Tag Archives: Opium War

The Opium Mob

380px-Apothecary_vessel_Opium_18-19_century

It is impossible to understand the reasoning and motivation behind medical cannabis prohibition without first understanding the origins of the Euro-American Opium Cartel, which is and always will remain medical marihuana’s fiercest foe simply due to the nature of the Cartel’s business. The Opium Cartel is the first true American cartel in terms of the modern understanding of the word and its rise to prominence built many of the companies, fortunes, powerful families and powerful figures that exist today.

The Opium Cartel predates other American Cartels, monopolies, oligopolies and forms of oligarchy in the United States because it is an inherited Cartel, a union of sorts between Anglo and American pharmaceutical interests that developed over the course of several major wars and really created the catalyst today for what is called “The Special Relationship” between the US and the UK. The Opium Cartel exists today, but is more difficult to identify because its inheritors have greatly diversified it beyond its pharmaceutical heritage. The “Cartel” as it exists today is a consortium that encompasses many companies that are well known, and hold reins of power within many institutions in Washington DC and London.

As mentioned in the previous reading, William Huntington Russell held major political influence due to his involvement in the opium trade. His cousin, Samuel Russell, was one of the first enterprising opium traders that emerged in 1819 to trade with China as the United States participated in the opening of Chinese trade with Great Britain. The United States had turned to opium trading as a means of new revenue after the end of the Napoleonic Wars as cannabis/hemp demand declined and export revenues declined along with it. The western powers turned their focus to Asia for economic growth.

Samuel Russell

Samuel Russell

William Huntington Russell

William Huntington Russell

Opium had been used in China since the 7th century as a medicine for pain and surgery, but in the 17th century more opium had been introduced by European traders as a recreational drug, mixed with tobacco and smoked from a long pipe and bowl over a lamp that would vaporize the opium. Europeans opened Opium Dens in China and became a profitable venture as Chinese opium addicts began to emerge. Great Britain, desiring to control Chinese trade and limit Chinese government resources, saw the opium dens and emerging opiate addictions within China as a geostrategic opportunity.

The western powers resented China’s regulation of western trade through the Canton System. The system restricted western trade to the port of Canton, much like how the People’s Republic of China today restricts western factories to certain ‘special economic zones’. The powers, including the US, were only allowed to operate out of the ’13 Hongs’ or 13 Factories in Canton each of which had to be headed by a Chinese merchant chosen by the Qing Emperor. This consortium of Chinese merchants were allowed to fix prices, imposes taxes and regulate the 13 Factories as they saw fit even in unfair ways. This draws a striking parallel to US-Chinese relations that have developed since the 1970’s and 2000’s, as US companies are currently assigned native counterparts by the Chinese government to manage their internal business affairs within China. This has led to accusations of copyright infringement by Chinese companies, similar to infringements that occurred during the Canton System. After the American Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, Great Britain saw opening Chinese Trade as a path to economic recovery and as a means to expand Southeast Asian trade between Chinese and Indian ports but faced trade right difficulties in doing so.

The 13 Hongs

The 13 Hongs

Great Britain carried a heavy demand for tea and China began to impose silver payment on all exports which caused severe trade deficits and sales of silver and gold to China by Great Britain to pay the trade balances. Chinese trade power began to influence commodities markets putting pressure on English deficits (sound familiar?). The last straw for England would be the depletion of their silver reserves due to Chinese payments in the early 1800s, as they were on the Gold Standard and in a war with France. England was forced to borrow silver from other European countries and the US with gold, a dire economic position.

In 1817, British Parliament decided that empowering the Opium Trade in China would be the most effective weapon against the economic impositions of the Qing Dynasty. Britain had begun planting opium in the British Raj, particularly in cotton-growing regions of Bengal and Malwa. The Indians were wary of opium and only agreed to grow it if it was strictly sold to China of which Britain readily agreed. Opium sales to China from India would become the exclusive right of the British East India Company, but it also provided economic opportunity for smaller American opium traders. The Russell family took the lead in purchasing opium from Turkey and trading it to both Britain and China in exchange for medical opium and other luxury goods. Samuel Russell’s Russell & Company would become one of the largest economic players in the international opium, tea, and silk markets by 1842. Opium in the United States prior to 1850, was not used recreationally in the United States; recreational use would emerge with the Gold Rush, starting in 1849, in California; the shipping of Chinese workhands with opium trade experience to work in gold mines and California railroads would bring opium dens to major commercial centers like San Francisco. However opium use for recreational purposes would not become a major social epidemic until after the American Civil War with the emergence of Soldier’s Disease and morphine dependence.

Chinese Opium Den

Chinese Opium Den

The Chinese government protested the growing opium trade diplomatically but found it unable to control the growth of Opium sales out of Canton and the smuggling of opium to other restricted Chinese ports. In 1834 trade liberalization of opium in Great Britain opened up a vast amount of commercial interest in the Chinese opium trade. The increase in competition drove down opium prices and increased supply, making opium in China easily affordable and easily obtainable. By 1838 opium addicts in China grew from 4 million to 12 million, expanding the customer base for western opium dens. Imports of opium grew from 1400 to almost 2600 tonnes, allowing silver and gold to flow back into the western economies through consumer drug use.  In response, the Emperor of the Qing Dynasty issued an edict in 1839, prohibiting the sale and smoking of opium in China and restricted imports to medical Opium only. The Emperor appointed his own drug czar, Lin Zexu, who attempted to arrest and seize opium shipments; when the foreign powers refused to hand over their stock, a ban on foreign trade was implemented to starve out the foreign businesses in Canton.

