Harry J. Anslinger

Harry J. Anslinger

Harry Jacob Anslinger (May 20, 1892 – November 14, 1975) held office as the Assistant Prohibition Commissioner in the Bureau of Prohibition, before being appointed as the first Commissioner of the Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) on August 12, 1930.

He held office an unprecedented 32 years in his role (rivaled only by J. Edgar Hoover), holding office until 1962. He then held office two years as US Representative to the United Nations Narcotics Commission.The responsibilities once held by Harry J. Anslinger are now largely under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy. Anslinger died at the age of 83 of heart failure in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Today he is most remembered for his campaign against marijuana, but in his work he probably spent much more time on work against illegal trading of heroin, opium and cocaine. He has been the target of much criticism, though it is alleged that the use of illicit drugs in the United States during his last decade as head of Federal Bureau of Narcotics was lower than it is today.

Early life, marriage

Anslinger's father, Robert J. Anslinger, born in Bern, Switzerland was trained and worked in that country as a barber. His mother, formerly Rosa Christiana Fladt, was born in Baden, Germany. In 1881, Robert and Christiana arrived on Ellis Island. Robert worked as a barber for two years in New York, eventually settling his family in Altoona, Pennsylvania. In 1892, Robert took a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad, and on May 20 of the same year Harry Jacob Anslinger was born— the eighth of Robert and Christiana's nine children.

Anslinger claimed that he witnessed an event at the age of 12 that affected his life's direction: he heard the screams of a morphine addict that were only silenced by a boy his age returning from a pharmacist to supply the addict with more morphine. Apparently, he was appalled that the drug was so powerful and that children had ready access to such drugs.

Though he did not receive a high school diploma, Harry J. Anslinger enrolled at Altoona Business College in 1909, at the age of 17. Sometime thereafter he became employed, like his father, by the Pennsylvania Railroad. At age 21 (1913), he requested and was granted a furlough so he could enroll at Pennsylvania State College where he entered a two-year associate degree program consisting of engineering and business management courses.

He married Martha Kind Denniston (Sept 1886 - Oct 10, 1961) in 1917 at the age of 25, according to the 1930 Census. That year, at age 38, he was renting an apartment at 16th & R Street in Washington, DC for $90 per month, where he lived with his wife Martha and son Joseph L. Anslinger (May 24, 1911 - Nov 1982), who were 44 and 18, respectively. Martha Denniston was the nieceFact|date=February 2007 of Andrew W. Mellon, the Secretary of the US Treasury who would appoint Anslinger to his 32 year post as Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

Rise to prominence

Anslinger gained notoriety early in his career. At the age of 23 (1915), while working as an investigator for the Pennsylvania Railroad, he performed a detailed investigation that found the claim of a widower in a railroad accident fraudulent. He saved the company $50,000 and was promoted to captain of railroad police.

From 1917 to 1928, Anslinger worked for various military and police organizations. His tour of duty took him all over the world, from Germany to Venezuela to Japan. His focus was on stopping international drug trafficking, and he is widely credited for shaping not only America's domestic and international drug policies, but for having influence on drug polices of other nations, particularly those that had not debated the issues internally.

By 1929, Anslinger returned from his international tour to work as an assistant Commissioner in the United States Bureau of Prohibition. Around this time, corruption and scandal gripped Prohibition and Narcotics agencies. The ensuing shake-ups and re-organizations set the stage for Anslinger, perceived as an honest and incorruptible figure, to advance not only in rank but to great political stature.

In 1930, Anslinger was appointed to the newly-created FBN (Federal Bureau of Narcotics) as its first Commissioner. The FBN, like the Bureau of Prohibition, was under the auspices of the US Treasury Department. At that time the trade of alcohol and drugs was considered a loss of revenue because as illegal substances they could not be taxed. Anslinger was appointed by Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew W. Mellon and given a budget of $100,000.

