“The Narcotic Problem”

Jon Carroll’s column in today’s Chronicle is (yet again) about the insanity of our drug laws.

The current state of affairs is something of a mess, although commerce is winning out in many areas. There’s gold in them thar buds, friends, and lots of people are aware of that and jumping on the bandwagon. If the Justice Department were to back off, we’d see a vigorous free market at work…. According to the folks at Harborside, Oakland’s upscale, perky-people, “have a nice day,” one-stop-shopping marijuana purveyors, the feds are now pressuring armored-car companies not to do business with the pot clubs, threatening possible prosecution for criminal conspiracy…. The Justice Department could decide unilaterally to just back the heck off. The pot clubs would be permitted to act like the shadowy companies they are, still technically illegal under federal law but otherwise OK. Tens of thousands of customers would be able to buy what they want to buy, and things would be messed up but a little less messed up than they are now….

I posted this column to Facebook and, prompted by the discussion that ensued there, I went and found my copy of “THE NARCOTIC PROBLEM,” a book “prepared by BUREAU OF NARCOTIC ENFORCEMENT” and distributed by the San Mateo Union High School District, where I was a student from 1966 to 1968 (Burlingame High School).

"The Narcotic Problem"

Here’s what the book had to say about “Marihuana”:


Marihuana (Cannabis sativa), a drug which contributes heavily to today’s narcotic problem, is a product of the hemp plant. This drug, most commonly known 1n the Western hemisphere as Cannabis Americana and Marihuana.. is generally known throughout the world as hemp and in the Asiatic countries as “Hashish, II “Hasheesh,” “Chara,” “Bhang,” “Ganjah” or “Gunjah.”

Cannabis sativa, or Indian Hemp, is a tall annual reaching to height of from four to twenty feet when mature. The leaves are alternate opposite with each leaf being made up of an odd number of coarse serrated blades with as many as eleven blades to the mature leaf. The hemp plant seems to have originated in Asia Minor, but is now cultivated in many parts of the temperate zone. This plant has considerable commercial value. The stalks and stems are used in the manufacture of rope and hemp cloth, similar to burlap. The fruit of this plant, which is often incorrectly called the seed, after sterilization, has been used extensively as a domestic bird food. The fruit also is valuable in industry as it is a source of a quick drying oil used in paint. It is believed that the hemp plant had its origin in the Central Asian area north of the Himalayas, but it is adaptable to a great variety of climates and is cultivated and grown wild in Asia, Europe, North America and Australia.

The cannabis habit has claimed its victims throughout the oriental countries for over a thousand years. In the last twenty to twenty-five years it has become a problem of great importance in the United States. In this country most individuals habituated to the use of this drug ingest it by smoking. Throughout the Orient the drug is most generally eaten. The leaves and flowering tops of the cannabis plant are covered with a gum or resin. This gum contains the active constituent cannabin, which is a glucoside of the drug. As morphine is to opium and cocaine is to the coca plant, so is cannabin to marihuana.

In the United States when the female plant is mature the leaves and flowering tops are dried in indirect heat, such as under the roof of a barn. The seeds are shaken from the flowering pod. All stalks and stems are removed and the leaves and flowers are crushed or “manicured” by rubbing between the palms of the hands. The resultant substance may be packed in a variety of ways. The most common of these ways are — compressed into bricks, each brick weighing approximately one kilogram (2.2 pounds), packed in an ordinary tobacco can, or loosely stuffed in a paper bag. To use the drug, it is rolled into cigarettes~-usually brown, or wheat straw, paper is used–the cigarettes are rolled in double papers, each paper being carefully pasted on the overlapping edge, and the ends tucked tightly in to avoid spillage. The double paper is to protect the cigarette against the possibility of breaking up as they are at times handled by many persons before they reach the consumer. Also, the double paper is necessary to hold the marihuana flakes which are harsh, dry, and sharp, having a tendency to puncture the paper when handled. The average marihuana cigarette, holding not more than four grains of the drug, may sell at prices ranging up to $1.25 each. In the Near East and in the oriental countries where marihuana is usually eaten, the leaves and flowering tops are gathered, the fruit stalks and stems removed, and the leaves placed on a long napped rug. This rug is rolled back and forth for hours. The gum from the leaves will adhere to the nap of the rug. After the rolling has been completed, the leaves and flowers are thrown away and the gums scraped up from the nap. This gelatinous mass is made into a type of candy and is eaten and chewed by the natives habituated to the use of the drug.

Marihuana releases the inhibitions of the users, as does cocaine. It ordinarily produces a state of intoxication and a feeling of exaltation, stimulation and release. The user may begin giggling or laughing uproariously. His perception of time, space, and distance is distorted so that objects begin to appear larger or smaller than the actual size, seconds seem like hours. He may be driving 80 miles per hour and believe that he is only doing 20. Marihuana may produce greatly varying effects upon different individuals, ranging from mere excessive affability to maniacal frenzy, and on different occasions it may bring about greatly varying stages of intoxication from the same person. There is no physical dependence created by using marihuana but it does produce both tolerance and habituation. It is an addicting drug only in the sense that existing psychological factors in the individual may lead him to depend upon its use. Its greatest dangers are that the intoxication and hallucinations produced may lead to violent conduct, such as attacking a friend thinking that it is necessary for self-defense, and that it may lead to the use of other more addictive drugs.

Marihuana is used to a great extent in combination with alcohol, which produces an uncontrollable intoxication. The subject is very dangerous to handle, knows no fear, and may cause considerable difficulty in being placed under restraint. It is possible that repeated indulgence in the use of marihuana may produce mental deterioration. It has been reported that many of the mental institutions throughout the Near East and Far East attribute the condition of their insane patients to the over-indulgence of the drug hashish or bhang, as marihuana is known in those countries.

In California narcotic laws provide that marihuana may not be cultivated. However, California provides the proper climate and the fertile soil that is required in the growth of this drug. Marihuana requires a considerable amount of water for growth and in California where the rainfall is limited during the growing season, constant irrigation is necessary. Practically all marihuana found by Narcotic Agents comes from Mexico except for limited garden and flower box culture within the state. No very large scale production in California has ever been detected.

The user of marihuana is a dangerous individual and should definitely not be underestimated by police officers. Caution should be used at all times in taking any drug user into custody, but particularly individuals who are known users of either cocaine or marihuana. They may be dangerous, hard to handle, and might resort to any act of violence.

"The Tools of Addiction"

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