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New York Herald Tribune 8th Annual Forum


New York Herald Tribune
8th Annual Forum 1938 (Oct)

H. J. Anslinger

Federal Commissioner of Narcotics

"The Government's Fight on Marijuana"

One of the most interesting experiences that I have had during the past year was in talking with the head of our Narcotics Bureau in Washington. A man of understatement in discussing his work, he recreates in a strangely quiet way a dramatic story of this country that would challenge Oppenheim. A member of the government service since leaving college, he represented the United States in Europe and South America until he was appointed by President Hoover as chief of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Because of his far flung work in search of dope smugglers, he was made an associate member of the International Police Chief Association, and whether working in Washington or at an international conference in Geneva, you can be sure that he has passed many milestones in handling our own narcotics problem. I have great pleasure in presenting to you Mr. Harry J. Anslinger who will give you the most recent picture on marijuana.

MR. ANSLINGER: This Forum is a fitting place to review your government's progress in suppressing the abuse of dangerous drugs. For over a quarter of a century, the American government has waged a relentless fight. We were the first to issue a call to other nations of the world for co-operation in suppressing the international illicit traffic. It is gratifying to review the growth of this humanitarian movement from the first consultation at Shanghai in 1909 among six great powers of the world, to a cordial co-operation which now embraces the entire group of civilized nations. It is inspiring to know that this is one problem on which all nations have agreed to work together, with definite results, for the betterment of mankind.

So, largely through American leadership, all nations have joined in a world-wide union for the protection, not only of their own citizens, but of the whole race against this common enemy. With this solemn object in mind, international covenants containing strict pledges for national legislation and international co-operation are contained in The Hague Convention in 1912 and the Narcotic Limitation Convention of 1931. The 1931 treaty, ratified by sixtyfour nations, represents the most stupendous blow that has been dealt the international illicit traffic in narcotics. This commitment cut surplus manufacture in other countries which had been feeding our illicit traffic by thirty tons annually and reduced addiction throughout the world.

In time, by striking at the root of the evil, we hope to achieve---through international co-operation--world limitation of the production of raw opium. Thus it will be possible to enter upon a new and important stage in the suppression of the abuse of narcotic drugs.

Just as the American government led the nations to international action, it has taken the leadership in getting at the basic truth of drug addiction, and in rehabilitating the unfortunate addict, particularly those of emotional instability who use drugs as a cowardly retreat from reality. In Federal institutions at Lexington, Ky., at Fort Worth, Tex., and at Alderson, W. Va., disintoxication, rehabilitation and social adjustment go forward at great pains and at justified expense. The addict's economic drag on communities is thus removed. The Treasury Department's research work on drug addiction has attracted the admiration of the entire world. We are gradually loosening the grip of a cruel slave master. Now we have reduced addiction to opium and its derivatives to one non-medical drug addict in every 3,000 of the general population, as against the one in every 1,000 that we found in this country some years ago.

Your government has carefully worked out a control program on narcotic drugs which includes:

1. Close international co-operation with all countries. No nation standing alone can cope with the problem.

2. Effective control of the manufacture and distribution of narcotic drugs for medical needs.

3. Treasury Department co-ordination of Coast Guard, customs and narcotic bureaus to curtail smuggling and the illicit traffic.

4. Complete co-operation with all states, forty-one of which have enacted the uniform state narcotic drug act.

5. Federal rehabilitation hospitals for the treatment of drug addiction and to remove causative factors of addiction.

Due to this well woven pattern thousands of potential youthful recruits to narcotics such as opium, morphine, heroin and cocaine have been prevented from entering the slavery of narcotic addiction.

In the fight against narcotics each victory leads to a new field of battle. Our most recent enemy is marijuana, the use of which as a narcotic was virtually unknown in the United States a decade ago. Out on the battle front we must ask the actual help of every person in the room today. It is a new peril---in some ways the worst we have met, and it concerns us all.