The campaign against marijuana 1930-1937

Restrictions for marijuana started in District of Columbia 1906 and was followed by state laws in other parts of the country in the 1910s and 1920s. The early laws against the cannabis drugs were passed with little public attention. Concern about marijuana was related primarily to the fear that marijuana use would spread, even among whites, as a substitute for the opiates. It is largely believed that the early prohibititive marijuana laws were a racist response to the popularity of the drug among Mexicans. [ [http://www.drugtext.org/library/reports/vlr/vlrtoc.htm Richard J. Bonnie & Charles H. Whitebread, II:THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT AND THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE: AN INQUIRY INTO THE LEGAL HISTORY OF AMERICAN MARIJUANA PROHIBITION] ] In 1925 United States supported regulation of "Indian hemp", Cannabis for use as a drug, in the International Opium Convention [ [http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/history/e1920/willoughby.htm W.W. WILLOUGHBY: OPIUM AS AN INTERNATIONAL PROBLEM, BALTIMORE, THE JOHNS HOPKINS PRESS, 1925] ] . Recommendations from the International Opium Convention inspired the work with "The Uniform State Narcotic Act " between 1925 and 1932. Harry J. Anslinger become an active person in this process from about 1930. [ [http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/taxact/anslng1.htm Statement of Harry J. Anslinger] ] [ [http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/taxact/t10a.htm The Marihuana Tax Act, ADDITIONAL STATEMENT OF H. J. ANSLINGER] ]

Although it would appear that Anslinger was a conservative who truly believed marijuana to be a threat to the future of American civilization, his biographer maintained that he was an astute government bureaucrat who viewed the marijuana issue as a means for elevating himself to national prominence.

Some of his critics allege that Anslinger, DuPont petrochemical interests and William Randolph Hearst together created the highly sensational anti-marijuana campaign to eliminate hemp as an industrial competitor. Hemp was not however so competitive in the real world, oil was cheap in the 1930s; more about that in article hemp. Indeed, Anslinger did not himself consider marijuana a serious threat to American society until in the fourth year of his tenure (1934), at which point an anti-marijuana campaign, aimed at alarming the public, became his primary focus as part of the government's broader push to outlaw all drugs. [http://www.druglibrary.net/schaffer/History/e1930/rooseveltasks.htm ROOSEVELT ASKS NARCOTIC WAR AID, 1935] ]

Members of the League of Nations had already implemented restrictions for marijuana in the beginning of the 1930s and restrictions started in many states in U.S years before Anslinger was appointed. Both president Franklin D. Roosevelt and hisAttorney General publicly supported this development in 1935.

An alternative explanation for Anslinger's opinions about hemp is that he believed that a tax on marijuana could be easier to supervise if it included hemp.

Around 1931 advertising started for hemp as the new billion dollar crop. Anslinger had reports from experiments with mechanical harvesting of hemp in 1936, reporting that the machines were no success. :"they were able to cut only a part of the Tribune Farm crop by machine, two thirds of it they did by hand with a sharp hand cutter...". [ [http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/taxact/bass6.html Letter from Elizabeth Bass - November 5, 1936] ]

::"The existence of the old 1934-1935 crop of harvested hemp on the fields of southern Minnesota is a menace to society in that it is being used by traffickers in marihuana as a source of supply " [ [http://www.druglibrary.net/schaffer/hemp/taxact/nugent1.htm REPORT OF SURVEY COMMERCIALIZED HEMP (1934-35 CROP)] ]

By using the mass media as his forum (receiving much support from William Randolph Hearst), Anslinger propelled the anti-marijuana sentiment from the state level to a national movement. Writing for "American Magazine", the best examples were contained in his "Gore File", a collection of quotes from police reports, by later opponents described as police-blotter-type narratives of heinous cases, most with no substantiation, linking graphically depicted offenses with the drug:

:"An entire family was murdered by a youthful addict in Florida. When officers arrived at the home, they found the youth staggering about in a human slaughterhouse. With an axe he had killed his father, mother, two brothers, and a sister. He seemed to be in a daze… He had no recollection of having committed the multiple crime. The officers knew him ordinarily as a sane, rather quiet young man; now he was pitifully crazed. They sought the reason. The boy said that he had been in the habit of smoking something which youthful friends called “muggles,” a childish name for marijuana."

