I posted this article three years ago on another blog, but I bring it over here now to highlight it because of the importance and timeliness of its message. Clipped from a 1911 edition of the Albany Evening Journal, where it had been reprinted after first being published in the Washington Post, the title, "Use of Cocaine in South," expresses concern by "the owners of the big lumber camps and the factories where a large proportion of employes are colored," over the use of cocaine, saying:
"In nearly every large lumber camp in the South scores of negroes can be found lolling around under the influence of cocaine."This "growing" evil amongst black workers was occasioned by the "taking away of the opportunity for them to procure liquor," with "local option" making cocaine legal in some communities, but available everywhere "in quantities" nonetheless. A lawyer is quoted saying:
"Cocaine used to be sold in the ordinary state in which it is handed out over the counter of drugstores, but now it is to be had in crystal form, resembling rock candy."Three years ago, I considered this finding to be of historical importance in a cultural understanding of drug use in this country---be they legal, illegal, or as here, somewhere in between. But I got my political appreciation entirely ass-backwards when I wrote:
Well, this lets the C.I.A. off the hook from the charge made by paranoid conspiracy theorists like myself that The Company deliberately introduced crack cocaine into minority communities in the early 90's (that would be the 1990's dear,) as a genocidal ploy of their hegemonic dominance. (If you want to cop in any city---certainly it's true in Florida---just locate that town's Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.) It is remarkable what knowledge can die out when it's limited to just living memory. A generation or two is all it takes.
April 28, 1911, Albany Evening Journal (Reprinted from the Washington Post), Page 4, Column 6, Use of Cocaine in South
"One of the growing evils among the negroes of the South is the use of cocaine," remarked E. W. Boyd, a lawyer, of Charleston, S. C. "This is particularly the case with negroes employed in the large lumber camp's in those sections where there is local option. The taking away of the opportunity for them to procure liquor has led them to turn to cocaine, and the effects, you may imagine, are infinitely worse than an indulgence in whiskey. In nearly every large lumber camp in the South scores of negroes can be found lolling around under the influence of cocaine.
"The authorities have sought to prevent the sale of this drug by restrictive ordinances, but in every community there are to be found two or three venders of the drug. It can be had in quantities. Cocaine used to be sold in the ordinary state in which it is handed out over the counters of drugstores, but now it is to be had in crystal form, resembling rock candy.
"Now, while I am opposed to the indiscriminate sale of liquor to the negroes, I believe that the use of cocaine is far worse. How to overcome the conditions is a problem the solution of which is worrying the owners of the big lumber camps and the factories where a large proportion of employes are colored."
In my recollection, when the phenomena of a street form of smokable cocaine first appeared ("crack" being a more easily lighted variety of base cocaine, which celebrities had begun smoking not long before in the privacy of their homes, or jet plane lavatories,) and the effects began wreaking huge swaths of inner-city neighborhoods, health professionals and drug counselors stood by almost helplessly---I don't recall a word spoken by professionals or in the media of any historical antecedent or context---like the British addicting Chinese peasants to the pleasure of "chasing the dragon," then launching the First and Second Opium Wars to lock in the trade. Black pastors who had endured epidemics of addiction in their communities before, said, here, for the first time, was a drug that took even mothers away from their babies, and it was nothing to find what had been left under the Christmas tree was robbed to fund a binge the evening before. But as epidemics do, it ran its course, killing tens of thousands, and leaving survivors tried by the ordeal.
The one entity who would have had an historical awareness of both the dangers, and the profitability of drug use like rock-candy cocaine was the federal government, which first became involved in narcotics control in 1914, three years after this expression of concern was published, when Congress passed but the Harrison Act, meant primarily as a revenue law, which required traffickers in opium and cocaine to register with the government and pay an excise tax, so the Narcotics Division originally was established as a part of the Treasury Department. But a recurring pattern of corruption took hold, which rivaled the business relationship between law enforcement and booze suppliers after the enactment of nationwide Prohibition in 1920. A net effect of Prohibition was to redirect excise taxes on alcohol from the federal treasury into an illicit profit stream. The term "organized crime" can mean only one thing in organizational reality----that is likely to have been a 50/50 split between law-givers and law-breakers.
Agency of Fear
Opiates and Political Power in America
By Edward Jay Epstein
Chapter 11 - The Narcotics Business: John Ingersoll's Version
... in sophisticated political units, power is diffuse and therefore difficult to seize in a coup.
--EDWARD LUTTWAK, Coup d'Etat