The pressure from the Emperor’s drug czar continued throughout 1839 as the British were caught selling opium through Macau. The Opium Cartel was outraged at the seizure of 20,000 chests containing 44 kilos of opium each. China became even more aggressive after the ‘Kowloon Incident’ in the midsummer, when Lin began banning food sales to the British and Portuguese colonies especially Macau, withdrawing Chinese citizens, blockading the ports and poisoning water wells. The British merchant fleets retreated to Hong Kong, starved out of their ports.

The Royal Navy under the orders of Lord Palmerston arrived and proceeded to escort Western ships to colonial ports. The British blockaded several rivers and ports causing a skirmish to break out with the Chinese blockade triggering the First Opium War. The British Navy easily destroyed the Chinese junkets and marine forces stormed and destroyed cities with their superior military technology. The conflict ended when the British defeated the Chinese military at the mouth of the Yangstze River, occupying Shanghai and forcing the Treaty of Nanking on the Qing Dynasty in 1842. The US signed a treaty with China called the Treaty of Wangxia, which the US desired to be separate in order to outmaneuver British interests.

The First Opium War

The First Opium War

The Treaty of Wangxia allowed US citizens only to be tried only by US officials and courts, created fixed tariffs, obtained the right to buy Chinese land, the right to learn Chinese and the same trade rights as Britain in return for outlawing the sale of Opium. However, the United States allowed opium sales by US traders to continue, ignoring their offenses and refusing to try them when petitioned by the Chinese government.

American trade in opium after 1842 rapidly expanded with East Indian and Turkish opium being introduced as a competitor to the Anglo-Indian Opium. The British, angry with the increased competition in opium markets, engaged in aiding Hong Xiuquan through Christian missionaries. Hong was a cult leader who had created the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom sect from a mixture of opiate use and Christian and Chinese religious traditions. His friend and British intelligence agent Feng Yunshan formed the Society of God Worshippers in 1844 that spread Hong’s religious ideas and destabilized southern and central China.

The Taiping Rebellion broke out in 1851 in the Chinese province of Guangxi after Hong declared he was the brother of Jesus Christ. In 1853, Taiping rebel forces seized Nanjing, making it their capital, and much of Southern China. The Taiping forces would make war against the Qing Dynasty, attempting to take both Shanghai and Beijing on several occasions, distracting the Qing Emperor from being able to counter the efforts of the western powers to increase the drug trade and play both sides of the rebellion.

Extent of the Taiping Rebellion

Extent of the Taiping Rebellion

The Second Opium War would break out just a few years later in 1856 over the Britain, France and the US’ demands for renegotiation of their treaties from the First Opium War. Britain wanted greater trade privileges than the other western powers, full legalization of opium, duty exemptions, insulating regulations and making English the official language of colonial lands. These demands would cause other Western powers to come forward making similar demands against the Qing government. China flat out refused leading to skirmishes between western and Chinese forces across the Chinese colonies. British and French incursions against Chinese forts decimated Qing forces that were already battered from fighting the Taiping Rebellion.

In 1858, the Chinese after losing a series of military battles against the Western powers surrendered a number of ports, allowed open access to the Yangtze River, allowed foreigners to travel in China and set up reparations. The Chinese Emperor embarrassed by the treaties ordered a large military contingent on the mouth of the river leading to Beijing. French and British forces demanded the contingent be disbarred, when the Chinese refused British and French forces marched on Beijing, devastating the Qing army and burning down the Emperor’s Summer Palaces. The Qing Dynasty surrendered with treaty of Tianjin which legalized the opium trade and allowed the British to sell Chinese servants in California as well.

Second Opium War

Second Opium War

The Russell family and the Opium Cartel witnessed the sectionalism occurring in the United States during this period and prepared the trade routes to bring opium and morphine back to the United States for military availability during the American Civil War. The founding of the Euro-American pharmaceutical industry was built around the brutal and unforgiving battlefields of the American Civil War. The Opium Cartel did not play favorites, they funded both Union and Confederate counterparts primarily from hard-to-account-for commerce bases in the relatively new state of California. Around 400,000 troops exited the brutal civil conflict, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, with opiate and morphine addictions. Many Civil War veterans with post-traumatic stress or would become opiate addicts following the war.

Gettysburg

Gettysburg

America, after Lincoln’s assassination, had come under the electoral control of the Republican Party of whom the Opium Cartel along with Big Finance immediately took control. The opium and banking financiers utilized their fortunes to promote Republican candidates and political machines. The Public Credit Act of 1869 outlawed Lincoln’s civil war greenbacks and imposed the gold standard by making US bonds payable only in gold. Members of the railroad, finance and opium consortiums held a large portion of these war bonds and were able to establish an illegal gold trading ring among the leading industrialist families, referred to in Ferdinand Lundberg’s America’s 60 Families. In1873, under Republican leadership, the Coinage Act would firmly establish the Gold Standard and end bimetallism in the United States and bring about the Long Depression. “The gold dollar became the standard dollar while the standard silver dollar was discontinued” however the Opium Cartel was permitted to keep using silver dollars for trade in China as “an ancillary silver trade dollar was issued for continued trade with China and the orient”.

