The Devil’s Work: Marijuana in the 1920’s and 30’s – Part 1

Devils Work

Forward – He Who Has The Gold Makes The Rules

The Secret History of the Drug War from the 1920’s and onward, starts to get really heavy with lots of twists and turns between corrupted federal and state agencies, mafia bosses and syndicates, merciless corporations and bent politicians, as well as monarchies and brutal oligarchical agendas. This article unveils the truth about why medical marijuana prohibition happened, it is a long and complex tale that will be divided into several parts for the reader’s convenience. As I stated in my thesis, the goal of these reading’s is to illustrate how the American Drug War built large and lasting institutions throughout the 20th century, how Republican Party primacy was achieved through the War on Drugs and how the Drug War evolved into a uniquely American mechanism of state oppression that would shake the very foundations of our democracy. References and a wider array of empirical evidence will be sited here from time to time but most will be reserved for the book that will be released by this author, hopefully within the year. These articles are primarily for public consumption, meant to educate the public on why our laws are the way they are and to stimulate thought and discussion as to how our laws may evolve to the greater benefit of our families, livelihoods and our democracy.

At the advent of Prohibition there were several political, social and economic circumstances that have to be considered to fully understand its rationale:

  • America in the late 19th and early 20th century had become a state defined by hyper-patriotism, messianic racism, eugenics and racial science, religious revivalism and reactionaries, political corruption and Gilded Age greed.
  • The British Opium Wars and the American Civil War heavily enriched a faction of Robber Barons known as ‘The Consortium ’, ‘The Opium Cartel’, ‘The Robber Barons’ and ‘The Gold Ring’. The Opium Cartel would dominate Republican politics following the Civil War and would include many powerful Republican figures of the Robber Baron Era including William Huntington Russell, John D. Rockefeller, Theodore Roosevelt, E. H Harriman, George Herbert Walker, Leland Stanford, Collis Potter Huntington, Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker, Jay Gould, Andrew Mellon and Warren Delano Jr.
  • Opium was used prior to 1906 as a medicine and as a weapon of vice against enemy nations. The Anglo-American Opium Cartel profited heavily from both producing both opium and morphine, while owning Chinese Opium Dens and controlling the Chinese people trafficking trade to California through Chinese organized crime. Medical marijuana and marijuana were viewed as competitors to opium and opiate products in America. The Opium Cartel would come to dominate and monopolize western US railway through opium imports from China to California to make morphine. Trade liberalization of opium in the late 1800’s would allow the Opium magnates to help other industrialists build their monopolies through banking deposits and loans.
  • Many of the opium magnates would become major railroad, chemical, oil, tobacco, alcohol and finance powers themselves but the most powerful would evolve their corporations into the pharmaceutical companies that we know today as ‘Big Pharma’. This cabal of ultra-wealthy and their financial networks would historically be known as ‘America’s 60 Families’, the American super-elite who intermarried with ‘the landed gentry’ of Europe. Many powerful American figures would come out of this dynasty, most notably President’s Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gerald Ford, VP Nelson Rockefeller, George Bush and George W. Bush, and many others. In the 21st Century, these interests are represented by a faction within the Republican Party that controls Tobacco, Alcohol, Pharmaceuticals, Oil and Prisons otherwise known as the Neo-Conservatives.
  • At the beginning 20th century, Republicans and Democrats were divided into four camps:
    • Roosevelt Progressives (Republican) – Strong military, Gold Standard, Nativist, Big Business, Robber Barons, Anti-Labor, Eugenics, Big Pharma, Big Alcohol, Big Tobacco, Big Firearms, KKK, Close Ties to Europe, Chemical Companies and Banks.
    • Taft Progressives (Republican) – Isolationist, Gold Standard, Anti-Trust, Pro-Labor, Pro-Minimum Wage, Pro Food Control, Public Works, Urbanization, Women’s Suffrage.
    • Business Progressives (Democrat) – Strong military, Gold Standard, Big Business, Anti-Labor, Eugenics, KKK, Social Conservatives and Temperance, Religious Reactionaries, Prohibitionist, Women’s Suffrage.
    • Southern Democrats, Free Silver and Free Soil (Democrat) – Isolationist, Anti-Trust, Pro-Farmer, Pro-Labor, Religious Revivalist, Prohibitionist, Nativist, KKK (mixed pro and con), Anti-Gold Standard, Anti-Eugenics, Small Business.

