The New York Times July 25, 1909
NATIONS UNITING TO STAMP OUT THE USE OF OPIUM AND MANY OTHER DRUGS
Great Britain Ready to Sacrifice $35,000,000 a Year ---- Increase in the
Sale of Cocaine in the United States
Urged on by the United States, the great powers of the Old World have entered into a
pact to drive the opium smoker and opium eater out of existence. In so doing they will
sacrifice many millions of revenue every year. As soon as the crusade against the poppy
has been won---and the day of victory may be said to be dawning---the United States will
take just as resolute steps to abolish in every civilized land the growing traffic in
cocaine, hasheesh, heroin, absinthe, chloral, and other drugs that fasten themselves upon
Statistics prove that, as the importation of opium subsides, the incoming of other harmful
drugs increases at an alarming rate. To-day in the United States, from coast to coast and
from Canada to Gulf, there is a steady increase in the use of drugs that are almost as
destructive as the Oriental flower that furnishes opium. Hundreds of thousands of the
inhabitants of this country are addicted to the constant use of "headache
powders" that contain deadly acetanilid: thousands of others seldom go to sleep
without swallowing a quantity of chloral hydrate, which is the "knock-out drops"
of the professional thug; unnumbered others daily use preparations of cocaine to give them
fancied strength for their work, while a legion of others habitually use belladonna,
arsenic, and strychnine without consulting a physician.
* * *** * *
To stamp out the use of these drugs among the people will require the best efforts of
the National as well as the State Governments. Every physician must be a volunteer in the
service, every school teacher, minister, and parent, who realizes the awful importance of
the subject, must help.
The tremendous increase in the use of cocaine that followed the passage of the restrictive
laws against opium may be gathered when it is known that in 1904 --- before the United
States took up the cudgel against the Oriental habit --- the importation of cocaine was
only 58,000 ounces, and of coca leaves, from which cocaine is made, was 53,000 pounds. In
1905 300,000 pounds of coca leaves were imported, but the importation of cocaine had
fallen off to about half of what it was the year before because, rather than pay a duty of
25 per cent, ad valorem, the chemists had started the manufacture of the drug in this
country on a large scale. In 1906 the importation of coca leaves was 2,600,000 pounds.
By this time, however, many of the States awoke to the fact that cocaine was a pretty
dangerous drug to have sold about the cities and towns without any safeguards or stint,
and many of them passed restrictive laws. The passage of these statutes resulted in the
shrinkage of the importation of coca leaves in 1907 to about 1,515,000 ounces, and in 1908
to 633,000 ounces. In 1908 the importation of cocaine from abroad was only 3,792 ounces
valued at $4,108. The use of cocaine in medicine and surgery is, of course, to produce
local anaesthesia or insensibility. When taken internally its effect is to produce
No drug on the market seems to have anywhere near such a demoralizing effect on the human
system. The habitual user soon loses all moral courage. Lying and stealing are the least
of the crimes he is ready to commit when under the influence, and in the majority of
cases, his nature becomes brutalized and changed for the worse.
No one knows just where or when the "cocaine habit" first started in this
country. It is generally laid at the door of a proprietary powder that was put on the
market and advertised as a "sure-cure for cold in the head." This powder
contained cocaine and belladonna and seemed to produce the effect advertised. Pretty soon
the authorities in various States found that certain powders on the market, which looked
like the "cold-in-the-head cure," contained nothing to speak of except cocaine.
The belladonna had been dropped out. It was found and is still the fact, that these
powders were sold to thousands of persons in the great cities and the thickly populated
districts of the South.
Nearly all the Southern States have taken drastic measures to prevent the sale of cocaine,
but until the Federal Government takes a hand by prohibiting the movement of the drug in
inter-State commerce, a great deal will be smuggled across State lines and used. The same
may be said of all the other drugs that the communities would exclude. No matter how
stringent local laws may be, if the drugs are allowed on sale without restriction in any
of the States, they are bound to find their way into the forbidden territory.
* * *** * *
It is proposed to have Congress pass a law that will force manufacturers and dealers in
all habit-forming drugs to take out a Federal license and to make regular periodical
returns to the Internal Revenue Bureau. By this means every ounce of cocaine, chloral,
&c., may be traced from the time it is manufactured until it reaches the consumer; and
if the consumer lives in a "closed territory" it is believed possible to cure
him of the habit by taking from him the means of continuing it. The State Department.
through its Opium Commissioner, Dr. Hamilton Wright, took the initiative in the mater of
suppressing the production and sale of opium for eating and smoking purposes, and will
lead the fight for eradication of the other drug habits.
"The cocaine and chloral habits are just as bad in their way as the opium
habit," said Dr. Wright, "and we are going to draw up a bill for presentation to
Congress for the suppression of the sale of these drugs to the general public. We have no
doubt that the lawmaking power will promptly pass the legislation, for there is no greater
enemy to the community than a man who has become the victim of a habit of this sort. He
not only loses the money that he spends on the drug, but he loses the time that he is
under its influence, and impoverishes his family. He becomes not only utterly worthless as
a citizen but is likely soon to join the criminal class.