About 1935 we were stunned with the rapid wildfire spread of this drug; and by the following year it had become such a major menace as to call for the enactment of national-control legislation. Nearly every state had suffered from the insidious invasion of this drug. It spread to new circles not previously contaminated by drug addiction-to young, impressionable persons.

We urged and obtained marijuana legislation in all of the forty-eight states. Then to co-ordinate the problem Congress passed the marijuana tax act of 1937, bringing the drug under Federal control.

This new law requires all persons dealing with the drug in any way to register with the government and pay a special tax. It restricts the use of marijuana, or hemp, to industrial, medical and scientific purposes. Violations are punishable by five years’ imprisonment.

We are studying the practicability of having marijuana brought within control as a noxious weed, thus giving municipal authorities an additional eradication weapon.

The origin of marijuana is shrouded in the mists of antiquity. For centuries, it has been a problem in many parts of the world. Homer was its prophet, Marco Polo its advance courier. Abroad it is called Ki Dagga, Bhang, Charas, Ganja and Hashish. In the argot of the underworld it has colloquial, colorful names such as reefers, muggles, hay.

Marijuana destroys mental fabric; insanity frequently results from its continued use. Our only way of testing it is to try it on dogs. If the dog's legs get tangled up, the drug is potent. If you go on giving the dog marijuana, his brain is destroyed.

Unlike opium, which is the good in Jekyll and the bad in Hyde, marijuana is Hyde only. The medical profession, which knows it as Cannabis Sativa, has practically abandoned its use because of its unpredictability and extreme variability of effect. It depresses, it stimulates, it turns wrong into right, it incites to violence. It distorts speech, vision, hearing, space and time. No one can foretell the result of its use.

The plant has been found growing wild along river beds, along the roadside, in vacant lots. Sometimes illicit growth is concealed by planting it in the midst of corn fields, but marijuana soon raises its head above the corn.

Ordinary hemp is the same plant as marijuana. Hemp is cultivated for the production of fiber, and has been known in America since 1630; while the name "marijuana" has only recently been applied to the same hemp plant in connection with its abuse as a narcotic. It is incorrectly termed Loco Weed.

During 1937 hemp, or marijuana, was grown on many acres in Illinois, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Minnesota for fiber and seeds. The fruits or seeds of the plant form a constituent of commercial oil and bird food, but before it can be used as bird food all hemp seed must now be sterilized to destroy its germinating power. This is done for the reason that most of the present wild growth is due to bird seed dissemination.

The plant is tall, stately; an object of beauty, sometimes called a green goddess, but in that beauty there lurks a coiled rattlesnake.

Until recently the definition of Cannabis Sativa (marijuana) in the international convention and in all state laws was based upon the traditional conception that the active principle of the drug is present only in the flowering tops of the female or pistillate plant. Recent chemical tests show that the active principle up to 50 per cent is contained in the leaves of the male or staminate plant. The definition must be all inclusive.

Little is known about the chemistry of the narcotic principle which causes damage. The Treasury Department is conducting intensive studies and research investigations on the isolation and structure determination of the active constituents occurring in Cannabis Sativa as well as its effects on the human being. Several universities are helping in this program. The Federal government is also cooperating with committees set up by the League of Nations to conduct research and study abuses.

We gladly furnish aid to various states in educating enforcement agents and state and municipal chemists concerning marijuana and its identification.

We have arrested 1,000 illicit traffickers of this drug since October 1, 1937, the date Federal legislation went into effect. Courts have dealt severely with these traffickers who poison their fellowman for gain and crush his spirit. Judges sometimes brand peddlers as being worse than murderers. This measure will prove an effective weapon in combating the illicit traffic.

With the co-operation of city, county and state officials throughout the country during the last four months, we have destroyed 16,000 tons of marijuana or approximately 10,000 acres distributed over nearly every state in the Union. In several years we shall have destroyed the major growth. In accomplishing this enormous task our government has removed a great potential danger to the health and welfare of the ,youth of our land.