Criticism of Anslinger in the 1970s and later years

In the 1970s and later, Anslinger was a target for a lot of criticism from opponents, and of course from Jack Herer and other pro cannabis activists. Many call him the "drug czar". It appeared that Anslinger was also responsible for racist themes in articles against marijuana in the 1930s:

:"Colored students at the Univ. of Minn. partying with (white) female students, smoking [marijuana] and getting their sympathy with stories of racial persecution. Result: pregnancy" [Drug Crazy: How We Got Into this Mess and How We Can Get Out]

:"Two Negros took a girl fourteen years old and kept her for two days under the influence of hemp. Upon recovery she was found to be suffering from syphilis."Fact|date=May 2007

:"There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others."Fact|date=May 2008

:"Marijuana makes Negroes eat other Negroes when they get the munchies."Fact|date=May 2008

:"...the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races."Fact|date=June 2008

:"Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death."Fact|date=May 2008

:"Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men."Fact|date=May 2008

:"Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing"Fact|date=May 2008

"Marijuana makes negros play jazz and think they are billie holiday":"You smoke a joint and you're likely to kill your brother."Fact|date=May 2008

:"Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind."Fact|date=May 2008

It is an uncontroversial fact that some ethnic groups were more common than others among hemp smokers in the 1920s and 1930s. It is true that Anslinger used quotes from police reports about illegal drug use. Police reports are typically written with a concise language including such details as age, gender, race, ethnic group, type of crime etc. Anslinger, for example, pointed at the former big bootleggers of alcohol, something that many interpret as the Italian mafia, as responsible for big part of the organized illegal trade with opium and cocaine from mid 1930s. "The first Federal law-enforcement administrator to recognize the signs of a national criminal syndication and sound the alarm was Harry J. Anslinger, Commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics in the Treasury" (Ronald Reagan 1986) [ [http://www.thelaborers.net/lexisnexis/articles/declaring_war_on_organized_crime.htm Ronald Reagan: DECLARING WAR ON ORGANIZED CRIME, 1986] ]

In Anslinger's book "The trafic in narcotics" from 1953 [http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/people/anslinger/traffic/ Harry J. Anslinger, W.F. Tompkins: The Traffic in Narcotics, 1953] ] he gives a view of marijuana which doesn't support the claims that he was more racist than the average white U.S. civil servant in his generation.:"Medical experts agree on the complete unpredictability of the effect of marihuana on different individuals. A small dose taken by one subject may bring about intense intoxication, raving fits, criminal assaults. Another subject can consume large amounts without experiencing any reaction except stupefaction. It is this unpredictable effect which makes of marihuana one of the most dangerous drugs known. Moreover, every individual will react in a different degree to the same dosage of this narcotic, depending on his physiological and emotional constitution.

:"Certain physical effects appear to be present in the majority of cases of marihuana intoxication. The first reactions appear, an hour or so after consumption, in the form of muscular trembling, increased heartbeat, acceleration of pulse. This is accompanied by a ringing in the ears, an intense feeling of heat in the head, dizziness, and sensations of cold in the hands and feet. Constrictions in the chest, dilation of the pupil of the eye, and muscular contraction follow. The physical reactions increase in intensity until either vomiting or complete stupefaction occurs. Initially the individual is excited, restless, and boisterous, over-garrulous and uninhibited. Next comes a period of dissociation of ideas and exaggeration of emotions. judgment and concentration are impaired; the subject shows a marked inability to judge both time and space; perceptions are distorted; in short, mental confusion occurs, accompanied by hallucinations. Marihuana sharpens the sensibilities, and in this stage the addict is prone to suggestion, violent or otherwise. The intense overexcitement of the nerves and emotions leads to uncontrollable irritability and violent and irresponsible acts due to irresistible impulses of suggestive origin. The last stage might include hallucinations, varied and often terrifying. Restless sleep, accompanied by bizarre phantasmagoria, then overcomes the victim.