American politics by 1900 became completely controlled by political machines and big business interests of the American elite, elections were more often than not rigged and were also racially bias due to Jim Crow laws and segregation. Yellow journalism became a powerful tool to influence finance and politics and many newspapers were first opened by the elite, like William Randolph Hearst, the New York Times and the Oppenheimer Family, to harness the power of the media to achieve their political goals. American politics were largely defined by the outcome of the civil war and the imposition of the Gold Standard by the Republicans upon the American people. Wedge politics was heavily influenced by British racial theories and Protestant Revival ministers during the mid-to-late 1800s and as a result social ills were largely attributed to foreigners, targeted ethnicities and classes, their religions, and the industries they were associated with. Newspapers owned by wealthy industrialist families would exploit racial tension and fear as a means to suppress Marxism, Socialism and the new labor movements called ‘Unions’.

The Gold Standard became an economic imposition throughout the world as Great Britain, the holder of the world’s reserve currency at the time, the Pound Sterling, had used the policy to repatriate its own gold from China. Great Britain held a large empire throughout the world that benefitted from global fiat exchanges of the pound which has surfaced out of necessity through the Napoleonic Wars. Large debt excesses to China after 1820 emerged due to gold settlement policies and the British, in order to stave off inflation and economic disarray, engaged in a policy of opium purchases and sales to China.

The plot to sell opium for gold was highly complex and could not have been achieved without the help of American railroad industrialists. China’s population suffered opium epidemics into the 1840’s and realized England was attempting to hook their population on an English owned product prior to returning to a Gold Standard; this would give the British the opportunity to reverse the trade balance and strengthen the British Pound. Regulatory intervention was blocked by the first Opium War and hot money investment flowed into China through the development of the opium trade in California; a market and money bubble would emerge in China during the American civil war through medical narcotics demand from China.

The California Opium Baron’s would pioneer the California railroad industry to ship Chinese and British gold across the United States to New York where it would be delivered to London. Lincoln knew that the Northern Republican elite were descended from British merchant aristocracy and created the fiat greenback as a way to stave off British influence over the Union economy during the war as they were backing both sides. This financial process, after Lincoln’s assassination, led to the creation of the Republican Gold Ring, the consolidation of the 60 families and inevitably the imposition of the Gold Standard in America by the Anglo-American financial elite.

We will explore America’s evolution with medical marijuana through the early 20th century as Prohibition, corrupt government and organized crime would jostle to gain control of the distribution of the herbal medicine.



kkk took my baby

The noise from among the different medical marijuana camps in recent years have left most Americans, speculating in bewilderment about the reasoning behind marijuana’s prohibition. Figures like Don Duncan of American’s For Safe Access, Thomas Forcade of High Times and Keith Stroup of NORML have often misled the public by primarily attributing marijuana prohibition to petty racism and cultural attitudes of the late 1930s.  Wiser heads like Jack Herer left evidence pointing to more sinister machinations surrounding the chemical company DuPont Nemours (DuPont-Astor-Roosevelt), Monsanto, Koch owned paper companies like Georgia Pacific and to no surprise, Big Tobacco companies like Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds.

However, even with all of this ‘evidence’ the citizenry seem unable to draw a definitive conclusion as to why medical marijuana is illegal, it just doesn’t add up. If medical marijuana was used as a medicine in America for almost 150 years, why would it be suddenly just taken away? Was fervent patriotism and racism enough? How could the medical community so recklessly group marijuana with opium? Were Big Tobacco and Big Pharma politically able to do it alone?

The key to understanding all of the above, is to inherently understand the nature and foundation of Prohibition itself. In order to do this we must take an honest and sober look at the politics and society of the United States up to the initiation of Prohibition in 1919. America from the Spanish American War onward had been imbued with a sense of Superpatriotism that was commonplace among the Western nations prior to World War in 1914. The American economy had rapidly emerged as the world’s leading industrial economy and like so many industrializing nations, had found itself in a state of class war between Big Business and the newly emerged organized labor.