Law enforcement is the responsibility of the Federal and local police. The duty of co-operation in this work Is yours also. If you have sound reason to believe that marijuana is being used or sold illegally; if you know of a tract of land where it grows or is being cultivated contrary to law; you should report these infractions to the police authorities.

The Bureau of Narcotics will gladly test any plants which are suspected. If we cannot send an agent, we will give proper guidance as to destruction. We urge you to familiarize yourselves with the appearance of the plant and to be on the watch for it everywhere.

The abuse of marijuana can be stamped out through correct preventive educational work. You can do this without sensationalism. if youth is properly informed about the dangers of marijuana, that knowledge should not invite experimentation. You must pledge yourselves to the task of preventive education. The time to stamp out marijuana is now-before it places an indelible stamp upon the easily moulded mentality of our youth, who seem to be its chief victims. Here is a challenge to every right-thinking person! A challenge which dares any one to be so remiss as to stand idle against this menace.

I wish heartily to commend Mrs. William Dick Sporborg and the many other officers of the General Federation of Women's Clubs and Parent-Teacher organizations throughout the land on the admirable stand they have taken toward enlightenment of the public and breaking down general apathy and indifference regarding the sordid traffic in contraband drugs. I believe that informed public opinion is the most powerful weapon with which to fight this dangerous public enemy.

Ellen Eva King

Freshman at Sarah Lawrence College

"Tell Us the Truth!"

MRS. REID: In presenting the whole story of marijuana, whose sale has been primarily directed to the younger generation, we felt that nothing would be more valuable than the point of view of a young person who has made a study of the subject and has arrived at strong convictions. I am delighted, therefore, to present to you a graduate last year from the Bronxville High School and now a freshman at Sarah Lawrence College, Miss Ellen Eva King.

MISS KING: As Mr. Anslinger has already stated, one of the most dangerous threats to a nation's youth of mind is that age-old enemy of clear thinking-under its new name of marijuana. Even one cigarette has been known to produce alarming results. Too many times even one cigarette causes the breakdown of all moral and legal codes. A marijuana addict, for example, behind the wheel of a high powered car is a terror to human life. He loses all sense of time and space, and when eighty miles an hour seems only twenty to him, he roars down our highway leaving a trail of fatal accidents. Most horrible to contemplate is the fact that marijuana causes such fantastic hallucinations as to drive persons to murder.

Think of the young boy, Victor Licata, of Tampa, Fla., who murdered his parents, two brothers and a sister because, while under the influence of marijuana, he believed that they were about to cut off his arms and legs! Remember Joseph Ogden, of this very city, who murdered his best friend! Recall that ancient fable of the three who arrived one night at the gates of a Persian city. The first, steeped in alcohol, roared, "Tear down the gates." The second, an opium eater, said, "Let us sneak by the watchman when the gates are opened." Just listen to the marijuana addict's idea! "You do as you like," said he, "but I shall stroll through the keyhole!" This is a vivid illustration, through legend, of how marijuana breaks down the mind of youth and hence is a threat to the whole nation.

We, the young people of America, crave the right to grow up mentally, physically and morally healthy! It s impossible to change the thirst for knowledge which youth of all ages has possessed. Do not force us to obtain our knowledge by the old trial-and-error method. Young people reaching out for the excitement and thrill of investigating something new, like marijuana cigarettes, find themselves thrown into low spirits after the will-weakening effect of its use. Then, to feel normal, a person tries the drug again, again, and then-he is off to what may be called the valley of no return.

Arm us with the truth and the truth will free us from those despicable dope peddlers who profit on false stimuli and temptation to the ignorant.

Marijuana is one of the factors that must be attacked. If, in our schools, we are taught of this revived menace under the wise guidance of professional teachers, we will crusade against it, we will help stamp it out. Surely it is more important for us to get the truth about marijuana for the sake of our lives than it is to learn how many bridges Caesar strung across the Rhine.

