February 10, 1909 began like most days across the 46 states of the USA. However, in one way that day a century ago would have terrible consequences in future decades. The day before Congress had voted its first drug law, and with it, the roots of the counterproductive, destructive and continuing Hundreds Years’ War on Drugs.
In our current age, when drug prohibition, enforcement and related imprisonment are among the main functions of the federal government, it is sobering to remember that up until 100 years ago there were no federal drug laws. No drugs were illegal, except in some anti-Chinese city laws. Most drugs were freely available to all 76 million Americans as medical tinctures, including opium, coca and cannabis. Along with no drug laws, there was no drug problem. Now, after a long century of ever-tightening laws and prohibitions serving an ever-growing drug war bureaucracy, we have a monstrous drug war problem and a failed attempt to solve a non-problem.
The sad ebbing of American freedom and triumph of bureaucratic authoritarians since that first drug law passed is skillfully documented by author and California NORML Director Dale Gieringer writing in COUNTERPUNCH. Gieringer notes the insidious worldwide drug war control of indigenous plants such as cannabis in UN Treaties, while entirely ignoring nicotine cigarettes and alcohol as drugs. See Marking 100 Years of Failed Drug Prohibition: The Opium Exclusion Act of 1909.