Anti-Saloon League Poster

Anti-Saloon League Poster

The rise of labor power in America came as a symptom of organized industrial corruption that had come to pervade all aspects of society from the 1880s through the 1920s. Big Business responded to labor with violent repression through their political front men and by sponsoring racial-religious organizations like the Temperance Movement, the Anti-Saloon League, the KKK, the Know Nothings and other various Protestant nativist groups that would keep the middle and working classes divided. America was also defined by an immense wealth disparity between the rich and poor. The wealthy insulated by the Gold Standard from the working classes, indulged in Eugenics and Racial Sciences to justify not only their race but also their positions in society and in the world.


This amalgamation of forces would soon spiral out of control under the dictatorial presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The period of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency was defined by racial hyper-nationalism that can only be resembled in very small part by American patriotic fervor experienced during Ronald Reagan and 9/11. The hyper-nationalist movement was intensely public, demagogic, intimidating, exceptionalist and intensely race based; claiming that Protestant white America had been blessed by God through genetics to lead the world. Wilson himself was a pawn and collaborator of big business interests; the Republican-Consortium  machine had put their weight behind him following their disastrous experience with William Howard Taft and Wilson had shown to be a trustworthy replacement. Wilson himself was a high ranking member of the KKK and had silently supported the marketing of heroin over morphine for Big Pharma while publically endorsing the limiting of alcohol, marijuana and natural medicines, blaming them for bringing about the influence of socialism and communism.

Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson

Wilson’s personality was able to successfully merge The Temperance Movement, Women’s Suffrage, the KKK, Anti-Saloon League and Know-Nothings into one far right extremist faction under Democratic leadership that he used as a political tool to carry out his ambitions. The Temperance and Women’s Suffrage Movement would distract from labor and provide political cover for Wilson, while the KKK and Anti-Saloon League would play the violent role of the strike breaker and riot ultra. Wilson played upon the racial fears of the South and incited Protestant ministers with propagations of anti-Semitism, interracial relations and plots from the Vatican to improve his standing.

The Second Klan saw threats from every direction. A religious tone was present in its activities; “two-thirds of the national Klan lecturers were Protestant ministers,” says historian Brian R. Farmer. Much of the Klan’s energy went to guarding “the home;” the historian Kathleen Bleeits said its members wanted to protect “the interests of white womanhood.”

“The pamphlet ABC of the Invisible Empire, published in Atlanta by Simmons in 1917, identified the Klan’s goals as “to shield the sanctity of the home and the chastity of womanhood; to maintain white supremacy; to teach and faithfully inculcate a high spiritual philosophy through an exalted ritualism; and by a practical devotedness to conserve, protect and maintain the distinctive institutions, rights, privileges, principles and ideals of a pure Americanism.

“The massive immigration of Catholics and Jews from eastern and southern Europe led to fears among Protestants about the new peoples, and especially about job and social competition. The Great Migration of African Americans to the North stoked job and housing competition and racism by whites in Midwestern and Western industrial cities. The second Klan achieved its greatest political power in Indiana; it was active throughout the South, Midwest, especially Michigan; and in the West, in Northern California, Colorado and Oregon. The migration of both African Americans and whites from rural areas to Southern and Midwestern cities increased social tensions.”

Wilson’s suppression of the labor movement was essential to the power of Big Business at this time. Big Business, especially Big Pharma, were undergoing a transition into the war economy in 1914 following the passage of the Federal Reserve Act the year prior to centralize finance. Large businesses began centralizing operations and staking their bets in war contracts behind the armies of the warring European nation states. Wilson passed several unlawful executive orders curbing laborers first amendment rights to speech and assembly to help suppress labor resistance for the American corporations while they engaged in grand scale war profiteering. During the war, labor strikes were met with brutal reprisals, including the Ludlow Massacre of 1914 at John D Rockefeller’s Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, in which 1200 striking coal miners and their families were brutally attacked by the Colorado National Guard resulting in the deaths of 25, including women and children who had been burned alive. Wilson derided the unions as socialists, enemy saboteurs and German sympathizers; with his extremist lobby groups promoting alcohol, opium and marijuana as the cause of labor unrest.