Gold Standard

Gold Standard

The Opium Cartel profited heavily after the end of the Civil War as well through the importation of Chinese workers and slaves from the late 1860’s to the late 1880’s. Wealthy California industrialists, railroad tycoons and landowners supported this trade through Chinese front man in San Francisco’s Chinatown known as “The Six Companies”. The job of the Six Companies was to promote California abroad as Gold Mountain, playing on the emotions of disaffected Chinese ruined by the turmoil of the Chinese civil war and the Opium Wars. The Six Companies acted like a reverse operation of the original 13 Hong system for the western power. They were originally called “the Sam Yup, Yung Wo, Kong Chow, Wing Yung, Hop Wo and Yan Wo companies…and they exercised supervisory control over the Chinese labor class or “Coolies”” who the rich land owners used to displace the high cost of American labor brought in after the Gold Rush. “Through their agents in China, the Six Companies advanced money to emigrants who desired to come to the United States…when the immigrant arrived in this country, the Six Companies obtained a job for him or outfitted him for the mines and then saw to it that he repaid the loan, with interest.”

The Tongs worked with wealthy mining companies, banks and land owners to avoid having to pay expensive wages to citizen workers by being able to pay the Chinese next to nothing or sometimes not at all. The Chinese in California, because of this, were subject to intense racial hatred promoted by the landed class. One of the most powerful California monopolies was the Central Pacific Railroad, who through the Republican Party, worked with the Opium Cartel to supply Chinese rail workers; one of the railroad’s owner’s, Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University, as Governor of California caused controversy when he publically railed against the Chinese labor threat appealing to racial hygiene while it was widely known that he employed thousands of wage slave Chinese laborers.

Cartoon depicting Chinese workers in California

Cartoon depicting Chinese workers in California

The Opium Cartel also profited heavily by supplying San Francisco’s Chinatown Tongs with large quantities of Chinese prostitutes for the California laborers. Prostitution of Chinese women, along with gambling halls and Opium Dens would become a major vice industry in California, leading to cozy relationships between the Chinese Tongs, the California landowners and the Opium Cartel in San Francisco. The Six Companies initially opposed the Tongs and their importation of prostitutes until the lucrative side business encouraged the Opium Cartel to support the Tong power in San Francisco’s Chinatown; many of the prostitutes brought in to work were turned into opium addicts by the Tongs and the Six Companies thought this besmirched the image of their business. “Tong prostitution in Chinatown would not cease until 1914 with the passage of the Red-Light Abatement Act” a Temperance Movement action to clean up San Francisco, which has become popular due to the heavy outbreak of west coast crime in the late 1800’s along with lynch mobs known as “Vigilance Committees”.

San  Francisco Opium Den

San
Francisco Opium Den

The Suey Sing and Hop Sing Tong (which has achieved recent fame due to the indictment of California State Senator Leland Yee’s involvement with gun running for Shrimp Boy Raymond Chow) “were the first known tongs to organize in about 1860 by the Chinese in the gold fields near Marysville, California as mutual benefit associations.” The tongs soon spread to the railroad construction camps, then to Chinatowns in Pacific cities and finally in Chinese communities throughout the US. By 1870, 22 tongs had been entrenched in Chinatown alone controlling all opium dens, gambling houses and bordellos. The Six Companies themselves evolved to become Tong-like organizations of their own influenced to do more business with the Opium Cartel and California landed interests.

Cal State Sen. Leland Yee

Cal State Sen. Leland Yee

The Opium Cartel’s power grew along with the power of the other 60 industrialist families that began to consolidate monopolies from banking (Morgan) to oil (Rockefellar) to railroad (Gould and Vanderbilt) to opium (Russell and Astor) to steel (Carnegie) and many other businesses that would the Robber Barons would transform into ‘American Big Business’. The American middle class would find themselves abandoned by the Republican Party after the Civil War with the defeat of the Southern Planters and clinging onto populist parties and Southern Free Silver interests led by William Jennings Bryan as the Republican’s catered to the needs of the now dominant industrialist class. The Opium Cartel was one of the biggest champions of the Republican machine at this time and empowered men like Senator Mark Hanna from Ohio to establish large political networks throughout the United States. Hanna became a major political operator for several Republican presidents throughout the Robber Baron period including James Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley and to a small extent, Theodore Roosevelt.

The profits from Civil War morphine sales and the excesses of the Gilded Age would allow for the Opium Cartel to transform from its Chinese Trade roots into the global pharmaceutical powerhouses that exist today. Merck would be allowed to open in the United States in 1891. Eli Lilly under Republican stewardship “was able to survive and came out stronger than ever… Lilly operated as many other pharmaceutical businesses did—manufacturing and selling “sugar-coated pills, fluid extracts, elixirs, and syrups” in Indiana and the surrounding states”. Bayer introduced commercial heroin in 1898 which carried twice the potency of morphine by weight and proved to be more addictive than Asian opiates. Codeine, which was first synthesized in 1832, was also brought to market for commercial availability in the early 1890s.

