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September 04, 2005

Feds up to Old Tricks

American drug prohibition, which became known as the War on Drugs after its enabling legislation was rewritten by the First Nixon Administration in 1970, actually began with the Harrison Act of 1914.

A singularly dishonest bit of legislation; Harrison was sold to Congress as a transfer tax intended to monitor the use of medications made from the opium poppy and the coca leaf. What was unique was its arrogation of federal control- backed by criminal penalties- over medical practice. Just as unusual was its use of the criminal justice system to address both a basic medical issue and questions that would depend on its resolution

The basic question concerned the nature of "addiction;" was it a disease or a behavior?

The additional questions that should have been raised were: what is the optimal treatment and who should decide?

in that connection, it's important to remember that in 1914, Heroin was a relatively new opiate, a proprietary product developed by Bayer in 1898 which had quickly become a favorite a of "addicts" at a time when any use drugs by injection was a relatively new phenomenon.

In its rulings on Harrison between 1917 and 1919, a medically unqualified US Supreme Court award ultimate responsibility for both the definition and treatment of "addiction" to the judicial and criminal justice systems, thus establishing a precedent which has not only endured, but since been expanded through a series of legislative and diplomatic escalations into a rigorous global policy of drug prohibition.

That it sustains a cluster of robust criminal markets adversely affecting political stability in several nations is undisputed. Ironically, both the the definition of "addiction" and its optimal treatment are still contentious matters; particularly in light of general agreement that both alcohol and tobacco, legal in most nations, are responsible for more adverse health effects than those purveyed on criminal illegal markets.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at September 4, 2005 05:14 AM