Ludlow Massacre

Ludlow Massacre

Marijuana use would have its first negative use association during World War I as it was often used by tradesmen and unionists in their downtime to heal from work stresses. Marijuana was blamed for the laborers affinity for communism and socialism, derided as being confused from their overuse of medicinal and herbal marijuana leading to their subversive nature. These newspaper articles and campaigns would become the precursor to William Randolph Heart’s Reefer Madness campaigns in the 30s. The KKK and the Temperance Movement saw an easy target in Marijuana, they could achieve their political ends by linking marijuana use to minorities and whites of low social standing. Republican and Democratic city administrations saw the opportunity to expand the power of their police forces by supporting these political agendas, by banning marijuana use police forces could freely enter minority neighborhoods and increase arrests. Cities could also impose greater neighborhood controls on the basis of drug use. This led to a spread of prohibitive ordinances in many cities throughout the country following the Harrison Tax Act of 1914.

William Randolph Hearst

William Randolph Hearst

Marijuana was especially targeted by the Californian conservative oligarchy because of the deep resentment held towards minorities by new Southern white immigrants who had been disaffected by their exploitation under Southern Reconstruction. Many Southerners and Mormons, following the Civil War moved to California to capture the tail end of the Gold Rush; following 1880 another large influx of Southerners and Northern Know-Nothings moved to California to participate in the oil and logging boom. They established conservative bastions throughout the state, most notably in San Diego, Anaheim, Long Beach, Simi Valley, Pasadena, Bakersfield, Fresno, Oceanside, Sacramento, Ventura and Oroville. Strong bureaucracies within these city governments were created to ensure the continuation of the personal and corporate interests of the new Southern gentry and bar ethnic minorities from equitable representation. Many of these administrations expanded in the 20’s and 30’s, drawing their ranks from the KKK, Nazi sympathizers, and Southern recruits with strong segregationist beliefs. These types of individuals were especially targeted for police recruitment, filling the ranks of the LAPD, SFPD and countless Sheriff’s Departments throughout the state.

KKK in Anaheim

KKK in Anaheim

America under Wilsonian Democracy brought about the triumph of elite wealth over the middle and lower classes in not just industry but in education and ethics as well. The rise of Communism and Marxism throughout Europe had created a boogeyman for the American industrialist to use against the American laborer.  This fear would be used to promote American involvement in World War I. William Jennings Bryan, a champion of the poor and faithful from the South had watched his influence within the Democratic Party wane under the power of Wilson’s Business Progressives’ and their alliance with the Southern KKK. Bryan had previously struggled against the Republicans under William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt to combat the Gold Standard and the economic subjugation that had resulted for the American farmer. Bryan now found himself now found himself battling against the Progressive’s in all aspects of politics while serving as Wilson’s Secretary of State. For one, the Progressive’s had asserted eugenics, social Darwinism and racial sciences as fact rather than theory; pushing the rejection of religion and monotheism from the classroom in favor of a racial science based curriculum. Bryan would later take this on in the infamous Scopes Monkey Trials in the mid-20s. More importantly, The Progressive Republicans and Democrats, united by William Randolph Hearst and Big Pharma and led by Theodore Roosevelt, began to put immense pressure on Wilson to enter World War I.

Big Pharma profited immensely from World War I by selling opium, morphine and heroin to the European nations through military contracts, especially to Russia who was ill equipped but possessed the largest army. By 1915, Russian losses were mounting and the American industrialists had become concerned that Russia would not be able to continue to purchase the massive quantities of narcotics needed to supply their troops. Big Pharma seeking to continue the war time profits and an extension of the war heavily funded the Republican and Democratic KKK to pressure Wilson into putting US troops in the war. Bryan, a political enemy of Big Pharma and a pacifist, had led the passage with the Temperance Movement of the Harrison Tax Act of 1914 in a bid to limit the power of Big Pharma in America and end the nation’s Heroin epidemic that occurred during the previous decade. Bryan, with good intentions, supported the Act to damage the opium trade, seeing it as the source of Republican power and the money power behind the Gold Standard and the Robber Barons; he actually encouraged the use of marijuana as a regulated medicine but saw ‘the regulations of poisons’ as a pretext to limit the power of the Opium trusts.