Old Big Pharma

Old Big Pharma

Profits from the sales of commercial drugs and elixers soon become a popular commercial business and other smaller apothecaries using natural medicines such as medical marihuana, coca, st. john’s wort and many other herbal based remedies appeared to challenge the profits of the Opium Cartel in their new corporate form. Cartel profits from opioid and morphine addictions were immense and allowed them to lend monies to large banking and industrial entities including those owned by JP Morgan, John D Rockefeller and Andrew Mellon.  Big Finance, Big Oil, Big Coal and Big Railroad would emerge at the end of the 1890s from the profits obtained of dealing with the Opium Cartel. Big Oil and Coal would supply the needs for the trains and ships needed to move the opium internationally, Big Railroad would provide national distribution and port access, and Big Finance would provide loans and banking options through the manipulation of silver and gold prices. The pyramid that is the wealth of America’s 60 richest old money families was built on the remnants of the British Opium Empire.

Republican Presidents and Congressman under the influence of the Opium Cartel which would now become ‘Big Pharma’ blamed the opiate addiction epidemics on the Chinese immigrants that had been brought to the US by the Opium Cartel servant traders. Several laws would be passed by Congress to ban Chinese immigration and restrict Chinese economic activity. Opium Dens in California, especially in San Francisco, continued to flourish due to the activities of the Chinese Tongs and their relationships with the local politicians and opium traders. Toward the end of the 1890’s with the advent of commercial heroin and widespread drug addiction, the Temperance Movement began to become a powerful political force aligning itself with the progressive eugenics movement. Temperance propaganda against opiate and alcohol abuse began to take effect and many addicts were using medical marihuana to treat their opioid dependence.

Medical Cannabis ad

Medical Cannabis ad

Big Pharma in the late 1890’s felt that their dominance of the narcotics market had to become absolute control for several reasons:

  •      The Temperance Movement was seeking to ban opium, their primary source of profit;
  •      Marihuana farmers and apothecaries who were using cannabis as a treatment to counteract opiate addiction and post-traumatic stress with Civil War veterans;
  •      US racial-religious attitudes and popular culture had turned against foreign prostitution and recreational drug use;
  •      Heroin had greater addiction potential than all of the opiates made at the time and Big Pharma wanted to push heroin over morphine, cannabis and opium;
  •      The Civil War had taught them that war contracts to supply medical opioids for battlefield medical needs were the most profitable and in order to be secured the narcotics industry would have to be cornered.
Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

Big Pharma decided to make their big putsch to corner the drug market with the US Pure Food and Drug Act championed by their designer politician Theodore Roosevelt who had risen through the Republican ranks heavily controlled and sponsored by the owners of Big Pharma. Roosevelt secured the unholy alliance of the Pharmaceutical Industry with the Temperance and Eugenics movement, that evolved into a political and social beast the Republicans and the American society itself could hardly seem to control.  Medical Marihuana and Opium were restricted and from 1898 to 1910 Heroin was openly commercially marketed as a ‘wonder drug’, cough suppressant, and as a cure for morphine addiction. Big Pharma sought to have heroin promoted over medical marihuana to weaken the marihuana market enough to seize control over it. In 1910, however, Big Pharma suffered a blow when it was found that heroin metabolized into morphine and they were regulated more aggressively by the Taft administration.

Heroin Marketing

Heroin Marketing

Big Pharma’s Golden Era would begin with the election of Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, in 1913. The 60 Families had deposed of William Howard Taft by having Theodore Roosevelt run against him to split the Republican ticket. Taft had turned out be too ethical of a trust buster, much more so than Teddy who had merely used such terms for public platitudes. Taft had wounded some of the larger trusts empowered the by Big Pharma including the Morgan Banking Trust and the Rockefellar Oil Trust. Wilson seeking a new era of Democratic politics and firmly supported by Wall Street, the KKK and Eugenics lobby was the perfect compromise candidate for the Temperance Movement. The Temperance monster that the Republican Party had created, evolved during the 1910’s into a race based purification movement that sought to abolish all drug use to purify the white race and it had found its final form under the leadership of Woodrow Wilson.  Wilson’s presidency would highlight some of the most egregious actions in the history of the United States with the apex of the American Eugenics movement, the Federal Reserve Act, the state by state prohibition of marihuana throughout Wilson’s presidency, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, the Federal Income Tax, the Federal Farm Loan Act, The Espionage Act of 1917, the Sedition Act of 1918, the Ludlow Massacre, the Red Scare, Alcohol Prohibition, and World War I itself.

Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson

World War I would serve as the provider and pathway to unmitigated financial power by the American oligarchy during the 1920s. Anglo-American and German pharmaceutical consortiums alike would profit immensely from the wartime opium, morphine and heroin contracts. Big Pharma worked in concert through Colonel Edward M. House with Big Finances war loans and the weapons industries delivery schedules to maximize profits. Millions of casualties in the largest war ever seen in the history of the world combined with restriction of available opiates under the international narcotics bans allowed Big Pharma to produce artificial opium shortages and sell their opioid products to the warring nations at obscene prices.

