Narcs are sexual demons

The arbitrariness of the drug war

Which drugs are legal and which are forbidden has changed again and again over time: depending on the cultural context, moral ideas and financial and power-political interests of the rulers.

Drug policy was - and is - always an instrument of social control and exclusion: Bans were often explicitly directed against socially weaker groups of the population, while well-off groups were not prosecuted. Health considerations played a subordinate role in the formulation of drug policy or were often just a pretext for a policy aimed at discrimination.

How the drug ban came about

The international drug control regime as we know it today began in the mid-19th century, when the "opium question" developed in the West against the backdrop of colonialism and led to an anti-opium movement. In the 20th century, more and more psychoactive substances were targeted and their production, sale and consumption were cracked down on by a chain of international treaties. The “war on drugs”, as it was finally proclaimed in 1971 by US President Richard Nixon, is the longest war the international community has ever waged.

Prelude to global drug prohibition

The first opium conference in 1912 marked the start of global drug prohibition. The starting point for this development were, on the one hand, the two opium wars during the 1840s and 1850s: Great Britain uses armed force to force the legalization of opium in China and thus continues to secure a lucrative sales market for itself his opium grown in India. The outrage over this imperialist policy, with which Great Britain derives profit from “narcotics”, is leading to an anti-opium movement in Europe and the USA. Politically powerful groups are formed that not only denounce British colonial policy, but also want to prevent opium consumption in Great Britain itself. They are supported in their efforts by the American government, which sees itself morally right in its fight against the dirty power politics of the old, corrupt colonial powers.

USA: Lack of regulation and intensive marketing
At the same time, the use of opioids in the USA spread rapidly with the advent of organic chemistry in the 19th century: While opium in its natural form had already become popular after the end of the American Civil War, cocaine was now found, among other things, as a beverage additive in cocaine. Cola use, heroin for the treatment of respiratory diseases and morphine as an all-purpose pain reliever. In contrast to European countries such as Great Britain and Prussia, where pharmacy law regulated the availability of the substances, there were no controls whatsoever in many US states; new products were developed and heavily promoted for the mass market.

It was only around the turn of the century that the dangers of dependency were fully recognized; Newly developed, non-opioid pain relievers such as aspirin, which Bayer introduced in 1899, are also only gradually becoming available. But many are already dependent on opium. To treat and stabilize their condition, some patients continue to receive their daily dose from doctors and in addiction clinics as part of the opioid agonist therapy recognized in the USA at the time, so as not to develop any withdrawal symptoms. However, doctors are now seen as contributing to opioid addiction and are increasingly being targeted by proponents of prohibition.

Temperance Movement: With morals against vice

The zeitgeist of that time was strongly influenced by the so-called "Temperance Movement" (moderation or abstinence movement), which was one of the most influential reform movements in the 19th century. Initially spread mainly in the brandy-consuming Protestant countries in North America and Europe, the movement expanded internationally into a larger "anti-vice movement". This moral movement is committed to the abolition of prostitution, the fight against sexually transmitted diseases, the suppression of indecency - and the prohibition of the non-medical use of alcohol and other drugs. In the United States, the Anti Saloon League, founded in 1893, finally obtained an alcohol prohibition that lasted from 1920 to 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt lifted it after he took office.

From the “opium question” to the first international drug prohibition agreement

From the perspective of the West, China and the entire Far East are considered drug problem areas. The first commission to deal with the "opium question" in 1909 took place in Shanghai. But even then it was the USA who pulled the strings in the background and which shortly afterwards prepared another conference in The Hague: The First International Opium Convention of 1912 laid the basis for our current drug ban policy. Even if it only contains recommendations and no legally binding rules, the agreement is being approved by more and more states and is thus having a great impact. The conference falls at a time of increasing transnational cooperation - also on "non-political" issues. The protection of the population against a feared moral decline is increasingly in focus and thus provides an essential basis for the many drug policy conferences that will follow.

Stigmatization of an ethnic minority

Meanwhile, in the USA, anti-Chinese immigration is being raised. The Chinese workers, who are considered capable, immigrated in large numbers after 1850. After the completion of the railway network, however, they are increasingly seen as unwelcome competition on the labor market - also by conservative unions, which have committed themselves to protecting the expensive white workers from the cheap colored workers. In an “anti-oriental” campaign, the Chinese minority is now systematically stigmatized and discriminated against through their traditional smoky opium consumption. In San Francisco in 1875, for example, the smoking of opium, a consumption practiced among Chinese immigrants, is banned - while other forms of consumption of opioids remain permitted for the time being. In 1887, Congress explicitly forbade the Chinese - but not the Americans - from importing opium. And in 1890 a law was passed that reserved the production of smoked opium exclusively for the Americans. In 1909 the import of smoked opium is finally banned completely in the USA.