:"In the earliest stages of intoxication the will power is destroyed and inhibitions and restraints are released; the moral barricades are broken down and often debauchery and sexuality results. Where mental instability is inherent, the behavior is generally violent. An egotist will enjoy delusions of grandeur, the timid individual will suffer anxiety, and the aggressive one often will resort to acts of violence and crime. Dormant tendencies are released and while the subject may know what is happening, he has become powerless to prevent it. Constant use produces incapacity for work and a disorientation of purpose. The drug has a corroding effect on the body and on the mind, weakening the entire physical system and often leading to insanity after prolonged use."(page 20-21)

When Anslinger was interviewed in 1954 about drug abuse (see below), he did not mention anything about race or gender. In his book "The protectors" (1964) Anslinger has a chapter "Jazz and junk Don't Mix" about the black jazz musicians Billie Holliday and Charlie Parker, who both died after years of heavy drug abuse::"Jazz entertainers are neither fish nor fowl. They do not get the million-dollar protection Hollywood and Broadway can afford for their stars who have become addicted - and there are many more than will ever be revealed. Perhaps this is because jazz, once considered a decadent kind of music, has only token respectability. Jazz grew up next door to crime, so to speak. Clubs of dubious reputation were, for a long time, the only places where it could be heard. But the times bring changes, and as Billy Holiday was a victim of time and change, so too was Charlie Parker, a man whose music, like Billie's is still widely imitated. Most musicians credit Parker among others as spearheading what is called modern jazz."(p.157)

Later years

Later in his career, Anslinger was scrutinized for insubordination by refusing to desist from an attempt to halt the ABA/AMA Joint Report on narcotic addiction, a publication edited by the sociology Professor Alfred R. Lindesmith of Indiana University. Lindesmith wrote, among other works, "Opiate Addiction" (1947), "The Addict and the Law" (1965), and a number of articles condemning the criminalization of addiction. Lindesmith had studied the British system with a very liberal law for prescription of heroin and opium by family doctors and made the conclusion that these very liberal laws were the cause for the low number of opium addicts in England in the 1940s. [http://www.nilsbejerot.se/samhallet.pdf Nils Bejerot: Narkotikafrågan och samhället, 1967,1969] ] Other researchers, for example professor Nils Bejerot, have agreed with parts of Lindesmith's criticism, but not agreed with some of his most important conclusions, mainly that the very liberal opium laws in England were the cause for the low number of addicts in England in the 1940s. [ [http://www.drugtext.org/library/articles/92333.html Rachel Lart: BRITISH MEDICAL PERCEPTION FROM ROLLESTON TO BRAIN] ] Bejerot argued that English doctors in practice seemed to have been more restrictive with prescriptions of opium and heroin in the first decades after The Rolleston Act in 1928, without any law restricting it. The AMA/ABA controversy is sometimes credited with ending Anslinger's position of Commissioner of the Treasury Department's Bureau of Narcotics, but it is more likely that Robert Kennedy, the future Attorney General, disliked him and wanted him out.

Anslinger was surprised to be re-appointed by President John F. Kennedy in February 1961. The new President had a tendency to invigorate the government with more youthful civil servants and by 1962 Anslinger was 70 years old, the mandatory age for retirement in his position. In addition, during the previous year he had witnessed his wife Martha's slow and agonizing death due to heart failure and is said to have lost some of his drive and ambition. He submitted his resignation to President Kennedy on his 70th birthday, May 20, 1962. Since Kennedy did not have a successor, Anslinger stayed in his $18,500 a year ($114,241 in 2005 dollars) position until later that year. He was succeeded by Henry Giordano. Following that, he was the United States Representative to the United Nations Narcotics Commission for two years after which he retired.

By 1973, Anslinger was completely blind, had a debilitatingly enlarged prostate gland, and suffered from angina. Some of his opponents find it ironic that despite his aggressive stance against addictive painkilling drugs, he himself was taking morphine to alleviate his painFact|date=May 2007 though his use had little influence on his attitude and work. For him cannabis still had no medical reason for existing.

On November 14, 1975, at 1 pm, Anslinger died of heart failure at Mercy Hospital (now known as Bon Secours Hospital Campus of the Altoona Regional Health System) in Altoona, Pennsylvania. He was 83. He was survived by his son Joseph L. Anslinger and a sister. According to John McWilliams' 1990 book The Protectors, Anslinger's daughter-in-law Bea at that time still lived in Anslinger's home in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.

