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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
Peru as his base. During that time he has studied ayahuasca the visionary healing vine of the jungle with his friend the curandero Julio Jerena. He has collected artifacts for the American Museum of Natural History botanical specimens for Shaman Pharmaceuticals and herpetological specimens for the FIDIA Research Institute of the University of Rome. His description of the indiginous Matses Indians’ use of the secretions of the phyllomedusa bicolor frog has opened an entire field devoted to the use of amphibian peptides as potential medicines in Western medicine.

This story appeared in High Times in 1997

Prohibition Follies from Anslinger to McCaffrey

by the HighWitness News Team:
Dean Latimer, Steven Wishnia, Bill Weinberg and Peter Gorman

by Peter Gorman
all rights reserved


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.
When the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed in 1905, its sponsors couldn’t have had any idea of where it would eventually lead. The Food part of it certainly saved a lot of lives by keeping vermin droppings out of our grain and horrible toxins out of our food supply. But the act also set up the first machinery for allowing the Feds into your home to root through your belongings. People who suggested such at the time were considered alarmist, but that is exactly what came to pass.
The Pure Food and Drug Act forced the makers of patent medicines to list their ingredients, and weren’t Great-Grandma and Grandpa surprised to learn that their little liver pills and soothing cough syrups were chock-full of morphine and cocaine? That fact was seized on by the promoters of the 1914 Harrison Act, which brought opiates and cocaine under federal Treasury Department control, imposing such high taxes that it effectively banned them.
To pass the law, legislators played to the fear of the “Yellow Peril,” with lurid tales of white women becoming addicted and shacking up with “Chinamen.” Treasury officials then launched a Narcotics Division. Due to the pressure of the National Wholesale Druggists Association, cannabis was not included.
But in 1915, California passed the first state law against cannabis, playing to anti-Mexican racism, much as the antiopiate crusaders played to anti-Asian racism. As the Butte Standard editorialized in favor of Montana’s new marijuana law: “When some beet-field peon takes a few traces of this stuff, he thinks he has just been elected president of Mexico, so he starts out to execute all his political enemies.”
In 1919, when the Volstead Act outlawed alcohol, the Treasury Department’s new Prohibition unit was charged with enforcement. Ten years later, Harry Anslinger, an in-law of Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, was appointed Assistant Commissioner on Prohibition. And when Prohibition ended in 1933 and his unit was later folded into the then-new Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), Anslinger was at the helm. Deprived of a cause by Repeal, the ambitious young lawman found a new crusade: marijuana.
In 1936, Anslinger pushed for marijuana to be included in the Uniform State Narcotic Act, then wending its way through state legislatures as part of an effort to standardize drug laws from coast to coast. Most states took the bait. He subsequently took the crusade overseas, attending the Conference for Suppression of Illicit Traffic in Dangerous Drugs in Geneva, where he urged that marijuana be included in the new international treaty. It wasn’t. Then.
There you have the roots of the poisoned tree. The tree is 60 years old this August 2. It’s time to cut the rotten thing down.

Marijuana Euphoria:
2737 BC—A treatise on pharmacology attributed to the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung includes references to cannabis as a treatment for arthritis, gout and several other ailments. As Shen Nung was a mythical emperor, the treatise was probably compiled at a later date.

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.
1964—Los Angeles Free Press begins weekly circulation.

1965—East Village Other, Berkeley Barb, Detroit Fifth Estate begin publishing.

1966—San Francisco Oracle begins publishing.
1966—Price of pot across USA drops dramatically, as low as $100 a kilo.
1966—In Israel, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam of Hebrew University isolates and synthesizes THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol).

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.
1969—Cheech & Chong join forces.
1969—Supreme Court strikes down federal marijuana-tax law, the result of a lawsuit brought by Timothy Leary.

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.
1970—First Washington, DC Smoke-In.
1970—Canadian Le Dain Commission recommends decriminalizing marijuana, declaring that the damage done by jailing users “far outweighs any potential for harm which cannabis could conceivably possess.”

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.”
1972—NORML launches lawsuit to have marijuana rescheduled so that it can be made available as medicine.
1972—Consumers Union study recommends “the immediate repeal” of all federal and state marijuana laws and calls for “the cultivation and orderly marketing of marijuana—subject to appropriate regulations.”
1972—Dennis Peron opens the notorious Big Top “pot supermarket” in the Castro district of San Francisco.
1972—Northern California, particularly Mendocino and Humboldt Counties, emerges as the center of US outdoor cultivation, as techniques for growing sinsemilla are developed.

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.
1974—HIGH TIMES hits the stands.
1974—The Indoor Outdoor Highest Quality Marijuana Grower’s Guide, by Mel Frank and Ed Rosenthal, is published.

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.
1976—Bob Marley’s Rastaman Vibration released, with “THIS ALBUM JACKET IS GREAT FOR CLEANING HERB” on inner sleeve; former Wailer Peter Tosh’s Legalize It hits #1 in Jamaica.
1976—Bob Randall, a glaucoma sufferer, becomes first legal medical-marijuana recipient after he successfully sues the federal government; the Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program is designed to supply him with 300 grams of marijuana monthly from the government pot farm at the University of Mississippi at Oxford.

1978—Stone Age magazine publishes the first extended, illustrated how-to article on indoor hydroponic marijuana horticulture.
1978—New Mexico becomes the first of a handful of states to make marijuana available to cancer-chemotherapy and glaucoma patients.