My own high school is one of the leaders in the field of teaching young people the truth. It has instigated a campaign of education against this terrifying drug. In my own circle of schoolmates there are some, before we studied marijuana, who said that they would like to try one, only one cigarette, of course. After an intensive study of the effects of this drug the unanimous opinion was that this drug had been discovered enough and it was too erratic, treacherous and dangerous to try even once. Since its effect is unpredictable, we cannot find out about it by experience.

Are you citizens here this morning ready to fight with and for us against marijuana? When you go back where America really lives, will you not organize a united crusade to free America from this menace? Marijuana must be attacked. Learn to recognize the plant when you see it growing, report all plants that you find growing wild to the proper authority and then, best of all, perhaps, demand that your lawmakers as your representatives enact suitable legislation to protect us, your young people, from being unsuspectingly introduced to marijuana through camouflaged cigarettes and doped candy. Youth, upon whom our United States must some day rely, is ready to march if you will allow us to glean, through education, the wisdom of our elders. Then you will protect us from the temptation to try marijuana---that one-way ticket to destruction.

Mrs. William Dick Sporborg

President of the Citizens' Council to Abolish Marijuana

"How Can Women Fight Marijuana?"

The next speaker needs no introduction to this audience, and I hesitate to encroach on time that she can use so effectively even to pay tribute to the great service she has given to the elimination of the marijuana weed in Westchester County, New York State and the whole country. Mr. Anslinger has found an incomparable worker in this new field of narcotics, Mrs. William Dick Sporborg.

MRS. SPORBORG: Seven years ago while I was president of the New York State Federation of Women's Clubs, I heard, for the very first time, the new name marijuana applied to the old hashish.

While stopping off at the New York State Reformatory for Girls, the superintendent took me to see a young girl, not yet seventeen years old, who was dying of venereal disease as a result of having been the victim of the lure of marathon dances. She had been a girl of good character and good family in a Western state who, with the permission of her parents, entered the national marathon dance contest, in the hope of winning the $1,000 prize to help recoup the family treasury.

She, like many others, had been given marijuana cigarettes for stimulation in the contest. The superintendent showed me the heartbreaking letter from that girl's mother, which read: "I realize it is too late for any help for my doomed and unfortunate child, but is there no woman's organization in this wide land that is willing to help protect other respectable mothers' respectable daughters from meeting such a cruel fate as mine?" instead of returning to my own home, I proceeded immediately to Albany, called upon the Governor and Commissioner of Correction and initiated the campaign which resulted in the passage of a law prohibiting marathon dances.

Our next step was to attack the sale and use of marijuana cigarettes. We learned, among other facts, that the cigarettes could be bought for 15 cents each; that the effect of this drug was psychic exultation, and that it was a sinister incitement for youngsters, with unpredictable results. So when I was drafted by Roberta Campbell Lawson, the immediate past president, to the chairmanship of the department of legislation for the General Federation of Women's Clubs, we made a concerted campaign against marijuana the major project of our fourteen-point legislative program. She and I spent hours on end with Commissioner Anslinger, knowing that we had to wage that campaign on factual information.

We traveled from Canada to Texas, and from California to New York, armed with our facts, and a youth was arrested last month by helped pierce public ignorance and the Parkway police as a result of a apathy on this issue. Prior to last year there was no separate Bureau of Narcotics in New York State. The Federation of Women's Clubs successfully supported a bill to establish such a bureau. We are indebted to Frank J. Smith, its director, for the informative pictures of the marijuana plant and cigarettes, which all of you may have to take home.

In recent years marijuana has been found growing in almost every state in our Union, but most of its growth today persists in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa, with Missouri and Kansas ranking next. If we women believe in prevention -and we do-the greatest need at the moment points to securing uniform state and municipal legislation which would control the growth of noxious weeds.