WWI

WWI

Big Pharma used its profits during the war to diversify into finance capital, producing Wall Street power players like the Union Banking Corporation of New York, W.A. Harriman & Co. later Browns Brothers Harriman and allying with the Rockefellars in National City Bank. Bernard Baruch and Samuel Pryor to profit from the arms trade. Big Pharma’s banking entities developed during this time would later serve to enhance their relationships with British and German companies. These entities would also enhance the careers of many prominent Republican politicians of whom Big Pharma would later help propel to primacy in both the 1920’s and mid-to-late 20th century.

Wilson toward the end of his presidency had come to dread the beast he had unleashed upon American society. The Federal Reserve Act had unified big business power in the United States and they had dominated his presidency utterly, transforming the US into an anti-union corporatist police state by the end of World War I that was both culturally conservative and xenophobic. Wilson opposed the Volstead Act but was overridden by Congress and the prohibition fervor that had come to dominate it. Alcohol, narcotics, Communism and the War were blamed heavily for the nation’s woes and full prohibition had come to be the constitutional result.

Pro-Prohibition Poster

Pro-Prohibition Poster

America in the 1920s would descend into a quagmire of organized crime, bootlegging, inequality and political corruption on a scale unseen before. Prohibition of medical cannabis and of many other natural drugs would open a pandora’s box that would come to curse the United States for a hundred years as organized crime rushed in to fulfill the demands for marijuana, opiates, and alcohol by the veterans of World War I suffering from post-traumatic stress and to meet the new cultural demands of the age. The Opium Cartel now transformed into Big Pharma, would retain private and privileged access to medical cannabis and opium throughout the century, limiting its availability to control the pharmaceutical market and produce byproducts for high prices at the American patient’s ultimate expense.

Bayer Heroin

The 1920s will be discussed in the continuation of this series The Secret History of the War on Drugs with the rise of the Mafia in reaction to drug and alcohol prohibition, the evolution of the FBI, the heavy handed corruption of the Roaring 20s, how drug/alcohol prohibition and mafia wars contributed to the Great Depression and on the origins of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics

-TheGreenChazzan

 

Quotes and References:

Lundberg, Ferdinand. America’s 60 Families. 1937.

Asbury, Herbert. The Barbary Coast. Thundermouth Press, Knopf Inc, New York.  1933.

References:

David Pietrusza, 1920: The Year of Six Presidents(NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2007), 191–2, 198–200, 253

Ebrey, Patricia Buckley, ed. (2010). “9. Manchus and Imperialism: The Qing Dynasty 1644–1900”. The Cambridge Illustrated History of China (second ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 236. ISBN 978-0-521-19620-8.

Donna Young (April 15, 2007). “Scientists Examine Pain Relief and Addiction”. Retrieved 2007-06-06.

Peter Ward Fay, The Opium War, 1840-1842: Barbarians in the Celestial Empire in the Early Part of the Nineteenth Century and the Way by Which They Forced the Gates Ajar (Chapel Hill, North Carolina:: University of North Carolina Press, 1975).

Tsai, Jung-fang. [1995] (1995). Hong Kong in Chinese History: community and social unrest in the British Colony, 1842–1913. ISBN 0-231-07933-8

“Opiate Narcotics”The Report of the Canadian Government Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs. Canadian Government Commission.

Madison, James H. (1989). “Manufacturing Pharmaceuticals: Eli Lilly and Company, 1876-1948”.Business and Economic History (Business History Conference) 18: 72. Retrieved 2013-02-20.

Venable, Shannon L. (2011). Gold: A Cultural EncyclopediaSanta BarbaraCalifornia: ABC-CLIO LLC. ISBN 978-0-313-38430-1.

 

Musto, David F. (1999). The American Disease: Origins of Narcotic Control (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-512509-6

http://library.clerk.house.gov/reference-files/PPL_059_384_FoodDrugCosmeticAct.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codeine#History

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1910s_in_the_United_States

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodrow_Wilson

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The Secret Past of Marijuana Laws: The Plant and the Poppy

MMJ and Heroin

The use of marihuana as a medicine is a 4000 year old topic, going back to traditions in Ancient China and the Middle East; but the use of marihuana also has a place in the 238 year history of the United States of America. Marihuana played an important in America’s founding as a British colony as well as an independent nation. Marihuana was responsible for international trade wars with the War of 1812 and the British Opium Wars and was widely used in over 40 medical apothecary applications throughout early US history up until the late 1800s with the advent of a drug called morphine and the popularization of the racial pseudoscience known as eugenics. The impact of these two concepts would do much to alter the history of the United States forever and would lead to the establishment of the US’ first drug enforcement agency, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

Marihuana was first introduced to America with the Jamestown settlement of Virginia. The Virginia Company was mandated by King James I in 1619 to grow 100 hemp plants for every colonial citizen for export to the British Empire (Deitch). Hemp from the early 1600’s to the invention of the steam engine in the late 1800s dominated trade and naval capability as the best sails, rope, paper, and other necessary materials and oils were used as necessary components of both commercial and military fleets worldwide. The British dominance and rivalry towards the expansion of the French and Russian states at the time were fueled by American hemp as a critical component of their national defense infrastructure. That is why England was so hostile to American independence and why the French were so helpful toward it; the exportation of American hemp was critical to British war capabilities as naval supplies were used and eroded, fresh supplies of hemp from America were constantly necessary to fill shortages. This naturally led to the use of cannabis as a medicine as well in the American colonies, being used by many of our founding fathers and with hemp paper being used to write the Constitution of the United States.