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.”
1988—Jack Herer sets the hemp revolution in motion with The Emperor Wears No Clothes, extolling “the greatest plant on earth, the only plant capable of making all the paper, fiber and fuel we need on a sustainable basis without pesticides and herbicides.”
1988—DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young, in responding to NORML’s suit to reschedule marijuana for medical use, says pot is “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man,” and calls the government’s continued prohibition of it “unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious.”
1988—Freedom Fighters are founded by HIGH TIMES Editor-in-Chief Steven Hager and make their first appearance at the Madison Harvest Festival, which draws 15,000.
1988—The First Annual Cannabis Cup Award, held in Amsterdam, goes to Skunk #1.

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.
1991—By a 4-1 margin, San Francisco voters pass Proposition P, recommending the de facto legalization of therapeutic cannabis.

1993—The San Francisco Cannabis Buyers’ Club opens. It will eventually have more than 11,000 members.
1993—Drs. Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar publish Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine, the definitive book on therapeutic cannabis use.

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.”

Prohibition Paranoia:
1937—Marihuana Tax Stamp Act passed after a high-pressure propaganda campaign personally directed by Harry Anslinger, who links marijuana to adolescent ax-murderers. Propaganda articles produced by his FBN—“Youth Gone Loco” and “Marihuana: Assassin of Youth”—are fed to popular magazines. In Congressional debates, Anslinger reads into official testimony (without objection) stories of “coloreds” with big lips seducing white women with jazz and marijuana, claiming that 50% of all violent crime by blacks and Latino immigrants has been traced directly to marijuana. California enacts new boilerplate antipot law after testimony by the anti-immigrant American Coalition: “Marihuana, perhaps now the most insidious of our narcotics, is a direct by-product of unrestricted Mexican immigration…. Mexican peddlers have been caught distributing sample marihuana cigarets to school children.”

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.
1967—USA ratifies Single Convention Treaty, which supersedes all domestic drug laws. After this, Congress cannot even reschedule marijuana as a prescribable medication.

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.
1969—Texas black activist Lee Otis Johnson gets 30 years in jail for passing a joint. Michigan White Panthers radical (and MC5 manager) John Sinclair gets nine years for two joints.

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.
1973—New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller steamrollers state legislature into instating harsh penalties for drug offenses, including up to 15 years for possessing an ounce of pot.
1973—Pot busts pass 400,000.

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.
1978—Drug Czar Dr. Peter Bourne resigns after coke-snorting and Quaalude-prescription brouhahas, effectively ending President Carter’s role in decriminalizing marijuana.
1978—Federal forfeiture law enacted.

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.
1985—FDA approves Marinol, a synthetic THC, for medicinal use with cancer patients.
1985—Crack hits the streets big-time, pouring gasoline on Drug War hysteria.

1986—As crack hysteria hits media, Omnibus Drug Act toughens federal drug laws. Federal Parole Board is abolished, and mandatory minimum sentences for 26 drug offenses are established, along with expanded police forfeiture powers. Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank calls it “the legislative equivalent of crack.” President Reagan orders drug tests for federal workers; both he and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton proudly flaunt their untainted urine, and a wave of piss-testing sluices over the American workplace.

1987—The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, funded largely by cigarette, alcohol and pharmaceutical money, is founded.
1987—Drug Czar Carlton Turner says pot can make users gay.

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.
1989—The DEA’s Operation Green Merchant targets indoor gardeners purchasing supplies from companies advertising in HIGH TIMES and Sinsemilla Tips. One of the first to be raided, an orchid grower in Raleigh, NC, whose supplier advertised in several magazines, including HT, had no marijuana.
1989—For the first time, drug-law violators outnumber violent criminals among new state-prison inmates.

1990—Alaska voters overturn their state’s decrim law in a referendum.
1990—Nearly two years after DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young calls on the agency to reschedule marijuana, DEA chief Jack Lawn rejects the order without explanation.
1990—Bill Bennett suggests drug dealers should be beheaded, while L.A. police chief Darryl Gates calls for execution of casual users.

1992—Candidate Bill Clinton tells the American public that while he tried marijuana in college, as an asthmatic he “didn’t inhale.”
1992—L.A. County narc kills 61-year-old Donald Scott while raiding his ranch, ostensibly for pot; no plants were found, and the Ventura County DA eventually concedes the raid was motivated by a desire to forfeit Scott’s ranch.
1992—The value of forfeited property seized passes $1 billion.
1992—San Francisco activist “Brownie Mary” Rathbun busted for giving pot brownies to AIDS patients. DA refuses to prosecute.

1994—Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders sacked by President Clinton for suggesting that drug legalization be studied.
1994—Pot busts hit almost 500,000, breaking the 1977 record.

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.
1996—The Household Survey on Drugs suggests teen marijuana use has increased, sparking a wave of hysteria from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and parents’ groups nationwide.

1997—Drug Czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey pledges federal arrests of physicians who recommend marijuana to patients.
1997—The Drug War continues in high gear. California and Arizona officials fight efforts to implement medical-marijuana laws; in other states, law-enforcement blocks attempts to legalize industrial-hemp cultivation. Oklahoma hands out 90-year sentences to first-time pot offenders. The prison population has more than tripled since 1980; about one-fourth of the 1,630,000 people in federal, state and local prisons and jails in mid-1996 were in for drug violations.