MELODY MAKER (British Magazine)
Feb 22, 1936 - “Dope Cigarette Peddling among British Musicians”
MELODY MAKER - Feb. 22, 1936 pp1
DOPE CIGARETTE PEDDLING AMONG BRITISH MUSICIANS
Dangerous and Illegal Drug Habit Gaining Ground Here
Insanity and Death --- The Penalty
THE TIME HAS COME FOR LIGHT TO BE THROWN ON AN ASTONISHING SITUATION WHICH IS LIKELY TO BECOME A SERIOUS MENACE TO THE JAZZ WORLD OF TWO CONTINENTS. THIS CONCERNS THE "REEFER" OR DOPE HABIT, WHICH IS SPREADING RAPIDLY AMONGST MUSICIANS, AND HAS BEEN GOING ON COMPARATIVELY SECRETLY FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS.
The history of the reefer, properly called marijuana, originates in Mexico, where the weed grows in abundance. From Mexico it was somehow smuggled into New Orleans, where it became known among the more doubtful elements of society. It was probably introduced to Chicago from New Orleans, it is said, by Leon Rappolo, famous clarinetists of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, who is now in an insane asylum in Louisiana. From Chicago, where its use amongst hot musicians was general, it spread East to New York, where there is a considerable traffic in reefers amongst both white and coloured Musicians.
The reefer is packed to resemble an ordinary cigarette, but is a little thinner. Usually it is passed round amongst a group of people who take a few puffs each. The effect is one of temporary and sudden exhilaration of the type that can impart facility to the playing of a hot soloist. The after-effect, as with other drugs, is highly unpleasant.
According to a doctor, marijuana is identical with Indian hemp or hashish. To smoke it is very dangerous; It leads to wild hallucinations and loss of any sense of time or space. Occasional indulgence may lead to addiction, and addiction to madness, blindness or death.
Naturally the smoking of this drug is illegal both here and in the United States, but a careful organisation has made it easy for musicians to obtain quantities. The Organisation in New York is controlled by a celebrated hot clarinettist who imports the stuff from
Mexico and distributes it amongst the retail vendors. It was this same musician who has sent supplies to coloured musicians touring Europe.
By now it is common knowledge amongst American musicians that vast numbers of their fraternity, from scores of the big names to hundreds of lesser stars, and even to the feminine element, all smoke reefers. Irving Mills forbids any artist in his employment to smoke the weed.
Worse still is the news that this noxious plague has even attacked England. Last year, during the visit of Lew Leslie's Blackbirds, the atmosphere backstage of the theatres where they appeared was described as " thick with reefer smoke.”
Naturally those who came into contact with the members of this company were led into "trying one for fun," and soon found out that it was possible to obtain supplies at a certain obscure underground club in Soho, recently raided by the police. Many celebrities were known to visit this club and smoke weed there.
At present there are certain English addicts of the vice who are telling their friends that, in order fully to appreciate, hot music, it is necessary to be under the influence of marijuana. It is in this manner that other musicians and non-musicians become polluted, and the fact that the weed may have no immediate ill-effect on their constitution leads them to the false belief that there is no peril involved.
It is interesting to note that Reginald Foresythe composed his brilliant Garden Of Weed as an experiment in the habit of reefer smoking.
Following the example of Thomas de Quincey, who drugged himself deliberately before writing his classic " Confessions of an Opium Eater," and of Charles Baudelaire, who tried out on himself every kind of drug before penning his famous " Fleur du Mal," Foresythe objectively smoked marijuana to prove its essential stupidity. He describes it as an inexcusable vice leading to self-suggestive delusions.
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