Sign the Resolution for a Federal Commission on Drug Policy
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BY ELLEN N. LA MOTTE
THERE are many people who advocate the use of opium, and who defend the policy of the Opium Monopoly. They argue that it is not harmful-if taken in moderation. They even assert that it is no more objectionable than alcohol or tobacco. Leaving out of account, therefore, the consensus of opinion of the medical profession as to the evils of habit-forming drugs, and accepting the theory that opium is harmless, we should then like to ask why the use of opium is so carefully restricted to the peoples of subject states, who have no voice in their own affairs? Why should the benefits of opium be confined to Oriental races, and why should not the white race be given the same opportunities for indulgence? Is there any reason for this discrimination? As a source of revenue, it certainly has advantages. Yet curiously enough, those European countries which derive much profit through the sale of opium to their subject races, seem to have an aversion to introducing it to their people at home. And there is a further coincidence in the fact that none of the self-governing colonies of European countries-Australia, New Zealand and Canada-permit this traffic. It appears to be only the subject peoples, whose well-being has become the White Man's Burden, who receive the blessings of this peculiar form of altruism. Is it because the white race is worth preserving, worth protecting, and because subject nations are fair game for exploitation of any kind?
Another argument advanced by advocates of Government opium is that the Oriental peoples are "different"-that opium does them no harm. Every writer on the subject of opium in China, produces evidence to show the shocking results upon that country, during the hey-dey of the deluge. The complete moral degradation, and economic ruin of thousands of helpless individuals. Nor do we think the medical profession would agree with this assumption that opium is harmless to Orientals, because they are "different." Their only real difference lies in their helplessness to protect themselves from foreign aggression.
Another argument advanced by the upholders of the Monopoly is that the Orientals have always been users of opium, that they like it, it suits them, it would be unfair to deprive them of it. We have seen to what extent the Chinese liked it, and how it was forced upon them by two wars. Not until they were completely crushed, and had to accept the terms of the conquerer, did they submit. It can hardly, therefore, be called a vice indigenous to the Chinese. Japan is another Oriental nation that disproves this argument. As we have said before, there are no opium shops in Japan, and the sale of opium is not conducted by the Japanese Government. On the contrary, the Japanese have the same fear of this drug that a European nation has, and exercises the same precautions to protect its people. But, as we have said before, Japan is the only Oriental nation that has not been subjugated by a European nation, and therefore has never had opium thrust upon her. She is the only country in the Far East that has managed to preserve her sovereignty, and has never been subject to certain blighting influences of European culture.
Another exception to this assumption that the Orientals cannot do without opium lies in the Philippines. When America acquired those islands some twenty years ago, our first act was to eliminate the opium traffic, which had been established there by our predecessors. It had been in existence for decades, but we immediately set about to abolish it. Root and branch we did away with it, and shed no crocodile tears as to the " hardship " this would be to the people who had come under our protection. We wished no revenue coming from such a source as this. Yet we might have cut in half the cost of our Philippine budget had we followed the example set by other nations. We have seen that certain British colonies, Hongkong and the Straits Settlements, for example, derive from one-third to one-half of their upkeep expenses from this traffic. But we refrained from treating our Filipinos in this manner. We are called sentimentalists out in the East-at such times as we are not called money-getters. To-day, the Philippines are very nearly ready for self government. Would they have been so nearly ready had we continued to drug them as they had been drugged before we took possession? Drugged peoples are usually docile and submissive-perhaps that is the secret of much of the successful colonizing, about which we hear so much.
But let us leave aside the question of the Orientals, and whether or no opium is good for them. We recognize quite clearly that it is not good for ourselves, for Americans. We recognize that fact quite as clearly as England realizes that it is not good for the inhabitants of the British Isles. Quite as clearly as France, while setting up opium shops in her colony of Indo-China, refuses to establish them in Paris or Marseilles. America is unique in the fact that although we have colonial possessions, we do not have a double standard of morality. We attempt to throw around our colonies the same safeguards that we throw around ourselves at home. But the question arises, how successful are we in protecting ourselves at home? Not particularly so, according to the daily press.
