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|Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings on National Prohibition - 1926|
FURTHER STATEMENT BY HON. WALTER E. EDGE, A SENATOR IN THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED
STATES FROM THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY
Senator MEANS. Yes.
Senator EDGE. Since this request was made, I have also noted a statement in the press purporting to have been issued by the board of temperance, prohibition, and public morals of the Methodist Episcopal Church, inferring that Congress had no legal authority to suggest "a referendum on constitutional amendments."
As to this assertion, may I draw the committee's attention to the fact that my proposed referendum as covered by Senate Joint Resolution 81 in no way asks a national referendum on an amendment to the Constitution, but alone proposes a referendum as to the advisability of modification of the Volstead Act, entirely a congressional problem.
The suggestion that the referendum should likewise request the people's verdict on the advisability of the eighteenth amendment later proposed by the Senator from Idaho, Mr. Borah, in the of an amendment to the resolution I had previously offered.
Since the question has been raised, I have discussed this phase with several constitutional lawyers. I, of course, would not attempt
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Permit me to read the first few lines of the resolution I submitted, in order that this point may be made clearer:
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in order that the Congress may obtain information necessary for the appropriate exercise of its legislative powers under the eighteenth amendment, there is hereby authorized to be held a national referendum on the following question:
Shall the Congress amend the national prohibition act (commonly known as the Volstead Act) so as to allow the manufacture, sale, transportation, and possession of beverages containing as great an amount of alcohol as is lawful under the Constitution, provided that such amendments shall not interfere with the constitutional powers of the several States to legislate with respect to intoxicating liquors as each State may deem proper?
I introduced this resolution on March 25. Two days later, March 27, the amendments I have referred to, sponsored by the Senator from Idaho, were presented.
In conclusion, may I draw attention to further authority, which I am sure will be quite sufficient to dispose of the question of legality or constitutionality.
At the Democratic National Convention held in the city of Now York, which convened on June 24, 1924, and extended over quite some period, there was adopted at the close of the convention the party platform.
This convention was presided over by a distinguished member of this committee, the senior Senator from Montana, Mr. Walsh.
May I quote you just a portion of this platform:
There is no substitute for the League of Nations as an agency working for peace; therefore, we believe that, in the interest of permanent peace, and in the lifting of the great burdens of war from the backs of the people, and in order to establish a permanent foreign policy on these supreme questions, not subject to change with change of party administrations, it is desirable, wise, and necessary to lift this question out of party politics, and to that end to take the sense of the American people at a referendum election, advisory to the Government, to be held officially under act of Congress, free from all other questions and candidacies, after ample time for full consideration and discussion throughout the country, upon the questions, in substance, as follows:
"Shall the United States become a member of the League of Nations upon such reservations or amendments to the covenant of the league as the President and the Senate of the United States may agree upon?"
Immediately upon an affirmative vote we will carry out such mandate.
Mr. Chairman, with such precedent for congressional action, I am sure it will be quite unnecessary for me to furnish further authority.
Senator REED of Missouri. You think it conclusive that the Democratic convention could not possibly have misconstrued the Constitution?
Senator EDGE. I am in entire agreement with the Democratic convention as to that particular question.
Senator MEANS. Senator Edge, I was just going to say, you surely would not expect me to accept that as authority, would you?
Senator EDGE. Well, I am sufficiently broad to accept it.
Mr. CODMAN. Is the committee ready to proceed?
Senator MEANS. Yes.
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Senator MEANS. I no have disposition to say what you shall read. Read what you please into the record. It is your time.
Mr. CODMAN. Very good. I request that you issue a subpoena to the Hon. T. Pope Shepherd, Chattanooga Electric Building, Chattanooga, Tenn., requiring his appearance this week before this committee.
I am informed that he can testify that while he was United States district attorney in Chattanooga that the situation in regard to enforcement had become excessively bad. Moonshine was coming into the city in large quantities from the mountains around it. Cases were piling up on the docket of the United States district court and a, great many cases appeared for Monday morning on the docket of the municipal court as a result of the liquor situation. That there were 12 to 15 more saloons in the city than in preprohibition days and that authorities were unable to cope with the situation. It was suggested by some of the authorities that the following experiment be tried:
The brewers of the city were called in and given permission to manufacture and supply beer to the saloons, provided they would also give to the authorities a Ford runabout with $125 per month for expenses, it to be understood by the saloonkeepers who were called in and informed of the arrangement that they would not be molested in the sale of beer at retail on condition that they would not sell any liquor and would not allow it on their premises; also that they would furnish information to the authorities concerning such people as they knew to be bootleggers. That they would also permit the authorities to search their places of business at any time without using process of law. They were given to understand that if any liquor was found on the premises or in the possession of the proprietor, or his assistants that the place would be locked up and offenders prosecuted. This arrangement was entered into and the practical result was that illicit liquor was largely driven out of the city, also court cases, which had been 50 to 60 on Monday mornings were brought down to 5 or 10, and that the general moral situation of the city was greatly improved.
Owing to a protest made by the Anti-Saloon League, or some of its adherents, that beer was being purchased and sold in the city, the experiment was abandoned and immediately moonshine again began to make its appearance in the city, which drifted back into the same unfortunate situation as before the arrangement.