Parallel to these legal developments, a “yellow danger” is evoked, which blames the Chinese for the moral decline: in the wildest decorations, a picture of vicious “opium dens” is drawn. Soon the Chinese were perceived by the public to be just as dangerous as the opium they smoke and the “caves” in which they smoke

Image change of the former drug of the upper class

At the beginning of the 20th century, the population groups who use opioids are changing. Until then, opioids had mainly been injected into the middle and upper classes. Since the consumption here takes place discreetly and in medicalized form and the consumers are well-to-do, the state saw no reason to take legislative action against it (in stark contrast to the agitation against opium-smoking Chinese). But now it is more and more young people from subcultures who consume morphine in large American cities. This leads to a radical change in the drug's image: Morphine suddenly stands for failed, problematic existences on the fringes of society. Drug users are now seen as "insane" and potentially dangerous - even by the majority of medical professionals. However, those doctors who continue to prescribe opiates for their patients as part of opioid agonist therapy will now be severely punished. From now on, a repressive and discriminatory approach will be pursued, in which consumers are marginalized and persecuted and fall within the remit of the police and the judiciary.

Courtwright, David T. (2012): A Short History of Drug Policy or Why We Make War on Some Drugs but not on Others
Musto, David F. (1991): Opium, Cocaine and Marijuana in American History
Tanner, Jakob (1992): Data on the history of narcotics legislation
Tanner, Jakob (2009): Brief history and criticism of drug prohibition in the 20th century

Racism as a driver for the drug ban policy

During the First World War, the demand for alkaloids - morphine, heroin and cocaine - increased massively and led to a boom in the chemical industry. After the end of the war, the pharmaceutical companies looked for new sales markets, including in colonies such as China and North Africa. The newly founded League of Nations (forerunner of the UN) is now responsible for the “drug problem” and convenes two further international opium conferences in Geneva in 1924/25. Great Britain, which is anxious to divert attention from its colonial opium problems in China, is now mobilizing against the Central European pharmaceutical nations - especially against Germany and Switzerland - and accusing them of having caused a new drug problem with the massive production of alkaloids. The US is proposing a total ban on the production and medical use of heroin, but the French and English doctors oppose this. In the Geneva Agreement, which is finally passed, the production and export of heroin are subject to strict controls - but the agreement offers numerous circumvention options and thus enables the production of morphine, heroin and cocaine to continue. At the same time, however, more and more countries are following the example of the USA, where the free sale of opiates and cocaine was banned as early as 1914 by the Harrison Narcotic Act.

Racist Media Campaigns: Linking Cocaine Use to Crime
In the United States at the time, cocaine use was primarily associated with African American men. After slavery was abolished, the southern states in particular are still strongly racist. There the media paints the image of the black man who becomes violent and abusive under the influence of drugs - and who is directed against the white population. In congressional hearings, "experts" say that "most of the attacks upon white women of the South are the direct result of a cocaine-crazed Negro brain" Cocaine contaminated negro brains »). In addition, black men would become virtually invulnerable because of their cocaine use. This hair-raising myth, however, serves as a reason to equip the police in the southern states with bigger weapons. The New York Times did not shy away from racism either when it headlined in 1914: "Negro Cocaine 'Fiends' Are a New Southern Menace". With such racist propaganda, which has been widely circulated, which links heinous crimes with black cocaine use, the media helped pass the Harrison Narcotic Act in 1914 and thus decisively shaped American drug policy.

Discrimination between the use of crack and powder cocaine
The racist approach continued decades later when, in 1986, a legal distinction was made between the use of crack and powder cocaine in the USA: the penalties for the former are 100 times higher than for the latter. While the powder is particularly widespread among whites, crack is mainly consumed by the black population. This blatant inequality of treatment will only be partially revised in 2010, when President Obama passed a law that reduced the punishment discrepancy from 100: 1 to 18: 1.

Hart, Carl L. (2014): How the Myth of the “Negro Cocaine Fiend” Helped Shape American Drug Policy
Musto, David F. (1991): Opium, Cocaine and Marijuana in American History
Ryser, Daniel; Würgler, Olivier (2018): 1.7 kilos per day - the Zurich Cocaine Report (WOZ supplement)
Tanner, Jakob (2009): Brief history and criticism of drug prohibition in the 20th century

Demonized as a "killer drug"

With the Geneva Convention of 1925, cannabis is also on the list of prohibited substances. Again, the US is the driving force. In the 1920s, the practice of smoking cannabis was brought to the United States by Mexican immigrants and was soon adopted by white and black jazz musicians. Now inflammatory propaganda is being used against the Mexican immigrants. In the course of the Great Depression during the 1930s, the tone intensified: The media reported a new, insidious threat of gigantic proportions. Marijuana is demonized as a "killer drug" and the Mexican consumers are demonized as cold-blooded, murderous monsters.