Marihuana/Hemp trade wars didn’t end with American victory in the War of Independence. The Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812 continued the international trade war for Marihuana. During the mid-1700’s both the American colonies and the Russian Empire became the primary producers of hemp; Russia with its cheap serf labor produced 80% of the world’s cannabis and hemp for industrial use and it became their primary trading commodity. As tensions between Great Britain and America increased during the 1770’s, Britain came to rely on Russia for its marine hemp supply, accounting for 90% of Britain’s naval supplies (Herer).

The French Revolution shortly broke out in 1789 following the conclusion of American independence and devolved into a bloody revolution that finally settled with Napoleon’s control of France and the Napoleonic Wars between France and Britain. The British were able to isolate Napoleon economically by running a sea blockade on continental Europe with their cannabis dependent navy. Napoleon undermined the British by offering the US a deal on the Louisiana Purchase and cut a deal with the Russians on industrial hemp. Between 1807 and 1809 Russian traders blocked hemp exports to the British navy and America embargoed Britain while breaching their blockade with hemp and weapons shipments to France under the guise of neutrality. After 1809 the British started commandeering US ships, blackmailing US traders to double deal with Russia and supply hemp to Britain once again in exchange for British luxery goods at reduced cost. Napoleon demanded that Russia cease trading with the Americans,  aware that American traders were double dealing with the British; this request was denied by the Tsar who also started double dealing with the British himself to cash in on the excessive war costs of goods.

Napoleonic Wars

Napoleonic Wars

In 1812, the British navy started heavily restricting American trade angering Congress and giving rise to the War of 1812 after Congress decided to invade the British colony of Canada in retaliation for the economic interference. Hemp/Cannabis, because of the wars, had become a major economic industry, especially in the new western states of Ohio and Kentucky where cannabis production flourished. Napoleon realizing that Russia would not cease hemp exports to Britain decided to fatefully invade Russia to stop the Tsar, leading to France’s fateful defeat at the Battle of Borodino. The United States, who joined the war with Napoleon would also be dealt a heavy blow with the British burning of Washington DC and military defeats in the War of 1812. The conflict over cannabis is eventually resolved between the US and the British after the defeat of the British at the Battle of New Orleans, which signified to Great Britain that they had vastly overstretched their military resources. So, yeah there you have it, some of America’s first skirmishes were fought over marihuana.

America continued to profit of its production of cannabis in medicines, textiles, oils and fuels, fiber, pulp, rope and canvas, paints and varnishes and as weaning agent for alcohol and opium. So where did the hostility to the medicine come from? The answer to that has to do with the initiating of the US opium trade in 1820 and the invention of morphine in 1827 as a medical anesthetic.

America’s first drug epidemic occurred during the horrors of the American Civil War. Addiction to opium and morphine among several hundreds of thousands of Union and Confederate troops led the addiction to be known as “Soldier’s Disease”. (Le Dain) Morphine’s use during the Civil War, along with Chinese immigration to the American West in the mid to late 1800’s brought an explosion of opium and morphine addiction that had been unseen in American history. The economic malaise following the Civil War did not assist matters as the Eastern Industrialist class, now drunk with power after winning the brutal civil conflict over the formerly wealthier southern planters, began to expand their tentacles over the American economy throughout ‘The Robber Baron’ period of the late 1800s.

Consolidation of American financial and industrial power and the suppression of public and labor power during this period was legendary. Sixty families that were what would become the American oligarchy began to centralize US assets from oil to coal to rail to steel under their financial and legal control, using their power to dominate the agendas of Presidents and political parties alike. One of the most powerful men from these families, which included such names as Rockefeller, Morgan, Carnegie and Roosevelt, was one William Huntington Russell, the founder of Skull and Bones and the first American ‘Opium Robber Baron’.

William Huntington Russell

William Huntington Russell

The Second Opium War

The Second Opium War

Russell primarily dealt with Opium sales out of Europe selling Turkish opium to Guangzhou, the East Indies and to the British for resale in other parts of Asia. Russell was able to dominate this market and the British Opium Wars with the Chinese would afford him a rare opportunity. The British after defeating and humiliating the Chinese Empire in the First Opium War, had made demands for even more egregious trade privileges and for full legalization of foreign opium sales within China. China under the Qing Empire flat out refused, resulting in military skirmishes between the Chinese and the colonial forces of the French and British with financial and arms support from the United States. The superior firepower allowed the Western invasion forces to decimate the less advanced Chinese and burn down Imperial palaces in Beijing. This resulted in the Convention of Peking which forced open China to more western trade, completely legalized opium, gave Hong Kong to Great Britain, and allowed British citizens to sell Chinese servants to American railroad companies by 1860.