To touch on situations in municipalities I call your attention to the statistics which reveal that from 1936 to 1937 50 per cent of the convicted criminals in Denver were marijuana addicts, and all but two of that 50 per cent were under twenty-three years of age.

To illustrate the difference in municipal approach in meeting these situations let me cite the case of Cleveland, where such is the coordination that not only private detectives but even garbage men are part of the unified co-operative effort, whereas, I am told, that in Philadelphia there is neither concert of action nor sufficient enforcement authority, due to political shoulder shrugging.

I could stand here for hours quoting individual examples of tragic results of the use of marijuana cigarettes. I myself was present in an exclusive country club in Louisiana when a young man, after using marijuana cigarettes and while in a resultant fit of jealousy, shot his girl companion.

In my own county of Westchester, series of automobile smash-ups. At the time of his arrest, the prisoner was very violent, fought with and tore one of the officers' uniforms before being subdued. His explanation later was that he had smoked several marijuana cigarettes before going riding. In the course of examination, he inadvertently asked whether it was possible for marijuana to grow in a field of corn. With this sole clew, the chief later found such a field with marijuana growing and had it destroyed. He watched carefully the man who had attended this corn field and who lived close by. In this man's room were found enough selected cut and dried marijuana leaves for the manufacture of 5,000 cigarettes. Last week this man was fined $500 and given a jail sentence.

There are probably few in this audience who have not read about the gruesome triple murder by one Robert Irwin last Easter, when he strangled a young woman model and her mother, and killed a boarder with an ice pick. When he was finally caught, they discovered a box containing scores of marijuana cigarette butts under his bed.

Within the month, in the neighboring city of New Rochelle, a boy, seventeen years old, was apprehended for selling cigarettes for the last three years -think of it! He began when he was fourteen years of age! He admitted in open court to the sale, on two occasions, to school children-the first, 100 cigarettes for $16 (that's 16 cents apiece) -the second, 100 cigarettes for $26 (that's 26 cents apiece). Judge Thomas N. Fasso sentenced him to one year and $500 fine because of his extreme youth, although this boy might have been sent to the penitentiary for ten years.

A case with a touch of the humorous came to our attention this fall when our New York State director was called to Schenectady, where a number of fields of growing marijuana had been discovered. These were traced to a home garden planted by a woman who had emigrated to this country as a young girl forty years ago and had brought with her a tablecloth which her mother had woven from the marijuana plant in the old country. She secured seed, planted and cultivated it with the same care with which she cultivated her roses and her cabbages. She soon learned, however, that in this country she could buy tablecloths inexpensively---but in the interim she had discovered that her chickens, feeding from the seed of her marijuana plants, laid bigger and better eggs and in greater quantities than those of her neighbors. So she had been mixing marijuana seeds with chicken feed, and the seed and pollen from her plants had been blown about the neighborhood. When she was informed of the perils of marijuana she not only went with the men to destroy the growth in her own garden but asked to be permitted to help the state department in identifying the plant growing in other places.

What can women's organizations do about it? They can:

1. Inform themselves of the danger lurking in the quiet distribution of marijuana.

2. Bring this information to the attention of their members and the public at large.

3. Urge more thorough instruction in public and private schools to protect youth from this poison.

4. Work for strengthened Federal, state and municipal narcotic drug acts.

5. Work for state noxious weed laws.

6. Tackle the problem on its economic front, for it means enormous loss to the government and taxpayer in the support of penal institutions, as well as ruin to the victim.

In the marijuana symposium this morning Mrs. Reid has invited a representative of the government, a spokesman for youth and a humble worker in organized women's groups to emphasize the need of co-operation among these three.

It is no secret that we modern women are "causists"! Here is a cause worthy of the united responsible participation of all women's and men's-educational and civic organizations for a patriotic service, to sustain the moral fiber of our nation. Keep the mind of the nation young? Yes! But that's not enough. We must keep the mind and the body of America's youth fit! We must keep the soul of America stirred!

Who will refuse to "stand up and be counted" in this crusade?


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