The head of the Bureau of Narcotics, Harry J. Anslinger, feeds the media with the wildest and often fictitious horror stories. Excerpt from a report going back to him entitled “Murder Drugs Flooding the United States” and which has been reprinted in 56 newspapers: “Shocking violent crimes are on the rise. Butcheries, cruel mutilations, disfigurements, carried out in cold blood, as if some ugly monster were going around our country. (...) Those who are addicted to marijuana soon lose all inhibitions after an initial feeling of listlessness. They become bestial demons, full of mad lust to kill. " The so-called “entry-level drug theory” also goes back to Anslinger, according to which cannabis users will sooner or later inevitably switch to harder drugs, especially heroin - a thesis that has no empirical basis.

The campaign against cannabis was intensified with the end of alcohol prohibition in 1933: In order to ensure the continued existence of the authority he founded three years earlier to monitor the alcohol ban, Anslinger, head of the Bureau of Narcotics, is now targeting and prosecuting a number of the alcohol investigators his own interests with the anti-cannabis campaign he led. In 1937 Anslinger achieved his goal: the Marihuana Tax Act was passed. This gives the government control over sales and generates tax revenue. The so-called “tax stamp”, which serves as a license, is never made available to private citizens.

Europe also joins the demonization of cannabis - although the drug is still hardly widespread. In 1951, for example, in Switzerland as part of a revision of the Narcotics Act, the provisions were also extended to include cannabis. In both the USA and Europe, however, cannabis use did not increase until the 1960s as a result of youth movements.

In 1961, with the uniform agreement on narcotics, the still authoritative and most important treaty in international drug policy was concluded, which replaced all existing agreements. The signatory states undertake to rigorously control the extraction, production, import and export as well as the distribution, use and possession of narcotic drugs and to take action against violations.

Musto, David F. (1991): Opium, Cocaine and Marijuana in American History
Staples, Brent (2014): The Federal Marijuana Ban Is Rooted in Myth and Xenophobia
Tanner, Jakob (1992): Data on the history of narcotics legislation
Tanner, Jakob (2009): Brief history and criticism of drug prohibition in the 20th century

Rebellion against the establishment

Hallucinogenic, mind-expanding drugs are the companions in the culture war and rebellion against the establishment and play an important role in the feeling of belonging in the subcultural underground. The drugs thus become a symbol for the socially critical 1968 movement - and the enemy of conservative circles. In 1971, US President Richard Nixon declared drugs to be “public enemy No. 1” and proclaimed “war on drugs”. The states react with repressive severity to the drug scenes that have formed since the 1970s, thus promoting impoverishment. The young people who populate them serve as frightening negative icons in the media who have deviated "from the path of virtue".

The unity agreement of 1961 is already out of date due to these social developments. In 1971, a further convention also banned psychotropic substances such as LSD and ecstasy. In 1972 a further tightening of the law was made in order to put a stop to the perceived "wave of drugs" and new designer drugs.

Tanner, Jakob (1992): Data on the history of narcotics legislation
Tanner, Jakob (2009): Brief history and criticism of drug prohibition in the 20th century

The drug crisis of the 16th and 17th centuries

Substances that we now consume as a matter of course have also been subject to fierce controversy over the course of time. One of the most restless periods was the 16th and 17thCentury when new substances came to Europe with tobacco and coffee, after beer and wine had been the only luxury and intoxicants for centuries. The distillation also made high-percentage alcohol cheaply available. These developments marked a turning point in Western drug history. The rejection of the new luxury foods at that time was politically as well as economically justified.

The century of drinking and gluttony

In the Germanic countries the 16th century is considered to be the epoch of drinking and gluttony. One reason for the changed drinking behavior is that distillation is establishing itself as a commercial industry in Europe: This means that the alcohol content can be increased from 14% to 50%. The resulting brandy is easily and cheaply available - and with it the intoxication. A wide variety of measures are used to try to get over the pervasive "drunkenness": For example, in 1546, in Calvinist Geneva, severe penalties were imposed and, instead of pubs, hostels were opened where only those who were able to say grace after drinking were catered for. In England, drunkenness was declared a crime in 1606.

Austin, Gregory (1982): The European Drug Crisis of the 16th and 17th Centuries

From luxury goods to the largest drug epidemic

Imported from America by seafarers, tobacco was initially considered a panacea. At first it was still a highly exclusive luxury good, but its consumption spreads rapidly to all walks of life when it became available more cheaply - and in the 17th century led to the largest drug epidemic in history to date. Resistance to the new luxury food is particularly fierce in England. King James I condemns tobacco consumption as a sin and accuses smokers of jeopardizing national prosperity: England's trade balance is thrown off balance because Spain's main enemy holds the monopoly on tobacco imports.

Austin, Gregory (1982): The European Drug Crisis of the 16th and 17th Centuries

The “drink of democracy” as the most radical drink