Russell would be able to leverage the success of these trade wars to build an international opium empire from Europe to the Far East and California and maintained a control position within the international narcotics trade; this position allowed him to make his fortune during the American civil war by providing the opium needed to produce morphine to the North. Russell’s legacy and subsequent pharmaceutical consortium (the Opium Cartel of Merck, Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Bayer) would become even more powerful during the McKinley Administration when his influence propelled his dear relative and friend, Theodore Roosevelt, to become the Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1898.

The year Roosevelt achieved his position in the Naval Department at the White House, 1898, was a critical one. That same year, Bayer would synthesize heroin from morphine changing world history forever by introducing the most addictive compound in the human pharmacopeia since Morphine. Roosevelt had been responsible as Assistant Secretary of the Navy of managing colonial matters and overseas departments that managed regions where opium sales had taken place. Early on in the year Roosevelt with the political and financial support of the Opium Cartel, the Democrats and publisher robber barons William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer would start the Spanish-American War. The victorious result was a political boost for Roosevelt to align his presidential ambitions along with the annexation of several Spanish islands of which his associates could produce and sell opium to.

During 1898 another significant trend in the world of the Opium Trade came to bear as well, the domestic opposition to opium sales and the first indications of a politically powerful Temperance movement coming from American missionaries in both China and the US colonies. Protestant missionaries in China had been under assault as the Chinese had come to associate Christianity with the vicious opium addiction epidemic that had destroyed their country, primarily due to the fact that missionaries would often arrive on opium clippers (Lodwick). The missionaries formed Anti-Opium Leagues in opposition to the British Royal Opium Commission as well as US opium sales abroad and at home. Medical marihuana would also be used during this time as a medicine for weaning people off of severe morphine and heroin addictions.

Medical Cannabis Extract

Medical Cannabis Extract

The birth of eugenics in Great Britain and the spread of social darwinistic theories also became prominent during this period; leading to a revival of strict racial codes in the United States including the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1888. To gain support for the Chinese Exclusion Act, Republican politicians condemned opiate addictions and the general depravity of Gold Rush towns like San Francisco, banned public use of opium and attempted to control use of Chinese opium in California through a labeling law in 1891. Russell and the Opium Cartel, fearing that the tide of their fortunes were politically ebbing, turned to two entities for help in securing their future, the Temperance Movement themselves and the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. It should also be noted that during this time the prior McKinley presidency had continued the Republican post-war tradition started by Ulysses S Grant of making war on the farmers and poor by imposing the gold standard. Insidious tactics were used to kill off support for silver politically (see the History of the Wizard of Oz for this story) to serve the interest of industrialists and big finance. (Lundberg) Threats against McKinley’s life led to the creation of the National Bureau of Crime Identification, a predecessor to the FBI; following McKinley’s assassination in 1901, Roosevelt, formerly the Vice President by that year and now acting President, commissioned the new bureau to start identifying potential domestic ‘anarchists’ and centralized the powers of the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor personnel dossiers under this new agency to monitor dissident Americans.

Neither the Opium Cartel nor Roosevelt could have predicted the influence of the Anti-Opium League and the Protestant missionaries had in being able to disrupt their distribution of opium. Charles Henry Brent, an Episcopalian bishop went to the newly owned Philippines as a missionary only to find that, since 1898, the island community had been decimated by a large opium epidemic. The opium was sourced in colonial era farms that served the Chinese opium import market. The Brent Commission would later go on in 1903 to be the first group to recommend that a licensing system for opium addicts exist and that narcotics be subject to international control laws.

President Theodore Roosevelt

President Theodore Roosevelt

Roosevelt and the Opium Cartel were concerned about the league of ministers and their growing power, as the Temperance and Dry Movements had begun to rise in both popularity and power in the late 1880s. By the early 20th century along with eugenics, their movement’s power was just beginning to grow politically and would peak with the passage of alcohol prohibition in the Volstead Act and 18th amendment in 1919. Roosevelt and members of the pharmaceutical consortiums, seeking to control the narcotics markets while dodging restriction by the Temperance movement, worked together to pass the Pure, Food and Drug Act in 1906. Roosevelt drove the political attention of the public toward the food inspection provisions built within the act and away from rules regarding regulations of available medicines. The act imposed strict regimens for labeling and packaging of pharmaceuticals which in the early 1900’s made small and medium sized apothecaries weak in competing with larger pharmaceutical corporations like Beyer and Merck. For the first time a list of ‘Dangerous Drugs’ were created that included Alcohol, Cannabis, Morphine and Opium (but not heroin).

Drug Inspectors were used more like thugs in tearing down small and medium sized businesses as “goods found in violation are subject to seizure and destruction”, reducing the number of apothecaries and pharmacies that supplied medical marihuana as weaning agents for the opiate narcotics and allowing the pharmaceutical companies to envelop full monopoly over the production of opium and opioids for medical purposes. Coca-Cola was also forced to abandon the use of cocaine in their soft drink at this time.  Medical cannabis could still be prescribed by a doctor but the requirement of delivery reduced supplies of opium and medical cannabis by 1/3 within a year of the bill’s passage due to government intimidation. The effects of the Pure Food and Drug Act were truly felt when the pharmaceuticals supported by the Republican Party at the time began a state by state crusade to heavily regulate medical cannabis starting with Washington DC in 1906, Massachusetts in 1911, and a cascade of other states would soon follow after the Harrison Tax Act of 1914 would be passed.