William Jennings Bryan

William Jennings Bryan

Bryan epitomized the prohibitionist viewpoint: Protestant and nativist, hostile to the corporation and the evils of urban civilization, devoted to personal regeneration and the social gospel, he sincerely believed that prohibition would contribute to the physical health and moral improvement of the individual, stimulate civic progress, and end the notorious abuses connected with the liquor and opiate traffic. Hence he became interested when its devotees in Nebraska viewed direct legislation as a means of obtaining anti-saloon laws.”

However, with the Harrison Tax Act, Big Pharma had successfully directed the Republicans to amend the tax act with the goal of leaving foreign sale and distribution of opium and heroin legal and abolish copyrights and patents of foreign formulas that had been held by Germany on the grounds of national defense. Trading embargoes by the German’s during World War I, along with supply shortages to Russia compelled Big Pharma to support US entry into the war to create a new market for its highly regulated opiates. Lobby pressure on Wilson’s Administration forced Bryan out of the White House in 1915, radicalizing Bryan to put his full power behind Prohibition and the new Anti-Evolution movement that had surfaced as an extreme response to the inculcation of eugenics in schools. Bryan saw these movements as an effort in social morality, not so much as to what they represented, but in that the Democrats could effectively combat the influence of the Northern Industrialists using the ethical platform.

President Theodore Roosevelt

President Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt, Bryan’s adversary, enjoyed a very strong post-presidential public and political reputation and was able to portray Bryan’s efforts, prior to WWI, to coordinate the US Army against Pancho Villa during the Mexican Civil War as ‘weak and humiliating’ to a hyper-nationalist public. The British blockade in 1916 on continental Europe would put pressure on the industrialist’s war profits and in turn, the pressure was put on Wilson’s re-election to ensure compliance with their demands for US involvement in the war. Wilson catered to the Republican’s demands, moving left politically to assuage labor voters, bringing in the coalition of Roosevelt Republicans to narrowly defeat Charles Evan Hughes and the Taft Republicans in the 1916 election. Wilson’s successful re-election allowed the floodgates on war profiteering to slam wide open. Famous Marine General Smedley Butler would later recount the utter corporate corruption that occurred during WWI in his now infamous book “War is a Racket”. Record gold imports by the US Treasury and US corporations for arms and supplies sales to Europe during World War I would occur at this time, enriching many American industrialists beyond their wildest dreams. The transfer of gold from Europe to America would be key to both America’s future economic power and key to the dominance of American big business in the century to come. Sales of opiate medication was the number one tradable item for gold during World War I and always remember “he who has the gold makes the rules”.


The Great War Changes The World

World War I

World War I

World War I is one of the most generationally traumatic events to ever occur in human history. It was the culmination of centuries long rivalries between the church, the monarchy and the moneyed elite for control of at the first the continent of Europe and then the world. World War II, nuclear weapons, The War on Drugs, financial crimes and panics of nations, and revolutions that followed would never have occurred without it. World War I was the first change in the order of the world since the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Charlemagne.

World War I was carefully crafted and planned by the monarchy and moneyed elite as a sick and perverse social and economic experiment; as we had discussed before, racial and cultural supremacy along with eugenics were cultural beliefs of the day. The elite viewed racial theory as a form of ultimate human competition with themselves being the best competitors of their own races and nations. The monarchs were at the head of the elite bloodlines and marriage into royal bloodlines became an obsession of the American and European industrialists from the 1880s to the 1920s. King Edward VII, King of England from 1901-1910 and son of Queen Victoria, had viewed the Third French Republic and the new German Empire as an existential threat to Anglo domination of the world. Edward was a politically powerful king with a vast network of friends in the international financial community who created the idea of the war as a potential goldmine for war profiteers and as a way to ‘keep Europe in balance’. France, Russia, Austria and Germany would square off on the continent of Europe while British and American pharmaceuticals, gun-makers, banks, oil and chemical manufacturers, steel makers and the shipping industry would all profit heavily from supplying the war effort. American and British gold supplies were heavily interlinked, thus America could be used as a source of war credit for England to maintain the war for several years.