How great the danger to ourselves was recognized some thirty-seven years ago by an Episcopal missionary to China, the Rev. John Liggins. In 1882 he published a small book, already referred to, entitled: "England's Coercive Opium Policy and Its Disastrous Results in China and India." The preface to this unheeded warning runs thus. "Our aim in this sketch is to present, as briefly as possible, the most important facts and testimonies concerning a traffic which is as disgraceful to England as it is ruinous to China and hurtful to India. . . . It is also of the highest importance that the people throughout our wide domain should be aroused concerning the new, fascinating and deadly foe which has entered our country through the Golden Gate, and which already numbers its victims by the thousands, and will soon do so by the tens of thousands."
The Rev. Mr. Liggins saw it coming-that danger which is almost ready to overwhelm us to-day. He recognized clearly that the Opium Monopoly of that great nation which rules nearly one-third of the world-the British Empire would in time reach further and further afield for new victims. It is too lucrative a trade to be confined to only a few countries. Markets must not only be created and legalized in subject states, but new ones added in outside countries, through smuggling. All too fatally easy of accomplishment, and so profitable, financially, as to be worth any risk and effort. The prediction as to our own danger, made in i882, seems to be abundantly realized.
The number of drug addicts in America to-day are fairly startling. The number is variously estimated in New York City alone as from ten thousand to one hundred thousand. It is said that there may be a million in the country. Yet these figures are the merest guesswork, by no means substantiated. Certain it is that the campaign of the New York Health Department has uncovered thousands of them, and any other city that chose to do so, could produce facts equally startling.
The laws on our statute books concerning the prescription of narcotic drugs are powerless to deal with the situation. It is shooting into the air to try to "regulate" this condition. It is as thoroughly well "regulated" as it can ever be by the Harrison Anti-Narcotic Act, a Federal Law whose enforcement is in the hands of the Internal Revenue Department. By the provisions of this Act, every pound of opium or its derivatives that comes into this country, legitimately, is accounted for, and its distribution, both wholesale and retail, made a matter of record. Thus, the Board of Trade returns show the amount imported by the big wholesale drug houses. These must account for their sales to the retail drug stores, and the amounts must tally. The drug stores can only sell narcotic drugs on a physician's prescription, and the prescriptions are kept on file, and the quantity sold must correspond to the quantity called for by these prescriptions, as well as to the amount obtained from the wholesale drug house. In prescribing narcotics, the physician is obliged to write his prescription in triplicate--one copy for his own protection, one copy for the local druggist, and one copy to be filed with the health department. Nor is he allowed to prescribe narcotics for an addict without decreasing the dosage. His prescription cannot call for thirty grains of morphia day after day, it must show, in a chronic case of this kind, a daily diminution of the amount prescribed, thus indicating a desire to get the patient off the drug, eventually. All these records are kept on file, open to inspection whenever an accounting is demanded, consequently any leak can be instantly accounted for. This Harrison Act is as comprehensive and as nearly perfect as possible, yet it does not cover the situation. By this means, violations can be detected, whether on the part of an unscrupulous physician or druggist, or even the wholesale house, but these violations are only occasional. The root of the evil remains untouched.
At one time, it was believed that carelessness on the part of the physician was chiefly responsible for creating drug addicts, but the recent campaign against violators of the Harrison Act seems to have completely exonerated him of this charge. For one patient who becomes a drug addict while under a doctor's care, through the accidental misuse of morphia, there are a hundred who form the habit through other ways. It is not the occasional, accidental victim, given morphia for the relief of pain, which is creating our thousands of drug users. It is not the occasional unscrupulous physician who is responsible. If this was all, we could easily cope with these unwitting abuses, or even deliberate instances of misuse. But the question goes deeper than this.