Medical Cannabis Extract

Medical Cannabis Extract

Let it also be noted that the religious Temperance Movement by the time of the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt had evolved from a drug and alcohol abstaining religious movement into a darwinistic racial-religious body that sought to not only purify the white race through the sterilization of the poor and ethnic women, but also by convincing the ‘racially pure’ to abstain from vices that were viewed of as both lower class and ethnic. This feature was passed on from aspects of British Social Darwinism which had taken popularity in high American culture along with Egyptian Revival Architecture. The American oligarchy saw drug control and the temperance movement not just as a means of ‘cleaning up’ American culture or as a way of socially perfecting it; the oligarchy came to view drug control as a means to an end to achieve the racial perfection that they had dreamed of, through their belief in eugenics and racial hygiene.

Roosevelt empowered the Brent Commission in 1906 and they convened the First International Opium Commission in 1909 in Shanghai. This commission was the first international body on international drug prohibition. This meeting led to the International Opium Convention at the Hague in 1912 and the world’s first drug control treaty under the League of Nations. At this convention medical marihuana was further regulated and restricted under the term ‘Indian Hemp’, all cannabis byproducts, extracts and concentrations like hashish were deemed to not have medical use and were subsequently banned, cocaine and opium were also banned and morphine was severely restricted. The term ‘Indian Hemp’ was deemed to be any hemp or cannabis byproduct grown in an uncontrolled state outside of the domestic US.

Eugenics

Eugenics

The final decision to ban medical marihuana was not made in legislative hall of elected representatives nor in a town hall meeting or at a medical convention of authority. The final decision was made at a convention hosted by Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin’s son Maj. Leonard Darwin, and Lord Balfour and included illustrious guests including statesmen, industrialists and royalty from throughout Northern Europe, Great Britain and the United States. This convention was called the First International Eugenics Congress, where the elite of the world discussed policies on how to effectively curtail the population of the world, increase the ‘purity’ of class ‘breeds’ and decrease the population of the poor white race to purify themselves not only in race but in class as well. At this convention it was suggested for the first time that known drugs of great medical benefit should be restricted under the guise of ‘drug and narcotics control’ so that lower classes and groups would not have access to widely available natural medicine like medical marihuana legally. The hope was that such control laws would increase the mortality rate of the lower classes and allow for more effective Malthusian tactics.

Photo Poster promoting 'Racial Hygiene'

Photo Poster promoting ‘Racial Hygiene’

Banned Narcotics

Banned Narcotics

The Convention was wholeheartedly supported by the Progressive Movement at the time, both Republicans and Democrats alike.  “Progressives” today would find it hard to swallow that their heroes of yesteryear were eugenicists and possibly some of the worst race mongers in known history. Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler credited much of his racial theories to American progressive eugenics literature written in the 1910’s and 20’s. Sterilization laws were widely implemented throughout the United States, primarily from 1905 to 1954 with some being still on the books in even liberal states like California. It should also be noted that in during the 1910’s, Woodrow Wilson, a self-identified Klansman was President of the United States. By 1914 twenty nice states had regulated opium, morphine and heroin out of existence as available pharmaceutical drugs; the Brent Committee successfully passed the Harrison Tax Act which was designed to regulate many competing pharmaceuticals out of existence by expanding the definition of a narcotic drug, which would now include all forms of medical marihuana.

Eugenics Sterilization Law Propaganda Poster

Eugenics Sterilization Law Propaganda Poster

The Second International Eugenics Congress of 1921, this time hosted in New York by the State Department and Alexander Graham Bell with the British Royal Family as honored speakers and guests, celebrated the victories that had been achieved through the control of much needed narcotic drugs. With the banning of effective natural drug derivatives and the substitution of weaker tempered pharmaceuticals designed for profit, an astonishing level of death and destruction in the trenches of World War I and the ravages of the Spanish Flu pandemic that followed the war led to what was viewed as a true purging of the Earth’s population. Medical Marihuana would soon officially join Alcohol Prohibition at the International Opium Convention of 1925 under the pseudonym ‘Hashish’ and that only ‘European Hemp’ would be allowed for industrial use.

The 1920s will be discussed in the continuation of this series The Secret History of the War on Drugs with the rise of the Mafia in reaction to drug and alcohol prohibition, the evolution of the FBI, the heavy handed corruption of the Roaring 20s, how drug/alcohol prohibition and mafia wars contributed to the Great Depression and on the origins of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics

TheGreenChazzan

 

Lodwick, Kathleen L. (1996). Crusaders Against Opium: Protestant Missionaries in China 1874–1917. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-1924-3l

Deitch, Robert (2003). Hemp – American History Revisited. New York City: Algora Publishing. p. 16. ISBN 0-87586-206-3.

Ledain: History of Opium Use (http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/studies/ledain/nonmed4.htm)

Food and Drug Act of 1906: http://library.clerk.house.gov/reference-files/PPL_059_384_FoodDrugCosmeticAct.pdf

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Eugenics_Conference

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Narcotics_Tax_Act

http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/history/e1910/harrisonact.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Huntington_Russell

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_control

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Sanger

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_Parenthood_Federation_of_America

 

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