s son, Jack, admits smoking pot.
1975—Alaska Supreme Court strikes down law against possessing or growing small quantities.
1976—Jimmy Carter, on the campaign trail, promises (falsely) to support federal decrim legislation once he’s in the White House.
1978—Stone Age magazine publishes the first extended, illustrated how-to article on indoor hydroponic marijuana horticulture.
1980—Tom Alexander of Eugene, OR begins Sinsemilla Tips, an authoritative magazine on growing marijuana.
1982—The National Academy of Sciences publishes complete review of cannabis research to date, Marijuana and Health, from their Institute of Medicine. It completely debunks Nahas-era pseudomedical propaganda, outlining in detail proven therapeutic applications of pot and pure THC.
1983—The first Ask Ed column appears in HIGH TIMES.
1984—The indoor marijuana growing boom begins shortly after the first year of CAMP in California.
1986—The Drug Policy Foundation, the black-tie set of the reform movement, is founded.
1988—Elvy Musikka, who suffers from glaucoma, becomes the first woman to receive federal marijuana through the Compassionate IND program.
1988—Anandamide, the brain’s own THC, discovered by St. Louis University Medical School researcher William Devane, who names it from the Sanskrit root for “pleasure.”
1989—Jack Herer, Ben Masel, Steve DeAngelo, Debby Goldsberry and a handful of college students create the Hemp Tour.
1990—The Cannabis Action Network is founded, taking the Hemp Tour around the country as a cannabis educational tool.
1991—Cypress Hill release their first album. Shortly afterward they appear on the cover of HIGH TIMES with marijuana, and introduce the term “blunt” to the American vernacular.
1993—The San Francisco Cannabis Buyers’ Club opens. It will eventually have more than 11,000 members.
1996—Medical-marijuana initiatives pass in California and Arizona.
1997—The New England Journal of Medicine endorses medical marijuana, calling its prohibition “misguided, heavy-handed and inhumane.”
1941—Cannabis removed from US Pharmacopoeia.
1948—Actor Robert Mitchum busted for pot. “No mass murderer could easily get as much publicity, most of it bad,” wrote British biographer. Gets 60 days in jail; charges later dismissed.
1948—Anslinger launches campaign for a UN Single Convention Treaty on Narcotic Drugs, which will ban marijuana virtually worldwide.
1951—Boggs Act passes Congress, defining marijuana as a “narcotic” alongside opium and cocaine, largely on Anslinger’s insistence that pot is a “steppingstone” drug. The Public Health Service vehemently disagrees, but the act passes.
1961—UN adopts Single Convention Treaty, exporting American-style prohibition across the globe, and creating “schedules” for drugs. Morphine and cocaine, as Schedule II drugs, may be prescribed. As Schedule I drugs, marijuana and heroin cannot. Satisfied, Anslinger retires.
1967—Grateful Dead, Keith Richards busted for pot.
1968—FBN, after corruption scandals at its New York office, is transferred by the outgoing Johnson Administration from the Treasury to the Justice Department, and is renamed the Bureau of Narcotics & Dangerous Drugs (BNDD).
1969—Operation Intercept: President Richard Nixon instructs the BNDD to join Customs in a joint effort to shut down the flow of marijuana along the Mexican border. Led by future Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy, Intercept succeeds in popularizing Colombian and Jamaican pot.
1970—Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention & Control Act decisively gives the Justice Department control over narcotics enforcement and the scheduling of drugs. Pot busts go up 60%, to 190,000.
1971—Nixon launches War on Drugs for upcoming presidential campaign. BNDD budget of $43 million is now 14 times greater than the old FBN budget.
1973—Nixon launches Drug Enforcement Administration, which turns the BNDD into a new “superagency” consolidating smaller federal antinarcotics outfits. Budget and agent strength soars, even despite a brief Congressional investigation of the new superagency’s public-information officers and their embarrassing proximity to Las Vegas money-laundering figures.
1977—DeKalb County Families In Action, Atlanta “parents group,” in conjunction with up-and-coming Congressman Newt Gingrich, mounts antiparaphernalia crusade to pass model federal drug-gear prohibition law.
1978—US media discover ongoing DEA-Mexican paraquat-spraying project. Though no poisoned black-market pot is ever discovered, nine-month TV blitz rocks nation, reverses public-opinion trend toward decriminalization; paraquat spraying continues uninterrupted throughout ’80s and ’90s.
1979—Reader’s Digest begins series of articles by antipot propagandist Peggy Mann (working under dictation from Dr. Gabriel Nahas) which supplies permanent pattern for parents’-group reefer-madness hysteria.
1980—Over 750 people are killed in the bloodiest election campaign in Jamaican history, most by new Prime Minister Edward Seaga’s CIA-armed posses. In return for covert US support, he agrees to crack down on the ganja trade, and the posses, packing new 9-mm pistols and Uzis, turn to cocaine, eventually bringing crack to the US East Coast.
1981—Incoming President Ronald Reagan focuses federal prosecutors’ time on drug cases and drug policy on marijuana, reviving the Nixonian phrase “War on Drugs” for a new era.
1982—Congress passes amplified forfeiture law, allowing police to seize money, goods and property gained from illegal activity.
1983—CAMP, the federally funded Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, kicks off annual harvest-season paramilitary invasion of Northern California.
1985—Nancy Reagan institutes her Just Say No crusade.
1987—The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, funded largely by cigarette, alcohol and pharmaceutical money, is founded.
1988—The Coast Guard forfeits a yacht after 10 seeds and two stems are found on board.
1989—Incoming President George Bush names William Bennett Drug Czar. Bennett, a chronic nicotine addict, proclaims drug use a character issue, and HIGH TIMES’ Steve Bloom dubs him the Drug Bizarre.
1990—Alaska voters overturn their state’s decrim law in a referendum.
1992—Candidate Bill Clinton tells the American public that while he tried marijuana in college, as an asthmatic he “didn’t inhale.”
1994—Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders sacked by President Clinton for suggesting that drug legalization be studied.
1995— 600,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana by state and local law enforcement, the largest number in US history, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report; 86% percent of busts are for simple possession.
1996—NORML estimates that 10 million marijuana-smokers have been arrested since 1965.
1997—Drug Czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey pledges federal arrests of physicians who recommend marijuana to patients.