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The Reader's Digest - February 1938
Marijuana --- Assassin of Youth (Condensed from The American magazine) H.F.Anslinger U.S. commissioner of Narcotics with Courtney Ryley cooper
Not long ago the body of a young girl lay crushed on the sidewalk after a plunge from a Chicago apartment window. Everyone called it suicide, but actually it was murder. The killer was a narcotic known to America as marijuana, and to history as hashish. Used in the form of cigarettes, it is comparatively new to the United States and as a coiled rattlesnake.
How many murders, suicides, robberies and maniacal deeds it causes each year, especially among the young, can only be conjectured. In numerous communities it thrives almost unmolested, largely because of official ignorance of its effects.
Marijuana is the unknown quantity among narcotics. No one knows, when he smokes it, whether he will become a philosopher, a joyous reveler, a mad insensate, or a murderer.
The young girl's story is typical. She had heard the whisper which has gone the rounds of American youth about a new thrill, a cigarette with a "real kick" which gave wonderful reactions and no harmful aftereffects. With some friends she experimented at an evening smoking party.
The results were weird. Some of the party went into paroxysms of laughter; others of mediocre musical ability became almost expert; the piano dinned constantly. Still others found themselves discussing weighty problems with remarkable clarity. The girl danced without fatigue throughout a night of inexplicable exhilaration.
Other parties followed. Finally there came a gathering at a time when the girl was behind in her studies and greatly worried. Suddenly, as she was smoking, she thought of a solution to her school problems. Without hesitancy she walked to a window and leaped to her death. Thus madly can marijuana "solve" one's difficulties. It gives few warnings of what it intends to do to the human brain.
Last year a young marijuana addict was hanged in Baltimore for criminal assault on a ten-year old girl. In Chicago, two marijuana-smoking boys murdered a policeman. In Florida, police found a youth - staggering about in a human slaughterhouse. With an ax he had killed his father, mother, two brothers, and a sister. He had no recollection of having committed this multiple crime. Ordinarily a sane, rather quiet young man, he had become crazed from smoking marijuana. In at least two dozen comparatively recent cases of murder or degenerate sex attacks, marijuana proved to be a contributing cause.
In Ohio a gang of seven addicts, all less than 20, were caught after a series of 38 holdups. The boys' story was typical of conditions in many cities. One of them said they had first learned about "reefers" in high school, buying the cigarettes at hamburger stands, and from peddlers who hung around the school. He told of "booth joints" where you could get a cigarette and a sandwich for a quarter, and of the shabby apartments of women who provided the cigarettes and rooms where boys and girls might smoke them.
His recollection of the crimes he had committed was hazy. "When you get to 'floating,' it's hard to keep track of things. If I had killed somebody on one of those jobs, I'd never have known it. Sometimes it was over before I realized that I'd even been out of my room."
It is the useless destruction of youth which is so heartbreaking to all of us who labor in the field of narcotic suppression. The drug acts as an almost overpowering stimulant upon the immature brain. There are numerous cases on record like that of an Atlanta boy who robbed his father's safe of thousands of dollars in jewelry and cash. Of high school age, this boy apparently had been headed for an honest career. Gradually, however, his father noticed in him spells of shakiness, succeeded by periods when the boy would assume a grandiose manner and engage in excessive laughter and extravagant conversation. When these actions finally were climaxed by robbery the father went at his son's problem in earnest - and found the cause of it in a marijuana peddler who catered to school children.
In Los Angeles a boy of 17 killed a policeman who had been his great friend. A girl of 15 ran away from home and was picked up with five young men in a marijuana den in Detroit. A Chicago mother, watching her daughter die as an indirect result of marijuana addiction, told officers that at least 50 of the girl's friends were slaves of the narcotic. The same sort of report comes in from cities all over the country. In New Orleans, of 437 persons of varying ages arrested for a wide range of crimes, 125 were addicts. Of 37 murderers, 17 used marijuana.
The weed was known to the ancient Greeks. Homer wrote that it made men forget their homes and turned them into swine. In Persia in 1090 was founded the military and religious order of the Assassins, whose history is one of cruelty and murder. Its members are confirmed users of hashish, taking their name from the Arabic "basbsbasbin." It is hashish which causes Moros and Malays to "run amok" and engage in violent and bloody deeds.
Although an ancient drug, the menace of marijuana is comparatively new to the United States. It came in from Mexico, and swept across the country with incredible speed. In 1931, the marijuana file of the United states narcotic Bureau was less than two inches thick. The traffic's most rapid growth came in 1935 and 1936, and today our reports crowd many large cabinets. They indicate that high school students particularly are the prey of the reefer peddlers.
Among those who first spread its use were musicians. They brought the habit northward with the surge of "hot" music demanding players of exceptional ability, especially in improvisation. Along the Mexican border and in southern seaport cities it had long been known that the drug has a strangely exhilarating effect upon the musical sensibilities. The musician who uses it finds that the musical beat seemingly comes to him quite slowly, thus allowing him to interpolate improvised notes with comparative ease. He does not realize that he is tapping the keys with a furious speed impossible for one in a normal state.
Soon a song was written about the drug. Perhaps you remember:
Have you seen That funny reefer man? He says he swam to China; Any time he takes a notion. He can walk across the ocean.
It sounded funny. Dancing girls and boys pondered about "reefers" and learned that these cigarettes could make one accomplish the impossible. Sadly enough, they can - in the imagination. The girl who decided suddenly to elope with a boy she did not even know a few hours before, does so with the confident belief that this is a thoroughly logical action without the slightest possibility of disastrous consequences. Command a person "high" on "mu" or "muggles" to crawl on the floor and bark like a dog, and he will do it without a thought of the idiocy of the action. Everything, no matter how insane, becomes plausible.
Reports from various sections indicate that the sale of marijuana has not yet passed into the hands of gangster syndicates. The supply is so vast that gangsters have found it difficult to dominate the source. It is to be hoped that the menace can be wiped out before they are able to do so.
A big hardy weed, of the Indian hemp family, with serrated sword like leaves topped by bunchy small blooms, it grows wild in the West, and is cultivated in practically every state, in fields, gardens, vacant lots. In New York State alone, 200 tons of the growing weed were destroyed in 1936. A raid near La Fitte, Louisiana, resulted in the destruction of 500,000 plants. Similar raids have been conducted in Texas, New Jersey, Mississippi, Michigan and elsewhere.
Every state except one has laws to cope with the traffic, but unfortunately there is no federal law dealing with it. Hence there is need for unceasing watchfulness by every local police department and by every civic organization. There should be campaigns of education in every school, so that children will not be deceived by the wiles of peddlers, but will know of the insanity, the disgrace, the horror which marijuana can bring to its victim. There must be constant enforcement and constant education against this enemy, which has a record of murder and terror running through the centuries.
Copywrite 1937, The Crowell Pub. Co., 250 Park Ave., N.Y.C. (The American Magazine, July, 37)
Schaffer Library of Drug Policy
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Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - The Report of the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
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Short History of the Marijuana Laws
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Congressional Transcripts of the Hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
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Guide to Heroin - Frequently Asked Questions About Heroin
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Reefer Madness Collection
Medical Marijuana Throughout History
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Marijuana, the First 12,000 Years
DEA Ruling on Medical Marijuana
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