King Edward VII

King Edward VII

Edward also saw the war as the way to maintain the international supremacy of the British Empire, something that had come to be challenged in recent years by German super-nationalism and German gold mining. The king wanted pound sterling financial supremacy to continue and this could only be done by heavily indebting the other European nations through war.   He manufactured the Entente Cordial with France to create a balance of military alliances with Russia and England against Germany and Austria-Hungary; he often criticized his own nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, known for his temper, to openly to stoke diplomatic tensions. Edward also reformed the British military in preparation for war, creating the Expeditionary Force with the thought that the French would bear the brunt of the assault. German militarism under the Kaiser had also taken a hostile tone with the dismissal of Bismarck and the realignment of foreign policy for a war with England. The moneyed elite on both sides wanted the war, to expand their own wealth, redefine international trade, test the mettle of their military machines and to see which European tribes were indeed superior on the battlefield.

War broke out in 1914 following the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Serbia. Kaiser Wilhelm promised German support against Serbia, taking the bait offered by King Edward and triggering a war with Russia and the alliance system. The war break out in colonial hotspots around the globe but the primary focus of the war would be on the Western Front between France and Germany and the Eastern Front between Germany and Russia. Trench warfare, tanks, machine guns, air warfare and chemical warfare would make their debut reigning chaos across Europe. American troops were committed to the war in 1917.

World War I Map

World War I Map

Shades of the Iraq War persisted throughout the conflict with cost plus contracts, supply shortages, unsupplied payments and pay offs to participant commanders. Wilson and the Northern Industrialists transformed the US economy into a war economy of whose basis was total profit for the wealthy at the expense of poor. The Federal Reserve Act enforced the new Federal Income Tax to subsidize the war profiteers, using the tax monies to pay for the war contracts. Big Business were able to essentially wash their own money through the war knowing that any taxes paid would go to pay the contracts and war bonds they held. The First World War proved to be the most single profitable event for the American Upper Class beyond the Civil War itself, pushing them to a new height of power and influence unseen before in the world.

World War I’s legacy would impose its mark on every major military event since its occurrence, for it would trigger a chain of events that would lead to some of the most infamous events in world history. Engineering of war contracts by big financial names like JP Morgan, Rockefellar, Bernard Baruch and many other kings of Wall Street led to the beginning of Wall Street’s winner take all economy in the 20s as the Upper Class saw that they could plunder the populace at will. Wages had remained stagnant despite the imposition of production increases for the war, management refused to pass profits downward and labor unions were formed to oppose both the war and the harsh conditions that they were subject to by employers.


The war would claim 39 million lives, both soldier and civilian, and would rewrite the balance of power for the entire world. The monarchy of Russia had been completely overthrown by a communist revolution and was left in a brutal state of civil war; the monarchy of Germany itself had also been overthrown and had been replaced by an oligarchical republican government. France and England found themselves in a state of financial and military disarray, exhausted resources and war time debts to the United States had left them in a dependent position. Most of the European countries left the gold standard during World War I, however the US had remained on the standard to allow its industrialists to settle supply shipments in gold payment. The United States would emerge as the wealthiest nation in the world.


The Labor Crisis of 1919



1919 was a bell weather year for the United States as social pressures at home reached their boiling point and exploded. Despite the conclusion of the war, the United States remained in a state of wartime centralization and it had appeared that Wilson had no intention of demobilizing the power of the war profiteers. The Russian Revolution of 1918 also had empowered the spirits of labor movements worldwide as the Empire of the Russian Tsar collapsed under a workers revolution and a new Soviet state had been established much to the shock of the entire western world. Europe itself had devolved into a state of conflict between socialists and the emerging fascist groups born out of the disaffected military elite fighting to retain their royalist privileges. In the United States there was a feeling of disdain and skepticism following the war toward the economic rhetoric of the Upper Class, and the government itself which was seen as servants of wealth and pickpockets of the people.