I request you to issue a subpoena to Roland Curry, of Key West, sheriff of Monroe County, Fla., requiring his appearance this week before this committee.
I am informed that he will testify from personal observation that the Federal prohibition force in his district is honeycombed with corruption. He will testify specifically in regard to a raid made recently by Federal officers in Key West. That be was out of town when the raid was undertaken. He returned to find that in his absence eight men bad been arrested without warrants and placed in jail and that one woman had been brought to the police station with handcuffs so tight that they had broken the skin at her wrist and that
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I request that you issue a subpoena to Sheriff Bob Baker, of Palm Beach, newly elected president of the Florida State Association of Sheriffs, requiring his appearance this week before this committee.
I am informed that he can testify as to the methods used by Federal enforcement officers and as to the type of men who are employed as such. He will testify that under present conditions enforcement of the law is practically impossible.
I request you to issue a subpoena to Eva W. White, 357 Charles Street, Boston, Mass., requiring her appearance this week before this committee.
I am informed that Mrs. White, who is the manager of the Elizabeth Peabody Settlement House, situated in Boston, can testify as to the injurious effect which has been brought about by prohibition upon the poor people of the district in which the Elizabeth Peabody House is situated. That she has had 15 years' experience in the district---9 years before prohibition and 6 years since. That she will state that neighborhood dances have had to be abandoned on account of the hip-pocket flasks filled with liquor brought by boys to these dances and disseminated by them. She can also testify to the fact that many families previously in very poor circumstances have become fairly well to do as the result of having gone into the bootlegging business on a small scale. That conditions throughout the settlement are worse from the point of view of morals than at any time before prohibition.
Mr. Chairman, I feel that I should explain that of course Mrs. White is not very far off, being in Boston, but she has been prohibited by the board of trustees of the Elizabeth Peabody House from coming of her own free will, and therefore the summons is absolutely necessary, she being an employee:
Senator HARRELD. An employee of what?
Mr. CODMAN. She is the employee of the trustees of the Elizabeth Peabody House.
Senator HARRELD. She is not a Government employee?
Mr. CODMAN. Oh, no; she is an employee of the board, in such a position that a request by the members of her board of trustees makes it imperative upon her to obey.
I request you to issue a subpoena to Mrs. Viola Anglin, deputy chief probationary officer, magistrate's court, New York, requiring her appearance this week before this committee.
I am informed that she will testify that women who used to suffer from the evils of drinking in pre-Volstead days are now suffering worse evils as the result of prohibition. That liquor formerly sold in saloons is now sold direct from the homes in which it is made. That children who never were curious about alcohol are now familiar with it and the form of moral looseness that its use leads to. That a number of high schools have discontinued holding their dances as they have so much trouble with liquor carried by the boys in hip-pocket flasks that par-
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And last I request you to subpoena M. B. Wellborn, governor, Federal Reserve Bank, Atlanta, Ga., requiring his appearance this week before this committee.
I am informed that Mr. Wellborn, in a letter requested by Congressman Upshaw on March 3, states that when he came to Atlanta 11 years ago with the Federal reserve bank that he found there many saloons that sold beer exclusively. That these saloons were well-conducted and that no drunkenness or excessive drinking resulted from them. That he had been in Atlanta for 11 years and is satisfied from his own observations that drinking is now almost universal, not only in Atlanta but in every town in Georgia. That his observations are not confined strictly to the rich and well-to-do, but that nearly every family has whisky in their home.
Senator REED of Missouri. Is that all?
Mr. CODMAN. That is all I have here.
Senator REED of Missouri. I move that a subpoena be issued for Eva W. White, who is represented as the manager of the Elizabeth Peabody Settlement House, and is the lady that Mr. Codman states is not permitted to come except she be subpoenaed.
Senator HARRELD. Does she make an affidavit to that herself?
Senator REED of Missouri. No, sir.
Senator HARRELD. She has been requested to appear?
Mr. CODMAN. I asked her myself and she made that statement that she could not come.
Senator REED of Missouri. It seems to me that here is a woman in a position where she ought to have a chance to observe and to study the condition that exists. The statement is made that she will testify that neighborhood dances have had to be abandoned on account of the hip-pocket flasks filled with liquor brought by boys to these dances and disseminated by them. She can also testify to the fact that many families, previously in very poor circumstances, have become fairly well-to-do as the result of having, gone into the bootlegging business on a small scale. That conditions throughout the settlement are worse from the point of view of morals than at any time before prohibition, and it seems to me we ought to have that information if it exists. I therefore make that motion.
Senator MEANS. We will take the application and the motion of the Senator from Missouri under advisement and determine it at some other time than the present, when we have an opportunity to discuss it.
Senator REED of Missouri. I make a similar motion with reference to each.
Senator MEANS. They will all be taken under advisement, as well, the request of Mr. Codman.
Senator REED of Missouri. I do not 'see why we could not settle it right here.
Senator MEANS. Go ahead, Mr. Codman.
Senator REED of Missouri. I do not think there ought to be any dispute about that
Mr. CODMAN. Shall I proceed?
Senator MEANS. Go right ahead.
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