"It was, therefore, not entirely from altruistic motives that the State Department
went about the crusade against opium. Out in the Philippines we had a large Chinese
population that had the habit. Here in this country from 40 to 45 per cent of the entire
Chinese population were opium smokers and spent a large share of their earnings on the
drug. It looked like a good business move, as well as a long stride in the direction of
the good of mankind, for us to take the initiative. To do so it meant that we would lose
more than $600,000 a year revenue in the Philippines alone, but that was a small item when
the resulting benefit was considered.
"So the department launched the movement, As a result of that move we held a
conference in February at Shanghai, and in addition to the United States there were
represented Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria Hungary, Italy, Russia, Japan, the
Netherlands, China, Persia, and Siam. Great Britain was making $35,000,000 a year from her
opium in India, but, despite that fact, they cheerfully joined hands with us in gathering
fir the suppression of the traffic in all its branches except for medicinal purposes.
"In addition to the Indian revenue in opium Great Britain had also at stake the opium
farms of the Straits Settlements and Hong Kong, France was interested to the extent of
millions in Indo-China, Japan in Formosa, and the Netherlands in its East Indian
possessions. In view of the enormous sums the other powers stood to lose, our delegation
was in rather an embarrassing position, but we stood for the moral uplift of the world and
won out. Great Britain agreed to reduce the exports of opium from India 10 per cent. a
year for ten years, and China agreed to reduce the production of the drug within her
boundaries at an equal rate.
* * *** * *
"Our English friends have kept faith with the powers in fulfilling their promise,
and from all we can learn China will reduce her acreage of opium this year by more than 15
per cent. The Dominion of Canada is doing her utmost to help us suppress the importation
of smoking and eating opium. Our law prohibiting the importation of any opium except for
medicinal purposes went into effect last April. Canada went us one better by passing a
similar law that became effective last January.
* * *** * *
"As a result of these laws, smoking opium, which sold formerly for from $1.50 to
$6 a pound, is scarce in the Chinatowns of the big cities at $50 a pound. Of course some
is smuggled in occasionally and gets to the Chinese in San Francisco and New York, but the
quantity consumed is infinitesimal compared with what was formerly used.
"The hardest task we had at the conference was to secure the passage of a resolution
pledging the various Governments to prohibit the exportation of opium in any form to any
country which prohibits the entry of opium, its alkaloids, derivatives, or preparations.
We strongly urged upon the commission the fact that we had in our National pure food laws
the same penalties on the shipment of deleterious articles to foreign countries as on the
shipment of these same articles in our inter-State commerce.
"I pointed out that we had done this, not as a result of pressure from foreign
States, but as a matter of international courtesy, and the American delegation felt that
it was time that the principle of do unto others a as you would be done by was recognized
in regard to such matters, especially the opium traffic. The British delegation at first
led the opposition, but finally agreed to it, and it was passed unanimously.
"In passing a Federal law that will prevent the traffic in undesirable drugs it will
be necessary to look well into the future. I would not be at all surprised if, when we get
rid of the opium danger, the chloral peril and the other now known drug evils, we shall
encounter new ones. The habitues will feel that they must adopt something to take the
place of the 'dope' they have lost through legal enactment. Hasheesh, of which we know
very little in this country, will doubtlessly be adopted by many of the unfortunates if
they can get it. In India the natives take hasheesh as a drink, called bhang. The Arabs,
Egyptians, and Malays eat it dry.
* * *** * *
"That the United States was a pretty good opium customer is proved by the fact
that ten days after the prohibitory law went into effect in April barring out all smoking
opium, the Portuguese "opium farm' on the island of Macao broke up its business,
Macao imported the opium in its crude state and prepared it for smoking. Nearly its entire
product was sold in the United States."
The importation of smoking opium into the United States reached its high water mark in
1907, when 160,397 pounds were imported. Last year the imports were a little less than
150,000 pounds and this year, under the restictive law that went into effect in April it
is expected that the sum total will be about a quarter of that amount. Next year there
will be no imports of smoking opium declared at any of the ports. In 1908 the imports of
smoking opium registered at San Francisco alone amounted to 145,345 pounds. Hawaii got
1,400 pounds; Puget Sound, 156, Willamette, Wash., 119; and the district of Montana and
Idaho combined, just one pound, valued at $6. Of crude opium New York imported last year
123,427 pounds, valued at $483,747. Philadelphia's imports of crude opium for the same
year were 153,081; St. Louis's, 6,885 pounds, and Detroit's, 430. All the United States
ports combined showed during 1908 an importation of 285,845 pounds of crude opium, valued
at $1,151,207. During the same period the smoking opium brought into the country was
valued at $1,336,703.
Federal officials regard the New York laws applying to the sale and use of baneful drugs
as being peculiarly well fitted to serve as a copy for other States. The essential
sections are as follows:
"Section 218 of the Public Health Law Prescription of opium, morphine, cocaine, and
chloral. No pharmacist, druggist, apothecary, or other person shall refill more than once
prescriptions containing opium or morphine, or preparation of either of them, or cocaine
or chloral, in which the dose of opium shall exceed one quarter of a grain, or of morphine
one twentieth of a grain, or of cocaine one-half of a grain, or of chloral ten grains,
except upon the written order of a physician."
"Section 405 of the Penal Code of the State of New York. Regulations as to
prescriptions of opium and morphine. A person who except on written or verbal order of a
physician, refills more than once prescriptions containing opium, morphine, or
preparations of either, in which the dose of opium exceeds one-fourth grain, or morphine
one-twentieth grain is guilty of a misdemeanor."