Career timeline, recognition

* 1913-1915 : Student, Pennsylvania State University, State College PA
* 1917-1918 : Member, Efficiency Board, Ordinance Division, War Department
* 1918-1921 : Attached to American Legation, The Hague
* 1921-1923 : Vice-Consul, Hamburg, Germany
* 1923-1925 : Consul, La Guaira, Venezuela
* 1926 : Consul, Venezuela
* 1926 : Delegate of US to Conference on Suppression of Smuggling, London
* 1926-1929 : Chief Division of Foreign Control, US Treasury Department
* 1927 : Delegate of US to Conference on Suppression of Smuggling, Paris
* 1928 : International Congress against Alcoholism, Antwerp, Belgium
* 1928 : Conference to Revise Treat with US, Ottawa, Canada
* 1929-1930 : Assistant Commissioner of Prohibition
* 1930 : LL.B., Washington College of Law
* ? : LL.D., University of Maryland
* 1930-1962 : Commissioner of Federal Bureau of Narcotics
* 1931 : Conference of Limitation of Manufacture of Narcotic Drugs
* 1932-34, 1936-39 : Co-Observer of US at League of Nations Opium Advisory Commission
* 1936 : US delegation International Conference for Suppression of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs, League of Nations, Geneva
* 1952 : US representative commission on Narcotic Drugs of UN Recipient Pennsylvania Ambassador, Proctor Gold Medal Awards
* 1958 : One of ten outstanding career men, Federal Government, National Civil Service League
* 1959 : Alumni Recognition Award, American University
* 1959 : Distinguished Alumnus award, Pennsylvania State University
* 1962-1963 : US Representative to United Nations Narcotics Commission
* 1964: Retired

* Alexander Hamilton Medal
* Remington Medal
* Presidential Citation
* Member, Commission Drug Addiction NRC
* Honorable Member, Terre Haute Academy of Medicine
* Associate Member, International Police Chief Association
* Member, Advisory Committee, International Cooperation Common Law, American Bar Association
* Life Member, Pennsylvania and Blair County Pharm. Association
* Diplomatic and Consular Officers Reg. (board of governors)
* Sigma Nu Phi


Note (1):Larry Sloman, "Reefer Madness: A History of Marijuana in America" (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1979), pp 30-31
* United States Census, Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1930
* [http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/bulletin/bulletin_1954-01-01_1_page002.html The Traffic in Narcotics: An interview with the Hon. Harry J. Anslinger United States Commissioner of Narcotics] , Jan. 1, 1954
* [http://druglibrary.net/schaffer/History/murd3.htm HARRY J. ANSLINGER, WILL OURSLER:THE STORY OF THE NARCOTIC GANGS, 1961]
* Obituaries, New York Times, November 18, 1975
* Who Was Who in America with World Notables (ISBN 0-8379-0207-X), Vol VI 1974-1976, by Marquis Who's Who, 1976
* The Protectors: Anslinger and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (1930-1962) (ISBN 0-87413-352-1), by John C. McWilliams, University of Delaware Press, August 1, 1990
* The War on Drugs II (ISBN 1-55934-016-9), by J.A. Inciardi, California: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1992
* Cannabis: A History (ISBN 0-312-42494-9), by Martin Booth, Picador USA, June 2005

ee also

* Havana Conference
* LaGuardia Commission
* Legal history of marijuana in the United States
* Legal issues of cannabis
* Prohibition (drugs)
* L.G. Nutt

External links

* [http://www.cannabis.net/assassin-of-youth.html Harry J. Anslinger, Commissioner of the US Bureau of Narcotics, "Marijuana: assassin of Youth"] , "The American Magazine," July 1937
* [http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/taxact/anslng1.htm Statement by Harry J. Anslinger, Commissioner of the US Bureau of Narcotics, to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, 1937]
* [http://www.libraries.psu.edu/speccolls/FindingAids/anslinger.frame.html Guide to the H.J. Anslinger Papers, 1835-1970, Pennsylvania State University]
* [http://www.JackHerer.com/popmech.html]
* [http://www.jackherer.com/chapters.html Free ebook about hemp and the Anslinger/Dupont/Hearst triumvirate]

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