The First Red Scare broke out in 1919 over a dispute between newly formed labor unions and the war time provisions business leaders had used to oppress and bust the unions. The action began right away in early January when the Seattle General Strike broke out with over 60,000 shipyard workers striking for higher wages. The strike paralyzed Seattle and there was a general fear among the wealthy class that America now risked a Proletarian Revolution as seen in the Soviet Union just a year before. The Mayor of Seattle had 3000 police and federal troops engage with the rioters deriding them as anarchists. The Yellow Press owned by several members of the 60 Families and upstarts like William Randolph Hearst accused the Strike as being an attempt at Communist revolution. The General Strike would end the following month following labor negotiations and the government would respond to the striking workers with the creation of the Overman Committee.

“The Overman Committee was a special 5-man subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary chaired by North Carolina Democrat Lee Slater Overman. First charged with investigating German subversion during World War I, its mandate was extended on February 4, 1919, just a day after the announcement of the Seattle General Strike, to study “any efforts being made to propagate in this country the principles of any party exercising or claiming to exercise any authority in Russia” and “any effort to incite the overthrow of the Government of this country. The Committee’s hearings into Bolshevik propaganda, conducted from February 11 to March 10, 1919, developed an alarming image of Bolshevism as an imminent threat to the U.S. government and American values.”

Tensions were further inflamed following the landmark Supreme Court decision of Schenck vs. The United States, a case where one Charles T. Schenck, a member of the American Socialist Party, had been indicted under Wilson’s Espionage Act of 1917 for distributing subversive anti-war leaflets to military draftees during World War I stating that the Draft was illegal under the 13th Amendment. Schenck had appealed under his First Amendment rights but the Supreme Court upheld his conviction. To many this was seen as a travesty of justice and a declaration that the courts would be against organized labor for the time to come. The American Legion was formed following the verdict to put down unions by hiring unemployed veterans to form mercenary like security squads that would assist the police in quelling strikes and riots. Mitchell Palmer, an avowed anti-labor politician, was selected by Wilson to be his last Attorney General and squelch the labor menace.

Seattle shipyard

April grew even tenser, as prominent labor leader IWW head Eugene Debs was incarcerated for speaking out against the war and the Wilson Administration’s perpetuation of the war economy. The Boston Telephone Strike would soon follow as 9,000 telephone operators went on strike in New England. Strikebreaking groups were successfully beaten back by unions and the wage increases were implemented. Union reactionaries responded to the Debs imprisonment by mailing 36 mail bombs to several government officials, Attorney General Palmer and industrialists including John D Rockefeller. Unions like the AFL, CIO and IWW started looking for financial backing to step up their resources against the increased political pressure from the money industrialists. Strikebreakers were often aided by the police and the local city machines which were often ran by the Irish Mobs on behalf of the city’s landed gentry. Jewish and Italian gambling racketeers from ethnic immigrant gangs out of Cleveland and New York had rivalries with the Irish dating back to the late 1800s and would start providing financing and muscle to unions to help them conduct their strike activities against the municipal apparatus.

These racketeers would help finance the May Day Strike of 1919 which was a multi-city general labor protest in Boston, New York and Cleveland. Police tried to stop the marches but were overran by union organizers and mob thugs. Veterans and soldiers joined in the protest burning their military uniforms and government war propaganda. The largest protest was organized in Cleveland in support of the union candidate for Mayor; the Rockefellar Consortium organized a group of War Loan workers to form a gang and attack the protest, leading to a riot and street violence. Rockefellar and Oppenheimer-owned news magazines blamed the laborers, drug use and communism for inciting the War Loan workers to attack.


The following month in June eight large mail bombs with up to 25 pounds of dynamite each were sent to several US cities with political and business targets alike. Mailers were sent with the bombs accusing the recipients of inciting class warfare and domestic subjugation.  The newspapers worked hard to frame the entire labor movement as an anarchist movement and this was aided by Wilson’s doubling down on Women’s Rights to Vote and Prohibition to keep the family focus on social management rather than labor rights. However by Mid-Summer the Chicago Race Riots would break out in what became known as Red Summer.