The Opium Monopoly was not established for any humane or altruistic purpose. It was not established to provide the medical profession with a drug for the relief of pain, to ease the agony of the injured and wounded, or to calm the last days of those dying with an incurable disease. This, which may be called the legitimate use of opium, is not the object of the Opium Monopoly. Used only in this manner, there would be no money in it. It is only when opium is produced in quantities far in excess of the legitimate needs of the world that it becomes worth while-to the Opium Monopoly. That Monopoly was established not to relieve pain and suffering, but with the deliberate intention of creating pain and suffering, by creating drug victims by the thousand. It is these hundreds of thousands of customers that are profitable. The menace to America lies in the large amounts of opium which are smuggled into the country for this purpose. Boys and girls o sixteen and seventeen first acquire this habit through curiosity, through association with what they call "bad company," peddlers who first offer it free, as a gift, well knowing that after a few doses the fatal habit will be formed. Where do these vendors obtain their supplies?
The daily papers often contain suggestive paragraphs. Thus the " New York Times," under date of February 28, 1919: " Seize Opium in Schenectady. Opium, valued by Federal officials at $10,000 was seized in Schenectady, and four Chinamen were arrested in a raid on Chinese places of business on Centre street today. The Federal officials expressed the belief that opium had been smuggled, and that Schenectady is the distributing point for this part of the State."
An item in the "Seattle Union Record," of June 24, 1919, gives us cause for further consideration.
BRITISH DRUG SHIP HELD BY UNITED STATES
FINE OF $49,265 ASSESSED FOR BRINGING "DOPE" TO AMERICA
LINER ALLOWED TO MOVE UNDER BOND
NO ARRESTS MADE, THOUGH BOOZE IS FOUND ABOARD
No arrests were made up to Tuesday noon in connection with the enormous seizure of opium, cocaine and liquor on the Blue Funnel liner Cyclops, although the investigation is being continued by federal officials.
The ship has been seized and a fine of $49,265 has been assessed against her for having drugs not listed in the ship's manifest.
United States District Attorney Robert C. Saunders filed a libel Monday night against the Cyclops, the boat being seized later by the customs service. Bond was fixed at $100,00, or twice the fine. The Fidelity Surety Company filed the bond Monday. The ship was released Tuesday morning.
A civil libel suit may be filed against Capt. W. Duncan, holding him responsible for the liquor found on the ship. Captain Duncan, questioned Monday by customs officials, claimed to know nothing about the contraband.
The result of Monday's checking of the opium and cocaine showed that the seizure amounted to 778 tins of opium, 670 ounces of cocaine and 16 ounces of morphine.
A small paragraph in a New York paper, dated June 12, 1919, reads thus: "Two New Yorkers jailed for smuggling opium. Pleas of guilty to charges of opium smuggling were entered in the Federal Court today by Albertus Schneitzer and Maxwell Auerbach, of New York. They were fined $500 each, and sent to Atlanta penitentiary, the former for two years, and the latter for one year. The men were arrested in connection with the seizure of opium on the Canadian border."
We cannot grapple with our problem unless we face the facts; if we ignore the source of supply and distribution, and the reasons for this immense overproduction of opium on the part of the British Opium Monopoly. The anti-narcotic laws on our statute books are powerless to protect us. With Canada, a British province, to the north, and all Mexico on the south, what chance have we against such exposure? Of what use to send two smugglers to the penitentiary, when at the Calcutta opium sales, once a month opium is auctioned off under the auspices of the British Government, to be disposed of as the buyers may see fit? Much of it, as we have seen, goes to those helpless states and colonies which have no control over their own affairs, where the opium traffic is conducted under the administration of the alien government. Much of the rest of it goes out for smuggling purposes, to be distributed in devious, roundabout, underhand channels throughout the world. We are coming in for our share in this distribution.
We feel that our country is in grave peril. Our politicians and our diplomats have been too careful all these years, to speak of this business, through fear of offending a powerful nation. But we feel that the time has now come to speak. England has been relying upon our silence to "get away with it." Upon our ignorance, and upon that silence which gives consent. But in this new, changed world, reborn out of the blood and agony of the great war, is it not time to practice some of the decencies which we have proclaimed so loudly?
As we have said before, no stronger opponents of this policy are to be found than among a section of the people of England itself. We look to them to join us, in this great issue, and we feel that we shall not look in vain.
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