Chicago Race Riots

Chicago Race Riots

Red Summer was a culmination between labor tensions ongoing throughout the year and the influx of African American labor from the South into the Northern industries that had started during the decade. African Americans were largely blamed by the racial policies of the Wilson government as being socialist instigators in their demands for equal rights in both society and the workplace: “Authorities viewed African Americans’ advocacy of racial equality, labor rights, or the rights of victims of mobs to defend themselves with alarm. In a private conversation in March 1919, President Wilson said that “the American Negro returning from abroad would be our greatest medium in conveying bolshevism to America.”

Riots broke out all over the country with race riots breaking out in South Carolina, Texas, Arizona, and Illinois. Struggles between blacks and whites broke out in the military over Wilson’s policies of re-segregation, undoing much of the progress that had been achieved since the Civil War. Chicago saw the greatest violence break out between the black community and the police over police killings and unsolved murders. Government accusations of communism led to white lynch mobs killing black citizens throughout the country. Militias on both sides were formed leading to several skirmishes through the South. Race riots would continue ceaselessly for all three summer months of 1919.


Deep divisions among the socialist political representatives emerged during their attempt to organize. Some factions wanted to work for Lenin’s Comintern, while others proposed an independent American communist organization and center-left unionist organizations. The Boston Police Strike would also break out during Red Summer, the AFL unionized the policemen who immediately went on strike for higher wages and benefits.

Police Commissioner Edwin Upton Curtis denied that police officers had any right to form a union, much less one affiliated with a larger organization like the AFL. During the strike, Boston experienced two nights of lawlessness until several thousand members of the State Guard supported by volunteers restored order, though not without causing several deaths. The public, fed by lurid press accounts and hyperbolic political observers, viewed the strike with a degree of alarm out of proportion to the events, which ultimately produced only about $35,000 of property damage. A report from Washington, D.C. included this headline: “Senators Think Effort to Sovietize the Government Is Started.” Senator Henry Cabot Lodge saw in the strike the dangers of the national labor movement: “If the American Federation of Labor succeeds in getting hold of the police in Boston it will go all over the country, and we shall be in measureable distance of Soviet government by labor unions. “The Ohio State Journal opposed any sympathetic treatment of the strikers: “When a policeman strikes, he should be debarred not only from resuming his office, but from citizenship as well. He has committed the unpardonable sin; he has forfeited all his rights. The strikers were called “deserters” and “agents of Lenin.” The Philadelphia Public Ledger viewed the Boston violence in the same light as many other of 1919’s events: “Bolshevism in the United States is no longer a specter. Boston in chaos reveals its sinister substance.” President Woodrow Wilson, speaking from Montana, branded the walkout “a crime against civilization” that left the city “at the mercy of an army of thugs.”

In September of 1919, the AFL voted with the steelworkers unions to have an industry-wide strike. Half of the US steel industry was immediately shutdown posing a threat to the power of steel barons like Andrew Carnegie. The Steel Barons paid the newspapers handsome sums to turn public opinion against the steelworkers and brought in 40,000 immigrant scabs to work the factories. Union power was widely blamed on the influences of alcohol and the vices of alcohol, marijuana, prostitution and opiates. The political discourse had become dominated by the radical KKK, Eugenics, Anti-Union and Temperance Movements who were all calling for large scale sterilization and prohibition programs. Rejection of law became popular as a cultural motif for the 1920s because government overall was seen as corrupt and subservient only to the upper classes. Narcotics abuse had also become an urban problem with the rise of popularity of heroin and the prevalence of post-war opium addiction. Heroin had out popularized Medical Marijuana as the narcotic of choice during that decade but had been regulated out of the market by the Harrison Tax Act, leaving a market opportunity for a Jewish gambler and fixer named Arnold Rothstein.

– The Green Chazzan

Continue to Part 2…

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 thoughts on “The Devil’s Work: Marijuana in the 1920’s and 30’s – Part 1

  1. […] The Devil’s Work: Marijuana in the 1920’s and 30’s – Part 1 […]

Leave a Reply to The Devil’s Work: Marijuana in the 20’s and 30’s – Part 3 | The Green Pulpit Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: